Catholic Saints & What They Represent

by Darlene Zagata
Saints are individuals that lived pious lives of faith and service to God.

Saints are individuals that lived pious lives of faith and service to God.

Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images

Saints are people who lived a holy life. Many of them were martyrs. They are the honored dead of Christianity. Catholics believe that the prayers of the saints are more powerful than the prayers of ordinary people because the saints are thought to have the “ear of God.” Therefore, the Catholic Church established the idea of intercession by the saints. People pray to the saints for them to intercede with God on their behalf. This form of prayer is known as intercessory prayer. Saints are connected to different life conditions due to miracles they performed during life or through prayer after death.

Saints or Legends

There are many saints. The lives of some saints are well-documented. However, there is no documentation at all for others. In some cases, it is doubtful that the saint ever lived at all. St. Christopher is an example of a persona that may have never really existed. For this reason, the Church downgraded St. Christopher to the status of legend. The patron saint of travelers, St. Christopher was invoked for protection against car accidents, lightning and pestilence, and for a holy death. Although St. Christopher is no longer considered an official saint, many believers still pray to him for his intercession and protection. Proof of the actual existence of some of the saints doesn’t seem to matter to those who continue to pray to them and seek their intercession.

Patron Saints

Patron saints are associated with particular causes, professions and even countries. For example, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Martin de Porres are the patron saints of animals. St. Luke is the patron saint of artists, while St. Nicolas is the patron saint of brides. St. Lucy is the patron saint of eye disorders and St. Florian is the patron saint of firefighters. St. James is the Patron of laborers and pilgrims to the Holy Land. He was also a great military patron of Spain and defender of the Christian Church. There is little reliable information about St. Agatha but it's believed she was born to a wealthy family in Sicily where she also died as a martyr. St. Agatha is the patron saint of Palermo and Catania as well as the patron saint of nurses and miners. People invoke her protection against fire and volcanic eruptions, particularly Mt. Etna. St. James the Lesser, a disciple of Jesus, was persecuted for his faith and died a martyr. He is the patron saint of dying people, pharmacists and the country of Uruguay. There are thousands of saints. Catholic Online provides a listing of the patron saints.

Popular Saints

Some saints are more popular than others due to the acts they performed while they were alive. Saints that were apostles of Jesus during their lives performed miracles, such as healing the sick. St. Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa and St. Anthony are among the saints that are often prayed to for intercession. One of the most beloved saints, St. Francis of Assisi is patron saint of the environment as well as animals. St. Anthony of Padua performed many miracles and was known as a wonder worker. The patron saint of horses, expectant mothers, barren women and harvests, he is often invoked for assistance in locating lost or misplaced objects. St. Teresa of Avila, a Carmelite nun and Spanish mystic, is the patron saint of headaches, sick people and people in religious orders. St. Expedite is the saint to call on when assistance can’t wait. He is the patron saint of speedy results.

The Canonization of Saints

Sainthood represents a lengthy process of investigation and canonization that can take many years after the person's death. Until 1234, there was no official process for becoming a saint. Typically, the Catholic Church declared martyrs and people who lived a holy life saints at the time of their death. After the process of canonization became official, a Church investigation became the procedure to determine if a person was worthy of sainthood. The investigation determines whether the person was martyred (died for his faith and love of Christ) and if he lived a life of virtue and heroism. If the person did not die a martyr, he must be credited with a miracle. The Church examines whether the miracle was performed by God or occurred directly in response to the candidate's intercession. Once the candidate is beatified, a second miracle is required for canonization before the formal declaration of sainthood is made.

About the Author

Darlene Zagata has been a professional writer since 2001, specializing in health, parenting and pet care. She is the author of two books and a contributing author to several anthologies. Zagata attended the Laurel Business Institute to study in the medical assistant/secretarial program. She earned her associate degree through the U.S. Career Institute.

Photo Credits

  • Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images