The Saints Go Marching In: Ten Things You May Not Have Known About Saints

It’s the season of giving.  But stacking up charitable contributions will not be enough to get you canonized.  See the steps to sainthood.  Plus more intriguing facts about saints.

  1.  You can’t be canonized while you’re alive..  Saints are only named posthumously.  Martyrdom for the faith or being tortured for your beliefs may give you a leg up.
  2. Like Baseball’s Hall of Fame, there’s a five year waiting period.  Unlike Baseball’s Hall of Fame, the Pope can waive the waiting period.
  3. After you die, the bishop of your diocese has to open an investigation to confirm you were a virtuous person.  If the evidence warrants, the bishop sends your file to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the committee that makes recommendations to the Pope.  If the Congregation accepts you for consideration,  you are now a “servant of G-d.”
  4. If the Congregation approves you, the Pope then decides whether you lived a life of “heroic virtue,”  practicing acts of faith, hope, and charity to an eminent extent. If he decides that you did, you receive the title “venerable.”
  5. You next have to intercede on behalf of someone who prays to you and your intercession has to result in a miracle.  Usually the miracle is an otherwise inexplicable healing.  Doctors will scrutinize the medical evidence.  If you pass this test, you are now beatified and receive the title “blessed.”  If you martyred yourself, you can become beatified without the first miracle.
  6. Not there yet.  There needs to be a second miracle.  If the miracle is verified, you’ve earned canonization and sainthood.
  7. No one knows exactly how many saints there are, but it’s estimated that the number exceeds 10,000.  That’s because in early times saints were made by popular proclamation. It was not until 1243 that the concept that only the Pope could declare sainthood became firmly entrenched. Canonizations have increased in recent years.  One reason is the reduction of the influence of the Promoter Fidei, commonly known as the Devil’s Advocate, as part of Pope John Paul II’s overhaul of the canonization process in 1983.  The prosecutorial  nature of the proceedings was abolished. Even so there are only two American-born saints: Mother Elizabeth Seton and Katherine Drexel, and their canonizations did not take place until 1975 and 2000, respectively.
  8. Cities from San Diego, San Francisco, and San Antonio are named after saints.  Two of the most popular, Saint Patrick and Saint Valentine have popular holidays named after them.  Patrick converted many Irish to Catholicism.  He reportedly used the shamrock (the three leaf clover) to teach about the Trinity (3 leaves, one stem).  Legend has Patrick banishing the snakes from Ireland. Valentine was martyred by the Romans for spreading Christianity.  His connection to romance has not been agreed upon.
  9. One saint, Saint Elmo, has a meteorological phenomenon named after him.  St. Elmo’s fire is a continuous electrical spark, as in a neon light, that attaches itself to an object.  It often attached itself to masts of ships during thunderstorms.  The masts glowed but did not burn. Saint Elmo is the patron saint of sailors.
  10. “When The Saints Go Marching In” evolved from a number of gospel songs. There are no standardized lyrics, but the lyrics tell of the apocalypse.  It was famously recorded and popularized by Louis Armstrong in 1938.  Here’s Louis:

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