Saints are individuals of exceptional holiness who are important in many religions, particularly Christianity. In some usages, the word "saint" is used more generally to refer to anyone who is a Christian.
Though the term is mostly used for Christians considered exceptionally virtuous, many religions use similar concepts to venerate individuals worthy of honor in some way, e.g., see Hindu saints. John A. Coleman S.J., Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, wrote that saints across various cultures and religions have the following family resemblances:
While there are parallels between these (and other) concepts and that of sainthood, each of these concepts has specific meanings within a given religion. Also, new religious movements have sometimes taken to using the word in cases where the people so named would not be regarded as saints within mainstream Christianity. Some of the Cao Dai saints and saints of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica are examples of such. Saints serve the same purpose as demi-gods in other religions.
The anthropologist  Lawrence Babb in an article about Sathya Sai Baba asks the question "Who is a saint?", and responds by saying that in the symbolic infrastructure of some religions, there is the image of a certain extraordinary spiritual king's "miraculous powers", to whom frequently a certain moral presence is attributed. These saintly figures, he asserts, are "the focal points of spiritual force-fields," exerting "powerful attractive influence on followers but touch the inner lives of others in transforming ways as well."
One Catholic website states that "There are over 10,000 named saints and beati from history, the Roman Martyology and Orthodox sources, but no definitive head count". The Catholic Church teaches that it does not, in fact, make anyone a saint. Rather, it recognizes a saint. In the Church, the title of Saint refers to a person who has been formally canonized (officially recognized) by the Catholic Church, and is therefore to be in Heaven.
Rev. Alban Butler, published Lives of the Saints in 1756, containing 1,486 saints. The work, edited by Father Herbert Thurston, S.J. and British Author Donald Attwater, contains the lives of 2,565 saints.
By this definition there are many people believed to be in Heaven who have not been formally declared as saints (most typically due to their obscurity and the involved process of formal canonization) but who may nevertheless generically be referred to as saints. All in Heaven are, in the technical sense, saints, since they are believed to be completely perfected in holiness. Unofficial devotions to uncanonized individuals take place in certain regions. Sometimes the word "saint" is used to refer to Christians still sojourning here on earth.
In his book, Saint of the Day, editor Leonard Foley, OFM, says this of saints: "[Saints'] surrender to God's love was so generous an approach to the total surrender of Jesus that the Church recognizes them as heroes and heroines worthy to be held up for our inspiration. They remind us that the Church is holy, can never stop being holy and is called to show the holiness of God by living the life of Christ." 
In his book, Making Saints: How the Catholic Church Determines Who Becomes a Saint, Who Doesn't and Why, author Kenneth Woodward notes the following:
A saint is always someone through whom we catch a glimpse of what God is like -- and of what we are called to be. Only God 'makes' saints, of course. The church merely identifies from time to time a few of these for emulation. The church then tells the story. But the author is the Source of the grace by which saints live. And there we have it: A saint is someone whose story God tells.
The veneration of saints, in Latin, cultus, or the "cult of the saints", describes a particular popular devotion to the saints. Although the term "worship" is sometimes used, it is intended in the old-sense meaning to honor or give respect (dulia). According to the Catholic church, Divine Worship is properly reserved only for God (latria) and never to the saints. They can be asked to intercede or pray for those still on earth, just as one can ask someone on earth to pray for them.
A saint may be designated as a patron saint of a particular cause or profession, or invoked against specific illnesses or disasters, sometimes by popular custom and sometimes by official statements of the Magisterium. Saints are not thought to have power of their own, but only that granted by God. Relics of saints are respected in a similar manner to holy images and icons. The practices of past centuries in venerating relics of saints for healing is taken from the early Church.
Recently, for example, a man from the United States claimed in 2000 that Venerable John Henry Newman interceded with God to cure him. The American, Jack Sullivan, asserted that after addressing Newman he was cured of spinal stenosis in a matter of hours. In 2009, a panel of theologians concluded that Sullivan's recovery was the result of his prayer to Newman. According to the Catholic Church, to be deemed a miracle, "a medical recovery must be instantaneous, not attributable to treatment, disappear for good."
Once a person has been declared a saint, the body of the saint is considered holy. The remains of saints are called holy relics and are usually used in churches. Saints' personal belongings may also be used as relics. Some of the saints have a symbol that represents their life.
In Church tradition, a person who is seen as exceptionally holy can be declared a saint by a formal process, called canonization. Formal canonization is a lengthy process often taking many years, even centuries.
The first step in this process is an investigation of the candidate's life, undertaken by an expert. After this, the report on the candidate is given to the bishop of the area and more studying is done. It is then sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome.
If the application is approved, the person may be granted the title of "Venerable". Further investigations may lead to the candidate's beatification and given title of "Blessed." At a minimum, two important miracles are required to be formally declared a saint. These miracles must be posthumous.  Finally, when all of this is done the Pope canonizes the saint.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church a saint is defined as anyone who is in Heaven, whether recognized here on earth, or not. By this definition, Adam and Eve, Moses, the various prophets, the angels and archangels are all given the title of "Saint". Sainthood in the Orthodox Church does not necessarily reflect a moral model, but the communion with God: there are countless examples of people who lived in great sin and became saints by humility and repentance, such as Mary of Egypt, Moses the Ethiopian, James the Righteous, and of course Dysmas, the repentant thief who was crucified. Therefore, a more complete definition of what a saint is, has to do with the way that saints, through their humility and their love of humankind, saved inside them the entire Church, and loved all people.
Orthodox belief considers that God reveals his saints through answered prayers and other miracles. Saints are usually recognized by a local community, often by people who directly knew them. As their popularity grows they are often then recognized by the entire church. The formal process of recognition involves deliberation by a synod of bishops. If successful, this is followed by a service of Glorification in which the Saint is given a day on the church calendar to be celebrated by the entire church. This does not, however, make the person a saint; the person already was a saint and the Church ultimately recognized it.
It is believed that one of the ways the holiness (sanctity) of a person is revealed, is through the condition of their relics (remains). In some Orthodox countries (such as Greece, but not in Russia) graves are often reused after 3 to 5 years because of limited space. Bones are washed and placed in an ossuary, often with the person's name written on the skull. Occasionally when a body is exhumed something miraculous is reported as having occurred; exhumed bones are claimed to have given off a fragrance, like flowers, or a body is reported as having remained free of decay, despite not having been embalmed (traditionally the Orthodox do not embalm the dead) and having been buried for some years in the earth.
The reason relics are considered sacred is because, for the Orthodox, the separation of body and soul is unnatural. Body and soul both comprise the person, and in the end, body and soul will be reunited; therefore, the body of a saint shares in the “Holiness” of the soul of the saint. As a general rule only clergy will touch relics in order to move them or carry them in procession, however, in veneration the faithful will kiss the relic to show love and respect toward the saint. Every altar in every Orthodox church contains relics, usually of martyrs. Church interiors are covered with the Icons of saints.
Because the Church shows no true distinction between the living and the dead (the saints are considered to be alive in Heaven), saints are referred to as if they were still alive. Saints are venerated but not worshipped. They are believed to be able to intercede for salvation and help mankind either through direct communion with God, or by personal intervention.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the titles "Όσιος" for men and "Οσία" for women are also used. This is a title attributed to saints who had lived a monastic or eremitic life, and it is equal to the more usual title of "Saint".
In the Anglican Church, the title of Saint refers to a person who has been elevated by popular opinion as a pious and holy person. The saints are seen as models of holiness to be imitated, and as a 'cloud of witnesses' that strengthen and encourage the believer during his or her spiritual journey (Hebrews 12:1). The saints are seen as elder brothers and sisters in Christ. Official Anglican creeds recognise the existence of the saints in heaven.
So far as saintly intercession is concerned, one of the Church of England's Articles of Religion "Of Purgatory" condemns "the Romish Doctrine concerning...(the) Invocation of Saints" as "a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God". However, each of the 44 member churches in the Anglican Communion are free to adopt and authorise their own official documents, and the Articles are not officially normative in all of them (e.g., The Episcopal Church USA, which relegates them to "Historical Documents"). Anglo-Catholics in Anglican provinces using the Articles often make a distinction between a "Romish" and a "Patristic" doctrine concerning the invocation of saints, permitting the latter.
In high-church contexts, such as Anglo-Catholicism, a saint is generally one to whom has been attributed (and who has generally demonstrated) a high level of holiness and sanctity. In this use, a saint is therefore not a believer, but one who has been transformed by virtue. In Roman Catholicism, a saint is a special sign of God's activity. The veneration of saints is sometimes misunderstood to be worship, in which case it is derisively termed "hagiolatry".
Some Anglicans and Anglican churches, particularly Anglo-Catholics, personally ask prayers of the saints. However, such a practice is seldom found in any official Anglican liturgy. Unusual examples of it are found in The Korean Liturgy 1938, the liturgy of the Diocese of Guiana 1959 and The Melanesian English Prayer Book.
Anglicans believe that the only effective Mediator between the believer and God the Father is God the Son, Jesus Christ. But those who pray to saints make a distinction between "mediator" and "intercessor," and claim that asking for the prayers of the saints is no different in kind than asking for the prayers of living Christians. Anglican Catholics understand sainthood in a more Catholic or Orthodox way, often praying for intercessions from the saints and celebrating their feast days.
Now therefore arise, O LORD God, into thy resting place, thou, and the ark of thy strength: let thy priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation, and let thy saints rejoice in goodness.
In many Protestant churches, the word "saint" is used more generally to refer to anyone who is a Christian. This is similar in usage to Paul's numerous references in the New Testament of the Bible. In this sense, anyone who is within the Body of Christ (i.e., a professing Christian) is a 'saint' because of their relationship with Christ Jesus. Because of this, many Protestants consider prayers to the saints to be idolatry or even necromancy. Dead Christians are awaiting resurrection, and are not able to do anything for the living saint.
Within some Protestant traditions, "saint" is also used to refer to any born-again Christian. Many emphasise the traditional New Testament meaning of the word, preferring to write "saint" to refer to any believer, in continuity with the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers.
While Methodists as a whole do not practice the patronage or veneration of saints, they do honor and admire them. Methodists believe that all Christians are saints, but mainly use the term to refer to bibilical people, Christian leaders, and martyrs of the faith. Many Methodist churches are named after saints, such as the Twelve Apostles, John Wesley, etc. Although, most are named after geographical locations associated with an early circuit or prominent location. Some Methodist congregations observe All Saints Day if they follow the liturgical calendar. Many encourage the study of saints, that is, the biography of holy people. The 14th Article of Religion in the United Methodist Discipline states, "The Romish doctrine concerning purgatory, pardon, worshiping, and adoration, as well of images as of relics, and also invocation of saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warrant of Scripture, but repugnant to the Word of God." John Wesley, the theological father of world Methodism, did not practice or permit Roman Catholic practices associated with the veneration of the Virgin Mary or prayers to saints.
In the Lutheran Church, according to the Augsburg Confession, the term "saint" is used in the manner of the Roman Catholic Church only insofar as to denote a person who received exceptional grace, was sustained by faith and whose good works are to be an example to any Christian. Traditional Lutheran belief accounts that prayers to the saints are prohibited, as they are not mediators of redemption. But, Lutherans do believe that saints pray for the Christian Church in general. Martin Luther, the founder of Lutheranism, approve honoring the saints by saying they are honored in three ways: 1. By thanking God for examples of His mercy; 2. By using the saints as example for strengthening our faith; 3. By imitating their faith and other virtues. 
There are some groups which are generally classified as Protestants who do not accept the idea of the communion of saints. Some believe all of the departed are in soul sleep until the final resurrection on Judgment Day. Others believe that the departed go to either Paradise or Tartarus, to await the day in which the living and the dead are judged.
The beliefs of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormons with regard to saints are similar to the Protestant tradition described above. In the New Testament the saints are all those who have entered into the Christian covenant of baptism. The qualification "latter-day" refers to the doctrine that members are living in the "latter days", before the second coming of Jesus Christ, and is used to distinguish the members of the Mormon church, which considers itself the restoration of the ancient Christian church. Therefore members are often referred to as "Latter-day Saints" or "LDS", and among themselves as "Saints".
The use of the term "saint" is not exclusive to Christianity. In many religions, there are people who have been recognized within their tradition as having fulfilled the highest aspirations of religious teaching. In English, the term saint is often used to translate this idea from many world religions.
Judaism speaks of a class of unidentified individuals known as Tzadikkim.
There are individuals who have been described as being Hindu saints, most of whom have also been more specifically identified by the terms Mahatma, Paramahamsa, or Swami, or with the titles Sri or Srila.
The concept of sant or bhagat is found in North Indian religious thought including Sikhism. Figures such as Kabir, Ravidas, Nanak, and others are widely regarded as belonging to the Sant tradition. Some of their mystical compositions are incorporated in the Guru Granth Sahib. The term "Sant" is still sometimes loosely applied to living individuals in the Sikh and related communities.
Anthropologists have also noted the parallels between the regard for some Sufi figures in popular Muslim observance and Christian ideas of sainthood. In some Muslim countries there are shrines at the tombs of Sufi "saints", with the observation of festival days on the anniversary of death, and a tradition of miracle-working. In some cases, the rites are observed according to the solar calendar, rather than the normal Islamic lunar calendar.
Cuban Santeria, Haitian Vodou, Brazilian Umbanda and Candomble, and other similar syncretist religions adopted the Catholic saints, or at least the images of the saints, and applied their own spirits/deities to them. They are worshiped in churches (where they appear as saints) and in religious festivals, where they appear as the deities. The name santeria was originally a pejorative term for those whose worship of saints deviated from Catholic norms.
|Stages of Canonization in the Catholic Church|
|Servant of God → Venerable → Blessed → Saint|
SAINT (lat. sanctus, " holy"), the term originally applied, e.g. in the New Testament and in the most ancient monuments of Christian thought, to all believers. In this sense it is still used by those modern Christian sects which profess to base their polity on the Bible only (e.g. the Mormons or "Latter Day Saints"). In ancient inscriptions it often means those souls who are enjoying eternal happiness, or the martyrs. Thus we find inscriptions in the Catacombs such as vivas inter sanctos, refrigera cum spiritu sancto, and people were buried ad sanctos. For a long time, too, sanctus was an official title, particularly reserved for bishops (v. Analecta Bollandiana, xviii. 410-411). It was not till almost the 6th century that the word became a title of honour specially given to the dead whose cult was publicly celebrated in the churches. It was to the martyrs that the Church first began to pay special honour. We find traces of this in the 2nd half of the 2nd century, in the Martyrium Polycarpi (xviii. 3) in connexion with a meeting to celebrate the anniversary of the martyr's death. Another passage in the same document (xvii. 3) shows clearly that this was not an innovation, but a custom already established among the Christians. It does not follow that it was henceforth universal. The Church of Rome does not seem to have inscribed in its calendar its martyrs of an earlier date than the 3rd century. The essential form of the cult of the martyrs was that of the honours paid to the illustrious dead; and these honours were officially paid by the community. They consisted in a gathering at the martyr's tomb on the anniversary of his death. St Cyprian, speaking of the confessors who died in prison, wrote to his priests, "Denique et dies eorum, quibus excedunt, adnotate, ut commemorationes eorum inter memorias martyrum celebrare possimus" (Epist. xii. 2). The list of anniversaries of a church formed its Martyrology. In the early days each church confined itself to celebrating its own martyrs; but it was not long before it became customary to celebrate the anniversaries of martyrs of other churches. In the oldest Roman ferial we already find festivals of Carthaginian martyrs, and similarly, in the Carthaginian calendar, Roman festivals, while Wright's Syriac Martyrology contains numerous traces of this exchange of festivals. From the 5th century onwards certain celebrated saints were honoured almost universally; St Augustine (Sermo, 276, § 4) says that the festival of St Vincent was celebrated throughout the whole of the Christian world. The same was the case of the festivals of St Stephen, St James and St John, and St Peter and St Paul, as is shown by the liturgical documents, but these festivals were held in connexion with that of Christmas (26th, 27th and 28th December), and were not strictly speaking anniversaries. The calendars at first included only martyrs, but their scope was gradually widened. The first to find a place in them were the bishops. Apparently they were at first arranged in a series of anniversaries separate from that of the martyrs, as seems to be shown by the existence at Rome of the Depositio episcoporum side by side with the Depositio martyrum; the two lists seem to have been combined, as in the calendar of Carthage, which includes the dies nataliciorum martyrum et depositiones episcoporum. Some of the most famous bishops also ended by passing from one calendar into the other. Finally, the ascetics came to share in the honours paid to the martyrs, and we see in the Historia religiose of Theodoret how quickly this Sainfoin (Onobrychis sativa), a nat. size. 1, Fruit, nat. size.
assimilation took place. In times of persecution the martyrs were buried among the rest of the faithful, but one can understand that their tombs, at which gatherings took place at least on the day of their anniversary, were distinguished from the ordinary tombs by some sign. When the peace of the Church permitted it, they were enshrined in chapels and often in sumptuous basilicas. In the West these buildings were raised over the tomb, which was left intact; but in the East there was no hesitation in disturbing the graves of the saints and removing the bodies to a basilica built to receive them. It is in this way that the relics of St Babylas were placed in the sanctuary built by Gallus at Daphne (Socrates, Hist. eccl. iii. 18; Sozomen, Hist. eccl. v. 19). As a matter of fact, the discipline of the Eastern churches with regard to the relics was, from the very beginning, much less severe than that of Rome and a great number of the Western churches. From the 4th century on are recorded cases of translation of the bodies of saints, and they did not even shrink from dividing the sacred relics. In the West the principle already laid down by St Gregory the Great in his letter to Constantia, namely that of not disturbing the bodies of the saints, was for a long time the rule in all cases, and the portions distributed to the churches were simply brandea, that is to say, linen which had lain upon the tomb of the saint, or, in other words, representative relics. But as early as the 7th century there is proof of a relaxation of this rule which had so well safeguarded the authenticity of the relics. It was finally disregarded altogether; in the 9th century translations of relics were extremely frequent, and led to inextricable confusion in the future.
As to the belief in the efficacy of the prayers of the saints for those still living on earth, and similarly in the efficacy of the prayers addressed to the saints, St Cyril of Jerusalem indicates in the following words the advantages of the commemoration of the saints: "Then we make mention also of those who have fallen asleep before us, first of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, that God would at theirs prayers and intercessions receive our supplication" (Cat. Myst. v. 9). It is difficult to understand a much-discussed passage of Origen (De oratione, 14), except as applying to prayer addressed to the saints. The Fathers of the 4th century, and notably the Cappadocian Fathers, provide us with a quantity of evidence on this subject, which leaves no doubt as to the practice of the invocation of saints, nor of the complete approval with which it was viewed. St Basil, for example, says: "I accept also the holy apostles, prophets and martyrs, and I call upon them for their intercession to God, that by them, that is by their mediation, the good God may be propitious to me, and that I may be granted redemption for my offences" (Epist. 360).
The cult of the saints early met with opposition, in answer to which the Church Fathers had to defend its lawfulness and explain its nature. The Church of Smyrna had early to explain its position in this matter with regard to St Polycarp: "We worship Christ, as the Son of God; as to the martyrs, we love them as the disciples and imitators of the Lord" (Martyrium Polycarpi, xvii. 3). St Cyril of Alexandria defends the worship of the martyrs against Julian; St Asterius and Theodoret against the pagans in general, and they all lay emphasis on the fact that the saints are not looked upon as gods by the Christians, and that the honours paid to them are of quite a different kind from the adoration reserved to God alone. St Jerome argued against Vigilantius with his accustomed vehemence, and especially meets the objection based on the resemblance between these rites and those of the pagans. But it is above all St Augustine who in his refutation of Faustus, as well as in his sermons and elsewhere, clearly defined the true character of the honours paid to the saints: "Non eis templa, non eis altaria, non sacrificia exhibemus. Non eis sacerdotes offerunt, absit, Deo praestantur. Etiam apud memorias sanctorum martyrum cum offerimus, nonne Deo offerimus ?. Quando audistis dici apud memoriam sancti Theogenis: offero tibi, sancte Theogenis: aut ? offero tibi Petre, aut: offero tibi Paule ?" (Sermo, 273.7; cf. Contra Faustum, xx. 21). The undoubted abuses which grew up, especially during the middle ages, raised up, at the time of the Reformation, fresh adversaries of the cult of the saints. The council of Trent, while reproving all superstitious practices in the invocation of the saints, the veneration of relics and the use of images, expresses as follows the doctrine of the Roman Church: "That the saints who reign with Christ offer to God their prayers for men; that it is good and useful to invoke them by supplication and to have recourse to their aid and assistance in order to obtain from God His benefits through His Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, who alone is our Saviour and Redeemer" (Sess. xxv.). At the present day the canonization of saints is reserved in the Roman Church to the sovereign pontiff. The Anglican Church, while still commemorating many of the Catholic saints, has not, since the Reformation, admitted any new names to the authoritative list, with the single exception of that of King Charles I., whose "martyrdom" was celebrated by authority from the Restoration until the year 1859.
See D. Petavius, De theologicis dogmatibus, De incarnatione, I., xiv.; F. Suarez, Defensio fidei catholicae (against King James I.); L. Duchesne, Les Origines du culte chretien, ch. viii.; E. Lucius, Die Anfange des Heiligenkults (Tubingen, 1904); H. R. Percival, The Invocation of Saints (London, 1896); A. P. Forbes, An Explanation of the Thirty-nine Articles (Oxford, 1878). (H. DE.)
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Saint (plural Saints)
one separated from the world and consecrated to God; one holy by profession and by covenant; a believer in Christ (Ps. 16:3; Rom. 1:7; 8:27; Phil. 1:1; Heb. 6:10).
The "saints" spoken of in Jude 1:14 are probably not the disciples of Christ, but the "innumerable company of angels" (Heb. 12:22; Ps. 68:17), with reference to Deut. 33:2.
This word is also used of the holy dead (Matt. 27:52; Rev. 18:24). It was not used as a distinctive title of the apostles and evangelists and of a "spiritual nobility" till the fourth century. In that sense it is not a scriptural title.
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Saint can mean different things:
Different religions & groups use the term saint differently. The word comes form Latin Sanctus, which means holy. In general, saints are believed to be good examples of how people should live, or what people should do. Saints are synanymous with holy. In the Roman Catholic Church to become a saint you have to go through a long process called canonization, which is performed by the Pope.