saint

Nature of Sainthood

In the Hebrew Scriptures God is "the Holy One" or "one who is holy" (Isa. 1.4; 5.19; 41.14). "His people share His holiness" (Ex. 19.6). To the New Testament authors the church is the community of saints (Acts 9.13 and the Pauline epistles). Although the creeds, with the phrase "communion of saints," maintain that usage, in later Christianity the term saint came to be used for those who are in heaven.

Generally in the Roman Catholic Church the title saint is limited to the canonized if they lived after the year 1000; otherwise the title is used according to custom. In East and West criteria for recognition of sainthood are martyrdom, holiness of life, miracles in life and after death (e.g., with relics), and a popular cultus. The addition of the name of a person to the official list of saints occurs through the process canonization. The Virgin Mary is the chief saint, and the angels are counted as saints. In 1969 the Roman Catholic Church dropped a number of saints from its liturgical calendar because of doubt that they ever lived; among them was the popular St. Christopher.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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