Top Ten Most Influential Saints: READER VOTES

The votes are in and here are the saints readers nominated for being the most influential of their time—the results contained quite a few surprises. Other than St. Bernard and John Paul II, discussed in separate previous posts here and here, they are:

1. The Apostle Paul: The author of most of the New Testament and the last of the apostles actually received the most votes from readers. Writes Bill Dingas, a retired engineer and catechist from Livingston, Texas: “Paul is the greatest evangelist ever—doing the impossible by our standards of bringing the good news to the gentiles. Paul with just a few friends, converted most of what is Turkey today (sadly taken over by Islam), making several trips from Israel the Asia Minor, Rome, Greece just to name a few stops. A considerable part of our New Testament comes from Paul. … Who knows (God does) where we would be today without his efforts!” Here’s how another reader put it: “My vote is for St. Paul of Tarsus because he disseminated belief in Jesus throughout the Mediterranean and to the Gentiles, laying the foundation of Christianity and massive change throughout the civilized world in his lifetime.”

2. Mother Teresa: As influential as St. Bernard was, one reader writers that: “Mother Theresa’s influence is wider, also through her humble humanity, because she lived in an age of modern media, and millions could see her work and feel her influence.” Here’s what another reader had to say: “Despite not being formally declared a saint by the Church, Mother Theresa is easily the most influential saint of her time. She was the most influential woman in the world during her lifetime. World leaders listened to her. When she asked to see world leaders, including presidents and prime ministers, she was given immediate access. For example, during the 1981 famine in Ethiopia she asked President Reagan for help. He responded by promising to …do everything possible to help and rushed in with food and medicine. Being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 is another obvious example of her influence in the world.” In fact, in terms of sheer number of votes it’s a tie with John Paul II. I agree, at least in the twentieth century, she and John Paul II stand apart.

3. St. Augustine: After John Paul II and the Apostle Paul, St. Augustine topped reader lists. Here’s Bill Dingas again: “If you have read and studied Saint Augustine you would read a phenomenal path which only could have been guided by God (as Saint Paul was). … Augustine’s conversion is a model for anyone seeking God—and also shows the importance of prayer. Augustine was so intelligent that much of our faith formation comes from his influence—using his skills of philosophy and scriptures. His book City of God is a masterpiece. …As with Paul his contribution to the deposit of faith is so profound I also wonder where we would be without him.” Indeed, in terms of his sheer intellectual contributions to the life of the Church, Augustine would not meet his peer until the time of St. Thomas Aquinas. And, his role in shepherding Christianity from the Roman imperial era to the start of the Middle Ages certainly earns him the distinction of one of the most influential saints of his time.

4. St. Patrick: It’s actually a tie with Augustine. “He not only converted the good part of an entire people/culture, but those people returned the favor, strengthening Christianity in a beleaguered Europe,” one reader noted in the comments section.

5. St. Joseph: One reader calls St. Joseph the “most impressive saint.” She sums it up this way: “Simply this man had to be tops at the time of Jesus. The man chosen to play, pray, teach, and protect the son of God. Trusted companion of Our Blessed Lady. The human that with God’s guidance defeated a king, out-smarted an army.” The reader went on to share heartfelt story about how St. Joseph has helped her through some major personal struggles. “In my life, St. Joseph, upon request delivered my terrific handsome smart loving husband of 28 years. The father of our 10 children. When my husband was killed in a mill accident I knew I could not handle the 7 children left at home by myself and ask St Joseph’s help again. It took me 5 years to get a workmen’s comp. settlement. I fed kids on a credit card. And in the last 13 years 4 kids have graduated from college. And three more are going.” (Her name is being withheld to protect her privacy.)

6. St. Jerome: As one reader pointed out, translating the Bible into the Vulgate—the common or everyday language of the people in his time—is no small accomplishment, and certainly earns St. Jerome a spot in the top ten. Plus, the reader added, the next most significant event in biblical publishing was not for roughly another thousand years, when the Gutenberg printing press was invented.

7. St. Peter: It should go without saying that the first pope and the leader of the early Christian community ranks among the top ten most influential saints of his time. Peter took command of the Church from the get-go, setting forth the procedures for finding a replacement apostle for Judas, presiding over Pentecost, preaching to the Jews, and ultimately founding the Church in Rome—all indispensable steps in the establishment of the Church immediately after the time of Jesus.

8. John the Baptist: Writes one priest: “He was indispensable to open the way for Jesus Christ. He prepared Christ’s first disciples and pointed Him out to them. Jesus Christ insisted on being baptized by him. Saint John the Baptist was even more influential than he intended: despite his disclaimer some of his followers formed a stubborn group that, for some years after his death, continued his cult and refused to go over to Christ.”

9. St. Athanasius: “He defied three emperors and numerous heretical bishops to preserve orthodox Christology for all time,” one reader opined in the comments section. “To top it off, his Life of Anthony popularized monasticism and facilitated the spread of the monastic way of life throughout the Christian world. In his lifetime he was a towering figure.” I’ll add one other monumental feat to this list: Athanasius developed the first New Testament canon. No one (at least successfully) has disputed his listing in the roughly 1,500 years since.

10. St. Catherine of Siena and St. Francis of Assisi: It’s hard to pick between these two saints—so similar in their special relationship with the Passion of Christ and their influence on their contemporaries despite not holding any high offices—that they will share this spot together. I’ve already written a fair amount about both, so I’ll refer readers to past posts here, here, here, and here.

What about Mary? More than one reader wondered why the Mother of God would not have automatically been deemed the most influential saint of her time. Mary’s absence was not an oversight. But her influence is so obviously far above and beyond anyone else’s, by the obvious fact that she participates in such a special way in the work of Christ’s redemption. It goes without saying that as a saint Mary belongs in a category all of her own, a fact recognized by the fact that the special honor the Church pays Mary is recognized as hyperdulia as opposed to the dulia rendered to all other saints. Moreover, she is a figure who quite clearly transcends her time in ways that no other saint has—as testified by her many apparitions down the centuries, her role as Mediatrix of Graces, Co-Redemptrix, and Queen of Heaven, to name just a few.

Runners up:

St. Michael the Archangel

St. Gregory the Great


St. Pius V

St. Hildegarde of Bingen

St. Ambrose

image: Shutterstock

Stephen Beale


Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on and A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints. He welcomes tips, suggestions, and any other feedback at bealenews at gmail dot com. Follow him on Twitter at

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  • Shientienchi G

    M Theresa was a heretic plain and simple she has no place on this list

  • IrenaeusSaintonge

    It’s rather shocking that St. Thomas Aquinas isn’t on this list. His influence on our way of thinking and the mark that he’s left on Catholic theology simply cannot be overstated.

  • Lay Dominican

    Saint Dominic!

  • Nina BG

    What happened to our beloved Therese of Lisieux????  How could she NOT have made this list????

  • Rather surprised St. Therese and St. Padre Pio are not on the list.  Their statues seem to be in many churches–oh, and St. Anthony too.

  • I guess you have the authority to say this???

  • Blessed Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna.  Away with the atheists!

  • Leo

    Go away.

  • June Thompson,OCDS

    You are missing St. Therese and St. Teresa of Avila and many more….ten most is not
    possible with the Saints….unless you’re polling a small city? jt

  • Rob B.

    I’m glad someone else caught this oversight.  Perhaps Aquinas is one of those saints whose contributions are too intellectual and highbrow for the average Catholic to relate to?  If that’s the case, then I’d suggest that people read G. K. Chesterton’s biography of the “Dumb Ox.”

  • Aquinas. This list is incomplete without him.

  • Justin

    If two non canonized Catholics (John Paul II and Mother Teresa) can be on this list then I would like to see the late great Father John Hardon S.J. on this list as well. He was a man of deep humility and a fearless zeal who abhorred human respect and fought tirelessly through the wreckage of late 20th century Catholicism to bolster the faith of those hanging by a thread through his example, his prayers and his kindness. I know I pray for his intercession every day.

  • Salonsandspas

    What about St. Joan of Arc? Or how about even St. Agnes…?

  • Doubting-thomist

     I wish I could “love” this!  Amen!

  • Salonsandspas

    By the way, that “stubborn group that continued St. John the Baptist’s cult,” still exist. Their religion is called ‘Mandeanism.’

  • Salonsandspas

    Mother Teresa was a true Servant Of Almighty God. If she was not a Christian, then none of us are!!!

  • Brian Niemeier

    Keep in mind that this is a list of the most influential saints; not the most popular. In that regard, I’m shocked that Moses didn’t make the top ten.

    As the single greatest human legislator in history, Moses belongs on this list for the lasting and universal impact of the Law he mediated. Despite having unquestionable influence on religious morals, the civil law codes of every western government–however secular–are rooted in the Mosaic Law.

    Not to denigrate Bl. Mother Teresa, but even without the advantages of radio, TV, and the internet, Moses has still reached more people throughout the centuries if you accept his authorship of the Torah (counting the Jewish and Christian Bible and the Quran, he’s the best-selling author ever).

    Here was a man of such great love that he defended the Hebrews time and again despite their repeated revolts, earning him the admiration of Jews, Christians, and Muslims for all time. Finally, Scripture affirms that Moses wasn’t surpassed as a prophet until the coming of Jesus.

    I think that everyone who made the list deserves to be there, but you have to admit that this is one major omission.

  • I think I know where Shientienchi G is coming from. He is referring to her comment that she did not try to convert her patients but was contented for them to become better Muslims or Hindus. Shientienchi apparently takes this as a rejection of Catholicism as the one true faith. Rather it is a humble expression of her belief that she cannot force a conversion but can only leave it to Almighty God to change a person’s heart.

  • Alfjr52

    Certainly Drew Brees should be in there?

  • IrenaeusSaintonge

    And in that spirit, my blogging patron Irenaeus of Lyon.

  • IrenaeusSaintonge

    Joan of Arc? Popular yes, but perhaps not influential. At least not top ten influential.

  • Salonsandspas

    True. The Saints of the Old Testament are very often overlooked.

  • Salonsandspas

    Yes she was. She was influential in getting the French to win back their country from England & Burgundy (Ironic how Burgundy ended up becoming part of France, eh).

  • Pedro Erik

    St Thomas Aquinas is too important to be out. For me, St. Paul, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas defined Catholicism.I would also mention St Ignatius of Loyola.

  • A very clear and deep meaning of the mission of St. Thomas has been written by the mystic A.von Speyr (d.1967):” God desired this service (to defend His truths) from him, charged him with the endless task of making things intelligible, but at the same time granted a meager subjective experience of grace. If someone like Francis of Assisi (
     todays is the feast of the Pardon of Assisi at the Portiuncola – my add)   allows a stream of  subjectively experienced grace to flow into the world, because this is the way he received it, then this is not a greater service than when Thomas makes manifest the little he received in his own way. There are different offices.” Hallelhujah!

  • Bruno Bonazzi

    but this is one of the ‘SIGNA TEMPORUM’. With S. Thomas Aquinas in the list, we wouldn’t have the Church of today ( i.e. Ecclesia according to the errors denounced in The Pascendi …)

  • Bruno Bonazzi

    I repeat my previous comment here:

    The Worshipper of the Wailing Wall,
    the Kisser of Koran, the Blesser of Voodoo Priests …The Saint (
    with regard to him to be blessed is the same as to be saint, Of
    COURSE!)….) God Made, The Most Influential Saint….TERRIBLE! . Yes, The Most Influential ‘pope’ in destroying the Catholic Faith
    and the True Church, The Saint Devil Made for HIS church, where there
    is no place for God and His Christ!!

  • Art Kelly

    Break the tie by listing St. Patrick third instead of fourth!

  • Here are a few that belong in the top 10 if not, in a top 20: 

    1. St. Ignatius of Loyola
    2. St. Thomas Aquinas
    3. St. Bernard
    4. St. Benedict 

  • Jack Isaacks

    Blessed Mother Theresa also said that the best mahometan or Hindu, or any other non-Christian, will sooner or later have to answer the question, “What will you do with Jesus Christ?

    BTW, Orthodoxy and the Byzantine Catholic Churches commemorate the Emperor Constantine as a saint and equal of the Apostles. Why did you neglect to include his honorific?

  • Art Kelly

    The Catholic Church definitely does NOT consider the emperor Constantine to be a saint!  The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia at
    states in part:

    “Shortly before his death Constantine confirmed the privileges of the priests of the ancient gods. Many other actions of his have also the appearance of half-measures, as if he himself had wavered and had always held in reality to some form of syncretistic religion…

    “It has consequently been asserted that Constantine favoured Christianity merely from political motives, and he has been regarded as an enlightened despot who made use of religion only to advance his policy. He certainly cannot be acquitted of grasping ambition.

    “Where the policy of the State required, he could be cruel. Even after his conversion he caused the execution of his brother-in-law Licinius, and of the latter’s son, as well as of Crispus his own son by his first marriage, and of his wife Fausta. He quarrelled with his colleague Licinius about their religious policy, and in 323 defeated him in a bloody battle; Licinius surrendered on the promise of personal safety; notwithstanding this, half a year later he was strangled by order of Constantine.”

    Constantine has NOT been canonized by the Catholic Church!!!

    As for the Orthodox churches, well, what do you expect from a religion that makes it HQ in Constantinople?

  • Tianaaa14

    Saint Bakhita?  Padre Pio?

  • LurkerBee

    Fulton Sheen?  Hello?

  • LurkerBee

    Pope St. Gregory the Great who fostered music to be written specifically for the Roman rite (Gregorian chant).  St. Thomas Aquinas, in addition to the Summa, wrote a great many prayers used at various holy days and chant texts.  STA is probably the most quoted saint in christendom.

  • Guest

    How about Barack Obama?  He certainly seemed popular among Catholics in the last election, and there was something supernatural, but perhaps not holy, about his election and administration.  

  • Nick


  • In my humble opinion St. Francis beats Mother Teresa any day of the week.


    why doesn’t anybody say that the devil or saitan (don’t know how to spell it) was part of the top 10 saints. he was a good saint until god and jesus decided to make humans.

  • simpleways

    St Therese of the Child Jesus. St Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross. St. Cecilia, St Francis de Assissi, St. Francis Xavier….etc…..ranking the Saints would depend on one’s knowledge of their lives and the impact these Saints have made in the lives of men.