We all know to pray to St. Francis of Assisi for protection of our pets, but there are many saints that people have prayed to, even before St. Francis' time, for intercession on behalf of domestic and farm animals. Having had a dairy cow recently come down with milk fever after she had her calf (she is doing well now), we know a thing or two about these patrons.
Who are these saints and how did they get their job as our special patrons? First we will find a few that help us with our cows/cattle.
The first saint, not well known in our country, is ST. BERLINDA of MEERBEKE (Belgium).(d. 702) a Benedictine nun of noble descent. She is invoked against cattle diseases. She was a niece of St. Amandus and she was disinherited by her father, Count Odelard, after he became sick with leprosy and believed that she would not take proper care of him.
Benedictine convent at Moorsel, and became a nun. After her father died, she became a hermit at Meerbeke, where her father had been buried. Her tradition states that she spent her life helping the poor and suffering. She later became a hermitess at Meerbeke.
She is depicted as a nun with a cow and either a pruning hook or branch (she is also patroness of trees), but I could not find a reason for either. As long as she does her job helping us out, we do not care!
ST. BRIGID of IRELAND (451–525) along with St. Patrick is the most well known patroness of cows/cattle. She was probably born at Faughart near Dundalk, Louth, Ireland. Her parents were baptized by St. Patrick, with whom she developed a close friendship. According to legend, her father was Dubhthach, an Irish chieftain of Lienster, and her mother, Brocca, was a slave at his court.
Even as a young girl she showed an interest for a religious life and took the veil in her youth from St. Macaille at Croghan and probably was professed by St. Mel of Armagh, who is believed to have conferred abbatial authority on her. She settled with seven of her virgins at the foot of Croghan Hill for a time and about the year 468, followed St. Mel to Meath. About the year 470 she founded a double monastery at Cill-Dara (Kildare) and was Abbess of the convent, the first in Ireland. The foundation developed into a center of learning and spirituality, and around it grew up the Cathedral city of Kildare. She founded a school of art at Kildare and its illuminated manuscripts became famous, notably the Book of Kildare, which was praised as one of the finest of all illuminated Irish manuscripts before its disappearance three centuries ago.
St. Brigid was one of the most remarkable women of her times, her extraordinary spirituality, boundless charity, and compassion for those in distress was great. She died at Kildare and she is buried at Downpatrick with St. Columba and St. Patrick, with whom she is the patron of Ireland. Her name is sometimes Bridget and Bride. St Brigid is portrayed as having the power to multiply such things as butter, bacon and milk, to bestow sheep and cattle, and to control the weather.
ST. PATRICK was born to a loving family in the British part of the ancient Roman Empire (probably in modern Wales) in 385 AD. His father, Calpurnius, was a Roman official who also served as a deacon in his local church. Patrick's life was fairly peaceful until age 16, when a dramatic event changed his life significantly.
A group of Irish raiders kidnapped many young men, including 16-year-old Patrick, taking them by ship to Ireland to be sold into slavery. After Patrick arrived in Ireland, he went to work as a slave for an Irish chieftain named Milcho, herding sheep and cattle. Patrick worked in that capacity for six years, and drew strength from the time he often spent praying. He wrote: "The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same. ...I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain."
One day, Patrick's guardian angel, Victor, appeared to him in human form, manifesting suddenly through the air while Patrick was outside. Victor told Patrick: "It is good that you've been fasting and praying. You will soon go to your own country; your ship is ready."
Victor then showed Patrick how to find his way to the Irish Sea to find the ship that would take him back to Britain. Patrick successfully escaped and was united with his family. After Patrick had enjoyed several comfortable years with his family, Victor communicated with Patrick through a dream. He showed Patrick a dramatic vision that made Patrick realize that God was calling him to return to Ireland to preach the Gospel message there. So he left his comfortable life with his family and sailed to Gaul to study to become a priest. After he was appointed a bishop, he set out for Ireland to help as many people as possible in the island nation where he had been enslaved years before.
For more than 30 years, St. Patrick served the people of Ireland, proclaiming the Gospel, helping the poor, and encouraging others to follow his example of faith and love in action. He died in 461.
Other patrons of cows/cattle are Sts. Perpetua and Felicity and St. Cornelius.