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iconography, saints are often depicted as having halos, which is a symbol of their holiness. Note that Judas is depicted without a halo.]]

A saint (from the Latin sanctus) is a human being who is believed to have been 'called' to holiness or has, consciously or unconsciously, fulfilled the criteria set for sainthood by a religious institution.


Generalized characteristics and anthropological perspectives

Though the term is mostly used for Christians considered holy or virtuous, the concept can be used for other religions, e.g. see Hindu saints. John A. Coleman S.J., associate professor of religion and sociology at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley[1], wrote that saints across various cultures and religions have the following family resemblances 1. exemplary model 2. extraordinary teacher 3. wonder worker or source of benevolent power, 4. intercessor 5. possessor of a special and revelatory relation to the holy.[2]

While there are parallels between these (and other) concepts and that of sainthood, each of these concepts has specific meanings within a given religion.[citation needed] Also, new religious movements have sometimes taken to using the word in cases where the people so named would not regarded as saints within mainstream Christianity. Some of the Cao Dai saints and Saints of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica are examples of such.[citation needed]

The anthropologist [3] 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", and 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."[4]


Roman Catholic Church

.]] There are more than 10,000 Roman Catholic saints.[5] The older term for saint is martyr, meaning someone who would rather die than give up their faith, or more specifically, witness for God. However, as the word martyr took on more and more the meaning of "one who died for the Faith," the term saint, meaning holy, became more common to describe the whole of Christian witnesses, both martyrs and confessors.[citation needed] The Roman Catholic Church teaches that it does not, in fact, make anyone a saint.[citation needed] Rather, it recognizes a saint. In the Church, the title of Saint — with a capital 'S' — refers to a person who has been formally canonized (officially recognised) by the Roman Catholic Church, and is therefore believed by this church to be in Heaven.

Also, by this definition there are many Roman Catholics 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 (lowercase 's'). Anyone in Heaven is, in the technical sense, a saint, since they are believed to be completely purified and holy.[citation needed] Unofficial devotions to uncanonised individuals take place in certain regions.[citation needed] Also, sometimes the word 'saint' is used to refer to Roman Catholics still sojourning here on earth.[citation needed]

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." [6]

In the Catholic Church, persons bear the stigmata, interpreted as the wounds of the Crucifixion and Passion of Jesus Christ, believed to be given as a sign of extreme holiness or sainthood.[citation needed] St. Francis of Assisi is the most notable example of a saint bearing the stigmata in Catholicism.[citation needed] The abbreviation for the term Saint is usually St. or St.

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."[7]

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 often used, it is intended in the old sense meaning to honor or give respect (dulia). Divine Worship is properly reserved only for God (latria) and never to the Saints.[citation needed] In Catholic theology, since God is the God of the Living, then it follows that the saints are alive in Heaven. As "special friends of God" they can be asked to intercede or pray for those still on earth.[citation needed]

A saint may be designated as a patron saint of particular causes or professions, or invoked against specific illnesses or disasters, but this is only in popular thought, and is not official doctrine of the Roman Catholic church.[citation needed] They 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.[citation needed]

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 of late 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."[8]

Once a person has been declared a saint, the body of the saint is considered holy.[citation needed] The remains of saints are called holy relics and are usually used in churches. The saints' personal belongings may also be used as relics.[citation needed] Some of the saints have a symbol that represents their life.[citation needed]

In Church tradition, a person that is seen as exceptionally holy can be declared a saint by a formal process, called canonization. This particular form of recognition formally allows the person so canonized to be listed in the official Litany of the Saints during Mass.[citation needed] Formal canonization is a lengthy process often taking many years, even centuries.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

If the application is approved, the person may be granted the title of "Venerable";[citation needed] further investigations may lead to the candidate's beatification and given title of "Blessed."[citation needed] At a minimum, two important miracles are required to be formally declared a saint.[citation needed] The Church, however, places special weight on those miracles or instances of intercession that happened after the individual died and which are seen to demonstrate the saint's continued special relationship with God after death.[citation needed] Finally, when all of this is done the Pope canonises the saint.[citation needed]

Eastern Orthodoxy

In the Eastern Orthodox Church a Saint is defined as anyone who is in Heaven, whether recognized here on earth, or not.[citation needed] 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 on the Cross. 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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).[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

The reason relics are considered sacred is because, for the Orthodox, the separation of body and soul is unnatural.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] Every altar in every Orthodox church contains relics, usually of martyrs. Church interiors are covered with the Icons of saints.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed] 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".[citation needed]


In the Anglican Church, the title of Saint — with a capital 'S' — 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, Article XXII of 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 the 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 Roman Catholic or Orthodox way, often praying for intercessions from the saints and celebrating their feast days.

According to the Church of England, a saint is one who is sanctified, as it translates in the Authorised King James Version (1611) 2 Chronicles 6:41
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.
The early Christians were all called saints (Hebrews 13:24; Jude 1:3; Philemon 1:5,7).

The "cult of saints" and the associated competition in relic-veneration is generally considered to have ended with the Reformation[9], but both within the Roman Catholic, Eastern, and Anglican traditions, the honouring of saints continues, and a list (something missing here!).


[[File:|thumb|"Scripture does not teach calling on the saints or pleading for help from them. For it sets before us Christ alone as mediator, atoning sacrifice, high priest, and intercessor."—A.C. Article XXI.[10]]]

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 Jesus. Because of this, many Protestants consider prayers to the saints to be idolatry or even necromancy.

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 (lower case) to refer to any believer, in continuity with the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers.

Lutherans use the term "Saint" in the same manner in which Catholics use it. The United Methodist Church does not venerate the saints or believe in having patron saints, but they do recognize many biblical figures, as well as martyrs and confessors of later periods, as Saints.


There are some groups which are generally classified as Protestants who do not accept the idea of the communion of saints. These groups, which are often more specifically referred to as Restorationists, do not believe in the efficacy of the intercession of saints. This is primarily due to two distinct, but opposing beliefs found within the various "Restorationists". 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.

Latter-day Saints

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. The qualification "Latter-day" Saints 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 modern church from the ancient Christian church. Therefore members refer to themselves as "Latter-day Saints", or simply "Saints", most often among themselves.

Jehovah's Witnesses

Refers to "Those who are clean, particularly in a spiritual or moral sense; it also denotes persons set apart for the service of God, in heaven or on earth." The term Saints means Holy Ones and there are several references made in the Bible to those that were sanctified to Almighty God Jehovah. The term would also apply to those that were anointed with Holy Spirit after the death of Jesus Christ. The Bible gives a specific number of those Holy Ones that would rule with Jesus Christ in Heaven as being 144,000 (Revelation 5:10, 20:6.) The anointed Holy Ones are to rule as Kings and Priests over the Heavens and the Earth. [11]

Other religions

The use of the term saint is not exclusive to Christianity. In many religions, there are people who have been recognised 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. Some Indian Saints avoided titles and fame such as Neem Karoli Baba. Buddhists hold the Arhats and Arahants in special esteem. Some groups of Islam hold the Hadrat (literally, Presence, a title of Sufi Saints) in similar esteem.

The concept of sant or bhagat found in North Indian religious tradition, is unrelated and a false cognate of "saint". 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.[12]

Hazrat Babajan (c. 1806 - September 18, 1931) was a Baloch Muslim saint considered by her followers to be a sadguru or qutub.

Santeria — Voodoo

The veneration of Catholic saints forms the basis of the Cuban Santería religion. In Santería, however, saints are syncretised with Yoruban deities, and are equally worshipped in churches (where they appear as saints) and in Santería religious festivities, where they appear as deities (orishas); however, this practice is condemned vehemently by the Catholic Church as sacrilegious and contrary to true Catholic practice.

Santeria, Haitian Vodou, Brazilian Umbanda and other similar religions adopted the Catholic Saints, or at least the images of the saints, and applied their own spirits/deities to them, or 'Orishas' in Santeria and 'Lwa' in Vodoun. Although there are many similarities between Vodoun and Santeria, they are different in respect to origin and language (Vodou is French, Santeria is Spanish). The adoption of Catholic Saints was fairly common in the religions that were adapted by the slaves in the New World. It can be understood as an example of faux-Catholicism.

See also

[[Image:|32x28px]] Saints portal


  1. ^ Hawley, John Stratton, ed. Saints and Virtues Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987. p. 239
  2. ^ Coleman, John A. S.J. "Conclusion: after sainthood" in Hawley, John Stratton, ed. Saints and Virtues Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987. pp 214-217
  3. ^ Hawley, John Stratton, ed. Saints and Virtues Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987. page 239
  4. ^ Babb, Lawrence A. "Sathya Sai Baba's Saintly Play" in Hawley, John Stratton, ed. Saints and Virtues Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987. pp 168-170
  5. ^ All About Saints
  6. ^ Saint of the Day edited by Leonard Foley, OFM, (Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2003), xvi. ISBN 0-86716-535-9
  7. ^ Kenneth Woodward, Making Saints: How the Catholic Church Determines Who Becomes a Saint, Who Doesn't and Why (New York: Touchstone/Simon and Shuster, 1996) ISBN 0743200292
  8. ^ Jenna Russell, "Marshfield man's prayer an answer in sainthood query," The Boston Globe April 28, 2009, B1,4.
  9. ^ The J. Paul Getty Museum Exhibition "Cult of Saints" (2006). "Cult of Saints". Retrieved on 2008-09-28. 
  10. ^ Augsburg Confession, Article 21, "Of the Worship of the Saints". trans. Kolb, R., Wengert, T., and Arand, C. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2000.
  11. ^ Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, Insight on the Scriptures, Volume One, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Brooklyn, NY. 1988. p. 1132
  12. ^ Michael Gilsenan (1973). Saint and Sufi in Modern Egypt. Oxford. ISBN 0-19-823181-4. 


  • Cunningham, Lawrence S. The Meaning of Saints. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1980.
  • Hawley, John Stratton, ed. Saints and Virtues. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.
  • Hein, David. "Saints: Holy, Not Tame." Sewanee Theological Review 49 (2006): 204–17.
  • Hein, David. "Farrer on Friendship, Sainthood, and the Will of God." In Captured by the Crucified: The Practical Theology of Austin Farrer. Edited by David Hein and Edward Hugh Henderson. New York and London: T & T Clark / Continuum, 2004. 119-48.
  • Jean-Luc Deuffic (éd.), Reliques et sainteté dans l'espace médiéval [1]
  • O'Malley, Vincent J. "Ordinary Suffering of Extraordinary Saints", 1999. ISBN 0-87973-893-6
  • Perham, Michael. The Communion of Saints. London: Alcuin Club / SPCK, 1980.
  • Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Insight on the Scriptures: Volume 1. Brooklyn,: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, 1988.
  • Woodward, Kenneth L. Making Saints. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.

External links

Stages of Canonization in the Roman Catholic Church
  Servant of God   →   Venerable   →   Blessed   →   Saint  


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Wikipedia has articles on:


See also Saint




From Middle English < Old French seinte (French: saint) < Latin sanctus (holy, consecrated, in LL. as a noun a saint), prop. pp. of sancire (to render sacred, make holy), akin to sacer (holy, sacred).



Wikipedia has an article on:




saint (plural saints)

  1. A holy person, especially one who has shown heroic virtue.
    Dorothy Day was a living saint.
  2. A person whom a church or another religious group has officially proclaimed a saint for having shown heroic virtue and holiness.
    Kateri Tekawitha was proclaimed a saint.
  3. One who is sanctified or made holy; a person who is separated unto God’s service.
    to the assembly of God which is at Corinth; those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, both theirs and ours. (1Cor. 1:2)


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.

Related terms

See also


to saint

Third person singular

Simple past

Past participle

Present participle

to saint (third-person singular simple present saints, present participle sainting, simple past and past participle sainted)

  1. (nonstandard) To canonize, to formally recognize someone as a saint.
    Many wish to see Pope John Paul II sainted immediately.


External links

  • saint in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913
  • saint in The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1911




From Latin sanctus (holy)




saint m. (plural saints; feminine sainte, plural saintes)

  1. saint

See also


  • Anagrams of ainst
  • tians

Simple English

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.

  • In the New Testament, the term Saint is used to refer to any member of the Church of Christ.
  • In the Roman Catholic Church, a saint is someone who lives a very holy life and follows the bible. To become a Roman Catholic saint, the person needs to have done a miracle.
  • In Mormonism, a saint is someone who is of Mormon line.
  • In Protestant churches a saint is anyone who is truly religious thus who practices faith regularly.

Sports teams


  • "The Saint" is a character created by Leslies Charteris. The Saint has appearred in a number of books, movies and TV shows, including
  • Saint is the title of a novel by Ted Dekker
  • Saint (Heavy Metal), a Christian heavy metal band.
  • For the pioneering Australian punk band, see The Saints.
  • There are also two actresses by the name of Saint: Eva Marie Saint and Silvia Saint.
  • When the Saints Go Marching In is a popular tune also known as "The Saints".


  • Saint is a type of pigeon
  • Saint can be used to describe a really loving or caring person.

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