The saints are a valid point of reference for the Catholic religion. We address our prayers, carry them in processions, entrust our pains to them, and trust them to find peace. But who are the saints, and why do we nurture this spirit of devotion to them? In our new article, we want to tell the story of the saints more closely and the reason that drives us to feel them so close to us.
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Saints in the Catholic Church
The saints are people like us; they do not have hidden skills reserved for a select few. All Christians become potential saints when they receive the gift of baptism. God calls all his children to holiness but not all respond. The saints the church recognizes are those who answered “Yes” to Jesus’ call and followed his path by placing faith in him. Not all saints are perfect; many hide a turbulent past. Let’s think, for example, of Saint Francis of Assisi. Who grew up in a very wealthy family but who, when he heard the voice of the Lord, chose to listen to it and follow it?
There are no univocal characteristics that define the figure of the saint. For the Catholic faith, we are all destined to become saints, and each, of us, has the gifts and skills to be so. This figure is a model of reference for all the faithful who are called to imitate his attitude of obedience to God and love of neighbor. After his death, the saint will live in Heaven forever in total communion with God. Thanks to this union, the saint will be an intercessor for the living, a channel of love through which the faithful can communicate with God.
Christianity used the word “holy” to indicate every Christian as being consecrated by baptism. Initially, they were all those who both physically and spiritually followed Jesus and the scriptures. Subsequently, the term began to indicate Christians killed for their faith in Christ, defined as “martyrs.” It was possible to distinguish them from those who chose to deny belief in God in order not to suffer martyrdom. This meant that the cult of martyrs soon joined the cult of the dead.
It was Pope Damasus I who encouraged the cult of martyrs. Once the persecutions were over. He took care to restore the catacombs to bring to light the tombs of the saints. The martyrs were then joined by confessors or those who had professed the Christian faith all their life. Even if they were not victims of martyrdom, one of the first non-martyr saints we can remember is Saint Martin of Tours.