The Catholic Church doesn't "make" someone a saint the way a studio makes someone a movie star. If a person lives a life of heroic virtue, and miracles are attributed to that person, and they have passed away, they are eligible for the process of being declared a saint. The stages before sainthood are "Servant of God", "Venerable", "Blessed" and finally, with the consent of the pope, "Saint".
So what does all of that mean? It means that at the time of their elevation to sainthood, the Catholic Church agreed that the deceased were spiritually upright, did good things in the world and performed a miracle. It means that at that time, the saint in question was the sort of person the Catholic Church felt the world needed as a model for its behavior. It means the saint embodied the best of humanity, in that age.
Every saint is in some way a commentary on the society they lived in. Saints' deaths are often terrible, and symbolic of the sacrifices they made in life. Saints are still people, and like all people, they have their flaws, their sins and their private conflicts. How well do you know your Catholic saints? Find out, with this quiz.
Saint Valentine, who cured the blindness of a child, is peculiar among saints because there is very little evidence that he really existed. In fact, the Catholic Church removed him from the calendar because so little was known about him. His feast, on February 14, became associated with love because in the middle ages, people thought birds paired up at that time of year.
Saint Christopher is said to have been a huge man who, after briefly serving the devil, decided to serve Christ. A hermit told him to do this by carrying people across a river. One day, with great difficulty, he carried a child across the river, and that child turned out to be Jesus. Saint Christopher is the patron saint of travelers, but also soldiers, surfers, motorists, toothache and fruit dealers.
Saint Francis Xavier, the patron saint of missionaries, was originally the only patron of the Archdiocese of Calcutta, but when Mother Theresa became a saint, she was added as a co-patron.
In 1525, Francis Xavier went to Paris where he met Ignatius of Loyola, who convinced him to help found the Jesuit Order in 1534.
St. Anthony of Padua, whose feast is on the 13th of June, was a Portuguese friar, preacher and teacher who worked in Portugal, Spain, Morocco, and the south of France. The story goes that a young novice left his order with a favorite book of Anthony's, and Anthony prayed for its return. The book was returned, and the thief rejoined the order.
Saint Francis was about to set off on the fourth crusade when he heard the voice of God in a dream, telling him to turn back home. When he did as commanded, everyone called him a coward and his own father shamed him for having spent all this money on armor, only to throw it all away.
Saint Patrick was actually born and raised in Britain, and then kidnapped by Irish pirates who took him to Ireland, where he was forced to be a shepherd.
Saint Joseph is the patron saint of many things including Universal Church, fathers, expectant mothers, the dying, families, travelers, craftsmen, engineers, immigrants, house sellers and buyers and working people.
Saint Jude is the patron saint of lost causes. Many institutions that deal with desperate situations (also one of his areas) use him as their symbol or patron, including some police and fire departments.
Saint Sebastian is famous for being riddled with arrows, but that isn't actually what killed him. He was left for dead, but found, treated, and he recovered. It was when he went to confront his Roman antagonists that he was then beaten to death, leaving nothing to chance.
Saint Peter is famed as the founder of the Catholic Church, and the Church's first Pontifex Maximus, a term carried over from the days of pagan Rome.
Saint Augustine of Hippo is reputed to have lived a very louche life prior to hearing the call of religion, and as a result, he is the patron saint of brewers of beer! His feast is in August though, not during Octoberfest.
Saint Paul has a large patronage portfolio. He is the patron of rope and saddle makers, missionaries, tent makers, public workers, evangelists, writers, journalists and authors.
Saint Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton was born in America just before the American revolution and died in 1812, but was not beatified until 1963 by Pope John XXIII, and not named a saint until John Paul VI in 1975.
The story goes that at 13, Joan was visited by several saints in a vision, who encouraged her to take up arms against the English who had occupied part of France. She lead an armed rebellion, but was martyred when she was burned at the stake. She is also the patron saint of soldiers.
St. Michael is not actually a saint, as saints have to be human, but he is called that all the same. He's an archangel who leads God's armies.
St. George killed a dragon that was terrorizing a kingdom by demanding human sacrifices. When the king's own daughter was chosen to be sacrificed, George volunteered to instead fight the dragon, and rescued the princess.
While the Scots do claim St. Andrew for their patron, he is a very busy saint, being also the patron of Barbados, Georgia, Ukraine, Russia, Sicily, Greece, Cyprus and Romania.
St. Patrick's Day is very popular in the northeastern USA where the Irish Catholic influence is very strong. Celebrations include wearing green, dressing as a leprechaun and drinking excessively.
Joan of Arc was a woman who led French armies to some victories against the Protestant invaders of the English forces. She was eventually captured and killed by the English.
Mother Theresa was someone who people wanted to make a saint very quickly, but you needed to have a miracle ascribed to you. Fortunately this came along in the years after her death, and she completed her journey to sainthood in a fleeting 19 years.
St. Alexius was an eastern saint who lived in Syria. He came from a wealthy family and fled from his own arranged marriage. He hid for 17 years. As well as belt makers, he is appropriately the patron saint of beggars.
While most of the time being a flight attendant is not a very eventful job, on those days when it is eventful, you will definitely appreciate having a saint to intercede on your behalf. Now, return your soul to its upright and saved position!
St. Clare is the patron saint of theater performers, as well as embroiderers, gilders, laundry workers and others. This is appropriate since most theater performers will enjoy some of these other professions on their path to success.
That's right, shepherds are very thoroughly sainted. They have a lot of saints as being a shepherd has historically been an enormously popular profession. These days, shepherds are fewer in number, and as such, enjoy one of the highest saint-to-practitioner ratios of any profession.
St. Crispin watches over the noble professions of cobblers, shoemakers, curriers, saddle-makers and leather-workers.
Mount St. Helen's last erupted in 2008. The mountain is over 8,000 feet high and the rock is under 40,000 years old.
Anastasius the Fuller was drowned for proclaiming his faith by painting a cross on his door. He was a fuller, which is a process for preparing wool to remove dirt and oils.
Fishermen enjoy five patron saints: Andrew the Apostle, Zeno of Verona, Benno, Our Lady of Salambao and Peter the Apostle.
Longinus is the centurion who stabbed Jesus in the side while he was on the cross. The blood of Jesus fell onto Longinus' eyes and cured his near-blindness.
Thomas Aquinas is one of the most influential thinkers in Christian thought. He is a pioneer of natural theology, which is the idea that reason comes from God and that the existence of God can be inferred from observing the world, rather than through scriptural revelation.
St. Lidwina was disabled following a fall while ice skating. Her health deteriorated over her life and she tried fasting and other means to help it, to no avail. It is believed that she suffered from multiple sclerosis.
Joseph of Arimathea put Jesus in the tomb after the crucifixion, according to the Bible. Myth then says that he took the Holy Grail to Britain and died near Glastonbury.
St Andrew. Kim, born Andrew Kim Taegon, studied in Macau and became a priest in Shanghai. He then went back to his native Korea. As the ruling dynasty was persecuting Christians at the time, St. Andrew Kim was tortured and beheaded at the age of 25.
Frances Xavier Cabinri founded a hospital, and as such, she is the patron saint of hospital administrators. Anyone who has ever run a large hospital knows this job requires a great deal of intercession.