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, for Christian saints, use their given names
Saint. For canonized and uncanonized saints, see under the proper name, e.g., Ambrose, Saint. For surnames and place names beginning thus, see in alphabetical position here: thus, Saint-Exupéry, Antoine de; Saint Louis. For persons not listed under Saint, use St.


, in Christianity
saint [O.Fr., from Latin sanctus=holy], in Christianity, a person who is recognized as worthy of veneration.

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.

Religious Role of the Saints

In traditional belief, as taught by Roman Catholic and Orthodox Eastern churches, faithful Christians on earth and the saints in heaven are all members of the church, and just as living members seek the prayers of others and share in the merits of others, so the living ask those in heaven for their prayers and share in their merits (see indulgence). An aspect of the same cooperation of the living and the saints is prayer for those dead who are not yet saints (i.e., in purgatory).

Prayer to the saints (“veneration” or “honor”) is distinct in kind from prayer to God (“worship” or “adoration”), who is the source of all their glory. In the liturgy saints are commemorated and their intercession sought on special days (“saint's day”; see also All Saints' Day), usually the anniversary of their death. In the ancient churches each member has at least one patron saint from baptism, and in the West another is adopted at confirmation; patrons are expected to have a mutual relation of affection with their earthly charges. Saints vary in popularity: St. Joseph, very popular today among Catholics and Orthodox, had scarcely any cultus 1,000 years ago; St. Nicholas, for centuries a favorite in the West, has today few devotees among Roman Catholics. Examples of nonliturgical devotions to saints are pilgrimages (see pilgrim), many forms of litany, images and icons, novenas, and annual celebrations in honor of patron saints.

Accounts of the Lives of the Saints

Accounts of saints' lives have been favorite reading material for many, and at times their composition (hagiography) has become a real art. Apart from those that are simple, contemporary records, they often become miracle-studded tales. Two immortal collections of saints' lives are the Golden Legend and the Little Flowers of St. Francis (see Francis, Saint). In the modern Roman Catholic Church the Bollandists have been charged with the task of separating the true from the false in hagiography. The effort entails the revision of official books, e.g., the Roman Martyrology, a compendium of saints' lives.


See G. H. Gerould, Saints' Legends (1916, repr. 1969); H. Thurston and D. Attwater, ed., Butler's Lives of the Saints (4 vol., 1956, repr. 1965); P. McGinley, Saint-Watching (1969); D. Attwater, The Penguin Dictionary of Saints (1970); R. M. Bell and D. Weinstein, Saints and Society (1982); D. Farmer, ed., The Oxford Dictionary of Saints (2d ed. 1987).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

What does it mean when you dream about a saint?

Dreaming of a saint may indicate that a special message is being given to the dreamer from the spiritual realm, and therefore may be an especially significant dream.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


1. a person who after death is formally recognized by a Christian Church, esp the Roman Catholic Church, as having attained, through holy deeds or behaviour, a specially exalted place in heaven and the right to veneration
2. Bible the collective body of those who are righteous in God's sight
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005




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Dreaming about saints usually has spiritual implications. You may have traveled to another plain and are having a wonderful, very meaningful spiritual experience. For those who cannot accept this possibility, the unconscious may be relaying some feelings of pressure or possibly the need to sacrifice on some level in daily life.
Bedside Dream Dictionary by Silvana Amar Copyright © 2007 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
A Cloud of Witnesses demonstrates what valuable service the WCC can still offer its member churches, even as the latter will surely continue to put more energy (and money) into bilateral dialogues than into the WCC's multilateral kind.
Hebrews 12:1 RSV "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfector of our faith ..."
(47.) Moorhead, "Latter Rain in Calcutta," 9; for his testimony of Spirit baptism, see, "A Personal Testimony," Cloud of Witnesses to Pentecost in India, Sept.
A longtime friend counts her among the biblical "cloud of witnesses" to such hopes.
Heath Street Baptist Church 84 Heath St NW3 07846 542873 The Long Cloud of Witnesses to 11 Nov
In the spirit of the Olympics, let us run the race that is set before us, let us cheer one another on, and let us give thanks for "that great cloud of witnesses by whom we are surrounded." (Hebrews 12:1)
For pastors, it can demonstrate the virtues inherent in reading in conversation with the great cloud of witnesses. For general readers, it can open up an old book through ancient tools to make it new again.
I am also in the presence of the vast cloud of witnesses, some represented in the icons that have multiplied in this cell, gifts sent to me from people everywhere: Oscar Romero, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, Steve Biko, the martyrs of El Salvador, Pope John XXIII--those who have given their lives to fashion a more human world.
Hellerman poses the question of whether Philemon would "deny his Christian identity" by "acting first of all with the prerogatives of an angry slave owner," and heightens the sense of drama with by adding "His house church was watching." Also see Efrain Agosoto "The Apostle Paul and Mentoring: Formal and Informal Approaches" in Apuntes 18, no.1 spring (1998) p.10, where Agosto offers that Paul is making his appeal to Philemon before "a cloud of witnesses".
22-24].' Remember, this is the chapter in Hebrews that begins, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us" (12:1).
staff to edit a volume that would celebrate this ecumenical fellowship by remembering the "cloud of witnesses" who have gone before in enabling the movement's historical realization.
She realized that the virtual connectedness of a website allowed her to be surrounded by a "cloud of witnesses greater than I could have previously imagined."