Although it may seem simple, the word saint is used in many ways and is associated with many aspects of our lives. It appears in the names of some places, like Saint Petersburg in Russia, or even the famous city of San Francisco is also attributed to a saint: its name comes from the Spanish translation of Saint Francis of Assisi.
The word “Saint” can be used to organize our daily life—on our calendars, we sometimes watch for the saint of the day. But who are the saints, for us Christians? What do they have to teach us? Through this guide, delve deeper into the mystery of holiness, and discover many exciting and inspiring lives of saints!
No surprise here, the word saint comes from religion. Holiness is the quality of saints, a concept that applies to objects (the Holy Bible, the Holy Shroud) as well as to abstract notions (the Holy Spirit, the rite of the Holy Sacrament) and to men. The word “saint” comes from the Latin sanctus, and is translated into Greek as hagios (we call the biography of a saint a “hagiography”). The word refers to that which is venerable, sacred, and pure, bringing us closer to God.
Touched by grace and filled with virtue, the saints dedicate their lives to fully following the word of Christ. However, a saint is no superhero. Let us say instead that the saints play the role of models for their brothers and sisters. Martyrs, kings, monks, nuns, rich, poor, men, women... regardless of their origins, saints are all examples of lives fully given to Christ and others. They are the image of the heavenly promise on Earth, and that is why we can ask them to intercede for us. When we ask for the intercession of the saints in our prayer, we believe that they can bring our intentions before God, whether for us, our loved ones, for the Church, or for the world.
“You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.” (Leviticus 20:26)
Well, for starters, God is holy! More than that, God is holiness.
“Holy is the Lord, God of the
Hozana universe in highest heaven!”
But each one of us is also called to holiness. It is the vocation of every baptized person, and it is within our reach! It is not necessary to be a priest, nun, or to be endowed with an extraordinary gift of healing or prophecy in order to be holy. Whatever our age and state of life, to be holy is to seek to fulfill the will of God where we are, here and now. It is living our life with Him, loving Him and loving the people He puts on our path, no longer living centered on ourselves and our pride but centered on Him and His will. It is not always easy, and following the example of others can sometimes help us to advance on this path to holiness. The charity shown by a grandmother or a friend, can sometimes particularly touch and strengthen us. The experience of Blessed Chiara Luce or Saint Therese of Lisieux can also speak to us and inspire us!
But, if everyone can be holy, why is the name “saint” given only to certain people? From an official point of view, the worship of saints is practiced by the Catholic and Orthodox branches of Christianity. Thus, holy persons as we know them have been officially recognized as such by the Church, following a long process of codified canonization since the tenth century. In addition, several stages precede canonization: the person must first be recognized as venerable, then as blessed (following a process of beatification), and can then, or not, be declared holy. Be careful, this obviously does not mean that the Church considers only those who are officially canonized to be holy! It knows well that for God, who knows all hearts, many other people are holy, but she must be careful and set up as examples of Christian perfection only people of whom a very large number of testimonies and elements testify of holiness.
There are many saints, from the earliest days of Christianity to the present day. They have followed many paths, some more arduous than others. Each in their own way, they always served and loved God and their neighbors. Check out these great examples for inspiration!
Among the saints, there are those who accompanied Christ in his life.
There are currently 35 doctors of the Church, recognized as such between the 13th and 21st centuries.
These saints are recognized - apart from their great faith - for their important theological contributions to Christianity. Here are some of the best known:
Many popes have become saints, among the most recent we can mention Pope Pius X, Saint John Paul II.
When we think of the saints, we often have in mind the martyrs, ready to die for their faith: Saint Christopher, Saint Nicholas, Saint Barbara, Saint Maria Goretti, Saint Stephen, Saint Catherine, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, and more.
There are also mystical saints,
But these extraordinary destinies are sometimes made by a path of holiness walked in a very short time; this is the case of the saints who, dead very young, had already illuminated the world with their faith: Saint Dominic Savio (14 years old), Saint Gerard Majella (29 years old) and, very recently, Saint Carlo Acutis (15 years old).
Some saints are also known for their deeds, spiritual currents, religious orders, missions ...
But the saints are also Christians who are familiar to us:
Or simply because they are our contemporaries, having shared the same century, even lived the same events as many of us: Saint Padre Pio, Saint Jeanne Beretta Molla, Saint Mother Teresa, Edith Stein...
On the way to holiness, many others are advancing and showing us the way:
To get to know the saints better, and to understand why they are so named, discover the extraordinary journeys of these saints with Hozana, and be inspired to follow your path to holiness as well.