Archive for December, 2017

A Multitude of Saints

Posted in "saints", belief, thoughts on December 2, 2017 by chouck017894

Invoking “saints” to gain Heaven’s ear was a faith practice even before the origin of ChristianityHebrew scriptures, for example such as in Psalms 31:23.  “Saints” commonly referred to the dedicated faithful of a priest-concocted faith system.  As the Christian movement gradually evolved into a corporate structured.system the “fathers” recognized the value of elevating specific characters from their literature as “servants of God”.  The word “saint”, after all, was derived from the Latin sanctus, meaning “holy” or “consecrated.”  Thus the “fathers” composed formal rites that magically transposed those dedicated pioneers of the faith into the rank of protectors of the Christian faith.  With dramatic theatrics the Roman Catholic Church virtually took over and monopolized the sainthood style of marketing.  Of the many, many “saints” that Catholicism has installed over the centuries, a staggering amount of the earliest ones have absolutely no recorded support for their alleged divine power; there is only a name.

Sainthood, as we now accept it, therefore is a theological premise in which a departed person is canonized (promoted, advertised) as having been steadfast in their belief and thus attracted God’s especial attention during life.  Thus a “saint” is a person of whom the man-made faith system certifies as being entitled to public veneration, and since he or she is on such intimate terms with God he or she is supposedly capable of interceding on behalf of the suppliants.  It is not accidental that the title of “saint” is customarily bestowed  upon prominent men or women in sacred texts or newsworthy events.  The much hyped martyrs of Christian faith were logical early candidates, as were the “Fathers of the Church.”  It is their assumed virtues and graces which elevated them in God’s sight, and that sanctity is said to be proven by miracles that are said to be worked by them through interaction on behalf of random lucky seekers.

Thus saints are priest-selected personalities who were/are used for marketing of the man-devised  faith system, always of departed persons who are held up as having been virtuous in an exceptionally heroic degree and marketed to promote and advance the faith system.  And since those saints are speculated to have been gathered up to Heaven they are held to be capable of interceding for us sinners.  It’s something like an adaptation of ancestor worship.  Thus saints are categorized according to selected refinements for church utilization and promotional needs.  These categories are:  1) Apostles and Evangelists;  2) the Martyrs:  3) Confessors [explained as those who suffered pain and imprisonment but not executed, which also included later believers of the faith system who were distinguished for sanctity]; 4) Doctors, [explained as those who were renowned for sacred learning];  5) Virgins;  and 6) Matrons and Widows.  These are all the categories under which saints are canonized.  Comparatively, Virgin saints are few and far between. 

The most extensive list of “saints” to be found is the sixty-first volume of a massive work compiled by the Bollandists* –the editors of the Acta Sanctorum (Lives of the Saints)–which is an official Catholic hagiology which was begun by Jesuits in the seventeenth century and is edited and published to this day.  This work mentions around twenty thousand departed “saints”.  *(Jean de Bolland, 1596-1665, was editor of the first five volumes.)

In the gathering of worthwhile saints  there is the self-serving democratic nod by Christian saint seekers to Old Testament characters with the inclusion of about twenty of them commissioned as “saints.”  Oddly, in the very earliest saint category even some Pagan gods were once included.  But the highest ecclesiastical authority has always held to be that of the “Martyrologium Romanum” in which some 2700 saints are listed by the dates set aside to celebrate them  That makes for a lot of celebrating.  A few of the better known saints among the more than two thousand include: Augustine, Bartholomew, Christopher, Ignatius, James, Jerome, John, Luke, Mark, Paul, Peter, Stephen, Thomas, etc. etc.

The designation of “saint” was originally utilize in the New Testament in reference to followers of the early Christian community.  As Christianity began to expand, however, this advertising ranking became restricted by the faith system’s “fathers” and employed only in ecclesiastical usage to designate members who reportedly had been virtuous in their heroic ardor.  The status of the departed “saints” and their relationship to the church, not surprisingly, thus became a belief factor that had to be categorized (as noted earlier).  Image worship then gradually became an important factor in Catholic practice with use of alleged relics of saints and imagery.  In effect the saints served the same capacity as Pagan’s minor gods.  By the fourth century even some of the church’s saints whose interest was in some specific region were assigned as its patron.  Professions and trades and healers were also picked up as patrons for similar church recognition.  It was just good commercial business.

Church promotional art almost always depicts the saints as being distinguished by a nimbus, an aura, or glory.  And there was usually included some emblem of intercession which the saint allegedly provided.  These attributes hold a curious similarity to how the scorned Pagans had depicted their gods; Zeus with his lightening bolt, Thor with his hammer, or Poseidon with his trident, for example.

Around the fourth century the promotional tactics of using saints for marketing appeal (advertising) had been pretty much standardized.  The Church of Rome proclaimed at the Council of Trent (1545 until 1563–yes, eight years of haggling) that the saints reign with Christ to offer to God their prayers on behalf of mankind, and so that it is good and useful for a seeker to call upon the saints to gain additional notice.  Such marketing tactics didn’t hurt the church treasury either.