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For canonized and uncanonized saints, see under the proper name, e.g., Ambrose, SaintAmbrose, Saint
, 340?–397, bishop of Milan, Doctor of the Church, b. Trier, of Christian parents. Educated at Rome, he became (c.372) governor of Liguria and Aemilia—with the capital at Milan.
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. For surnames and place names beginning thus, see in alphabetical position here: thus, Saint-Exupéry, Antoine deSaint-Exupéry, Antoine de
(Antoine-Marie-Roger de Saint-Exupéry) , 1900–1944, French aviator and writer. He became a commercial pilot and published his first story in 1926.
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; Saint LouisSaint Louis
, city (1990 pop. 396,685), independent and in no county, E Mo., on the Mississippi River below the mouth of the Missouri; inc. as a city 1822. St. Louis has long been a major industrial and transportation hub.
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. For persons not listed under Saint, use St.


[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 relicsrelics,
part of the body of a saint or a thing closely connected with the saint in life. In traditional Christian belief they have had great importance, and miracles have often been associated with them. Members of the Orthodox Eastern Church have generally followed St.
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), and a popular cultus. The addition of the name of a person to the official list of saints occurs through the process canonizationcanonization
, in the Roman Catholic Church, process by which a person is classified as a saint. It is now performed at Rome alone, although in the Middle Ages and earlier bishops elsewhere used to canonize.
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. The Virgin MaryMary,
in the Bible, mother of Jesus. Christian tradition reckons her the principal saint, naming her variously the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady, and Mother of God (Gr., theotokos). Her name is the Hebrew Miriam.
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 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 indulgenceindulgence,
in the Roman Catholic Church, the pardon of temporal punishment due for sin. It is to be distinguished from absolution and the forgiveness of guilt. The church grants indulgences out of the Treasury of Merit won for the church by Christ and the saints.
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). 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 purgatorypurgatory
[Lat.,=place of purging], in the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, the state after death in which the soul destined for heaven is purified. Since only the perfect can enjoy the vision of God (inferred from Mat. 12.36; Rev. 21.
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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' DayAll Saints' Day,
feast of the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, and day on which churches glorify God for all God's saints, known and unknown. It is celebrated on Nov. 1 in the West, since Pope Gregory IV ordered its church-wide observance in 837.
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), usually the anniversary of their death. In the ancient churches each member has at least one patronpatron
[Lat.,=like a father], one who lends influential support to some person, cause, art or institution. Patronage existed in various ancient cultures but was primarily a Roman institution.
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 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 pilgrimpilgrim,
one who travels to a shrine or other sacred place out of religious motives. Pilgrimages are a feature of many religions and cultures. Examples in ancient Greece were the pilgrimages to Eleusis and Delphi. Pilgrimages are well established in India (e.g.
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), many forms of litanylitany
[Gr.,=prayer], solemn prayer characterized by varying petitions with set responses. The term is mainly used for Christian forms. Litanies were developed in Christendom for use in processions.
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, 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 LegendGolden Legend, The,
collection of saints' lives written in the 13th cent. by Jacobus da Varagine. Originally entitled Legenda sanctorum [readings in the lives of the saints], it soon came to be called Legenda aurea
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 and the Little Flowers of St. Francis (see Francis, SaintFrancis, Saint,
or Saint Francis of Assisi
, 1182?–1226, founder of the Franciscans, one of the greatest Christian saints, b. Assisi, Umbria, Italy. Early Life
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). In the modern Roman Catholic Church the BollandistsBollandists
, group of Jesuits in Belgium, named for their early leader, Jean Bolland, a Flemish Jesuit of the 17th cent. They were charged by the Holy See with compiling an authoritative edition of the lives of the saints, the monumental Acta sanctorum, which is still in progress.
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 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).

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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
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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.