What is A Saint in Christianity? A Complete Overview

By Charalampos •  Updated: 05/27/22 •  13 min read

In Christianity, a saint is someone holy and virtuous. They may be martyrs, apostles, or just ordinary people who have led lives of extraordinary holiness.

Though their veneration varies from denomination to denomination, saints are an important part of Christian worship and tradition.

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at what it means to be a saint in Christianity and explore some of the most famous saints in history.

Saints in Different Branches of Christianity.

What is a Saint in Christianity?
Saint Nectarios

In Christianity, different branches have different interpretations about what makes someone a saint.

The Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant branches all have different views.

Let’s first remove from our list Protestants because they don’t believe in the veneration of saints. They believe that if you venerate Saints you are practicing Idolatry.

This is a big distinction between Protestants and Catholics/Orthodox.

Now that we have only two branches of Christianity left, let’s look at the difference between a saint in Catholicism and a saint in Orthodoxy.

Eastern Orthodox Saints.

When it comes to Orthodox saints, there are two types: those who were martyred for their faith and those who led lives of exemplary holiness.

To be canonized as a saint, the Orthodox Church requires evidence of miracles that have been performed through the intercession of the candidate for sainthood.

Canonized means that they are formally recognized by the Church as a saint and their feast day is celebrated.

To be clear there is no formal canonization process in Orthodoxy, as there is in Catholicism because Orthodox Christians believe that God, not man, makes someone a saint.

Important: All Old Testament Prophets, as well as the Apostles, are considered saints in Orthodoxy.

Roman Catholic Saints.

In the Roman Catholic Church, a saint is someone who has been formally canonized by the Pope.

To be canonized, a person must have been dead for at least five years and there must be evidence of two miracles that were performed through their intercession.

There are some cases where the Pope can waive the five-year waiting period and canonize someone immediately after their death, as was the case with Mother Theresa.

Like Orthodoxy, Catholicism also has two types of saints: those who were martyred for their faith and those who led lives of exemplary holiness.

There are over 10,000 Saints in the Catholic Church, which is more than any other branch of Christianity.

Read Also: Orthodoxy vs. Catholicism: What’s the Difference?

What Is The Purpose of A Saint?

In Christianity, a saint is a holy person who has been singled out for special honor by God. The purpose of a saint is to be an example of holiness and righteousness for other Christians to follow.

Saints are also seen as intercessors who can pray on behalf of others, especially for those who are suffering.

In addition, saints are often invoked for their patronage, which is the belief that they can intercede on behalf of someone who is facing a particular challenge or situation.

For example, Saint Nectarios is the Saint of health, so he is often invoked by those who are ill.

How Can Someone Become A Saint?

How Can Someone Become A Saint
Holy Apostle Andreas

The process of becoming a saint varies depending on which branch of Christianity you belong to. But here are some of the basic requirements:

1. A person Must Be Dead.

First of all, a person must be dead to become a saint. This is because it is only after a person’s death that we can see the full effect of their holiness.

We do know for example in the Eastern Orthodox Church that the bones of a saint are often incorrupt – that is, they do not rot after death.

This is taken as a sign of the individual’s sanctity and every Orthodox Church has at least one relic – usually a bone or a piece of clothing – of a saint.

In the Catholic Church, a person must be dead for at least five years before they can be formally canonized as a saint.

2. The Person Must Have Lived A Holy Life.

Of course, a person must have led a holy life to be considered for sainthood.

This usually means that the person must have been baptized and confirmed in the Christian faith, and must have followed all of the Church’s teachings.

A saint is also someone who has lived a life of service to others, and who has shown great compassion and love.

Saint Paisios of Mount Athos is a recent example of someone who lived a holy life and was canonized by the Orthodox Church.

He was known for his work with poor and sick people, and for always being willing to help anyone in need.

3. There Must Be A Miracle Attributed To The Person.

For someone to be canonized as a saint, there must also be a miracle that is attributed to them.

A miracle is defined as an event that cannot be explained by natural causes. For example, if a person is healed of a terminal illness after praying to a saint, that would be considered a miracle.

Some miracles were performed by the saint while they were alive. Saint Paisios once wanted to prove to 2 Hindus that Jesus Christ was the true savior, so he crossed a rock and the rock exploded to pieces.

You can read about the story here: Saint Paisios and the Greek Hindus.

4. The Pope Must Declare The Person A Saint (Only in the Catholic Church).

In the Catholic Church, the most important step in becoming a saint is for the Pope to declare the person a saint.

This usually happens after an extensive investigation into the person’s life, and after the Church has confirmed that a miracle has indeed taken place.

The Pope will then usually hold a formal ceremony called canonization ceremony, at which point the person has been officially declared a saint.

Important: Every branch of Christianity has its process for becoming a saint, so it’s important to understand that some Orthodox Saints are not considered Saints in the Catholic Church (and vice versa).

What Happens After Someone Becomes A Saint?

Saints live in Heaven with God after they die. This is because they are seen as being closer to God than other people.

Although Saints aren’t yet in Theosis (which is the goal of every Christian – to be one with God), they are still much closer to God than we are.

This is why it’s important to ask Saints to pray for us because they can help us in our journey towards Theosis.

Only Virgin Mary (Theotokos) has reached Theosis making Her the only human being that is one with God.

The truth is that no one can reach Theosis till the Second Coming of Jesus Christ but Virgin Mary was an exception because she was full of Grace.

Most Important Saints in Christianity.

It’s very hard to say who the most important Saints in Christianity are because there are so many of them, and they all play an important role in our faith.

Only God knows the answer, but for our Earthly purposes, I have compiled a list of the most important Saints in Christianity.

In no particular order, they are:

1. Saint Gregory Palamas.

Saint Gregory Palamas was a 14th-century monk who was very important in the development of Orthodox theology.

He is best known for his defense of Hesychasm, which is the practice of uninterrupted prayer that leads to the vision of God.

Saint Gregory’s writings and teachings are still very important for Orthodox Christians today and monks in Mount Athos still practice Hesychasm to this day.

2. Saint Photios or Photios The Great of Constantinople.

Saint Photios or Photios The Great of Constantinople served as Patriarch of Constantinople from 858 to 867 and from 877 to 886.

He is recognized as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox Church and his feast day is celebrated on February, sixth.

Saint Photios was prosecuted for his beliefs in icons and was ultimately banished from Constantinople. After the triumph of Orthodoxy and the restoration of icons (843), he was recalled and served as Advisor to the Emperor.

3. Three Holy Hierarchs or The Cappadocian Fathers.

The Three Holy Hierarchs are Saint Basil the Great, Saint Gregory Nazianzus, and Saint John Chrysostom.

They are considered to be the three most important Church Fathers in Eastern Christianity and their feast day is celebrated on January 30th.

In the Orthodox Church, they are also known as The Great Three Hierarchs, while in the Roman Catholic Church they are referred to as Doctors of the Church.

4. Saint Ephraim The Martyr.

Saint Ephraim The Martyr

Saint Ephraim The Martyr was a Christian martyr who was put to death by the Turkish Army (Ottomans) in 1426.

A hermit nun by the name of Makaria Desipri had a series of Divinely-inspired visions in which she saw the martyrdom of Saint Ephraim.

Makaria then went to the place of his martyrdom which was in a Monastery located in Nea Makri, Greece, and found his body.

The Monastery was then renamed in honor of Saint Ephraim and is now known as the Saint Ephraim Monastery.

He was recognized as a Saint by the Greek Orthodox Church which was approved by the Patriarch of Constantinople in 2011.

5. Maximus The Confessor.

Maximus the Confessor was a Christian monk, theologian, and scholar who lived in the seventh century.

He is best known for his defense of Orthodoxy against the heresy of Monothelitism, which taught that there was only one will in Christ.

Maximus was exiled and tortured for his beliefs but he remained faithful to the end. He is recognized as a Saint by both the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches.

He got the name Confessor because he didn’t die as a Martyr but he confessed to the truth of Christianity even under torture.

6. Saint Paisios of Mount Athos.

Saint Paisios of Mount Athos was a 20th-century ascetic who is known for his prophecies and his love for all people.

He was born in Pharasa, Cappadocia in 1924 and he died in 1994.

He is also known as Paisios the Athonite and was canonized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople on January 13, 2015.

There are many stories and miracles attributed to Saint Paisios and he is beloved by many Orthodox Christians. Paisios was a very humble man who always stressed the importance of love and forgiveness.

But Who Is The Most Important Saint in Christianity?

This question cannot be answered definitively because there are so many great saints who have done so much for our faith.

However, if we had to choose one saint who is the most important, it would probably be Saint Mary (Theotokos).

She is the mother of Lord Jesus Christ, and she is venerated by both Catholics and Orthodox Christians.

Even Muslims respect her, and she is mentioned often in the Quran.

Saint Mary played a pivotal role in God’s plan of salvation, and she is an intercessor for us sinners on earth.

Her example of faith, hope, and love is one that we should all aspire to emulate.

What Are Some Female Christian Saints Throughout History?

Christianity wouldn’t be where it is today without the contributions of female saints. Some of the most well-known and venerated female saints that lived throughout history are:

1. Saint Agatha Virgin and Martyr of Sicily.

Saint Agatha of Sicily is a Christian saint who was born in the third century. She is best known for her steadfast faith in God despite enduring torture and imprisonment.

Saint Agatha is the patron saint of breast cancer patients, and her feast day is celebrated on February fifth.

She is an example of strength and courage in the face of adversity, and she continues to inspire Christians today.

2. Saint Kyriaki the Great Martyr.

Saint Kyriaki was a Christian martyr who lived in the third century. She was martyred under the Roman Emperor Diocletian for her faith.

Saint Kyriaki is the patron saint of Servia and her feast day is celebrated on July 7th.

Are There Any Dangers Associated With the Veneration of Saints?

Yes, there are always dangers associated with the veneration of saints. The main danger is when people don’t venerate but worship the icons or statues of saints.

This can lead to idolatry, which is a grave sin.

Another danger is when people put their faith in the saint rather than in God. Saints are not perfect, and they cannot save us from our sins.

Don’t forget that Saints are human beings who are now in heaven, but they are not God.

We should always put our trust in God alone. Saints can intercede for us and help us on our journey to salvation, but they cannot save us by themselves.

Another danger is when people think that they can sin because they have the protection of a saint.

Saints cannot save us from the consequences of our bad choices. We must always strive to live a holy life and avoid sin.

In conclusion, the veneration of saints is a good thing, but we must be careful not to worship them or put our faith in them instead of God.

Saints are humans too, but they have reached a better place through their faithfulness to God. Let us all aspire to be like them!

Frequently Asked Questions

what is a saint in christianity - FAQ
Saint Tryphon of Campsada

Are We All Saints?

No, we are not all saints. A saint is a person who has been canonized by the Church.

This means that they have been declared to be in heaven and worthy of veneration by the faithful.

The process of canonization is long and difficult, and it usually takes many years (or even centuries) after a person’s death to be declared a saint.

So, while we are all called to be holy, not all of us will achieve sainthood in the traditional sense.

Do Christians Believe in Saints?

Most Christian denominations do believe in saints.

The Catholic and Orthodox Churches have always had a strong tradition of veneration for saints.

Protestants, however, tend to focus more on Jesus Christ and the Bible, so they don’t believe in Saints.

Final Thoughts

In Christianity, saints are venerated as holy people who have led exemplary lives and been granted special favor by God. There are different branches of Christianity that recognize different saints, but all saints serve the same purpose: to help Christians live according to God’s will.

Although the veneration of saints can sometimes be controversial, it is generally a good thing. Saints provide us with examples to follow and intercede for us before God.

So, the next time you see an icon of a saint on your Church, take a moment to show respect, remember their example and ask them to pray for you!

This is not the final version of the article, it will be updated regularly with more information about the topic!

Charalampos

Charalampos is an Orthodox Christian who wants to help others learn about Christianity. His main goal is to help people understand the Bible and how to apply its teachings in their everyday lives. He also enjoys spending time with his family, playing sports, and hiking.

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