Who Are The Saints?

A History of Saints around the world, in all faiths, cultures & communities

St. Therese of Lisieux

Sant in Sanskrit means a Sentient being who can go into deeper realm of his soul. In India a Sant is usually associated with an ascetic who is usually refrained from worldly affairs but a person with certain noble attributes can also be considered "Saintly". Latin word Sentir, sentimento, Sentient also originates from Sant. SantAH also means serene and calm as an adjective or noun. Most derivatives of that have similar meanings eg. Shaant is Pacific and calm.

Santaap means one who feels the grief and heat of pain. Santulan is balancing ups and downs. Santosh means who can be content with oneself and what he possesses. Santushta means one who is gratified without desire for more. Santaan in fact means a being who continues his self via having children hence is also used as children but the real ancient meaning was continuation and it cognates with Santatah.

Latin verb sanctus came from Sanskrit root Santa, and Old French it became Seint and then Saint. Most European languages use Saint, San, Santon, Santo or Santa, Szent, sanctity, sacrosanct, sanctify, Sanctuary, Sanctitude, etc based on that. Latin verb sancire [consecrate] is also derived from same word. Russian, Serbian, Croatian, Czech use Sveta for Saint which also derivates from Sanskrit Shweta, meaning White.

Persians used shweta via Avestan Swet, and call it Safed or Sufed also meaning white even though most Iranis think Sufed is Persian and they loaned it to others. In fact Farsi word Sufi came from Sufed itself even though they also had influence of Greek Sophism before Islam. Old Persia before islam had preeminently Zarathustrian but there was a prominent school of Greek Sophism too.

In Christianity at one point there was a school of meta physical studies and pre Christian schools of very spiritual groups in Europe were later also merged "officially". Few were genuinely known saints but many were created as some king or other lord "requested".

Catholic Church a "Saint" declared by them is anyone in "heaven" and is formally canonized [Canon a Greek origin word that means legal and this entered later in Arabic as Kanoon] that is declared legally a Saint. So if church recognizes someone as a Saint he/she is the holder of the keys of Kingdom of Heaven. and therefore "believed to be in Heaven". Many people criticized the Church for "Making and creating" the Saints and then it said it only recognizes them. Since 993 Roman Catholic Church has by its own LEGALITY created thousands of Saints.

How many of them are/were indeed Saints is quite debatable. In the Anglican world, the title of Saint refers to a person who has been elevated by popular opinion as a pious and holy person. Then the patron saints who are created after every discipline and also of local state or area. eg. Santa Guadalupe of Mexico, Montserrat of Catalunya which is in reality more a "Godess" as her dark color figure was discovered and may be as old as Phoenician times.

Patron Saints list for each trade or work field is large. Eg. there is Saint Alberto Maguns for medical technicians, Chemists, Matthew for book keepers, tax collectors, Margaret of Antioch for Nurses, Martha for cooks, Genesius for actors, clowns, artists and "lawyers", Francis de Assisi for Animal welfare, Ecologists and merchants. And the award of most interesting Patron Saint is Isidore de Sevilla for Sofware coders, Programers, Computer users, Students and computing scientists.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church a saint is defined as anyone who is in Heaven, whether recognized here on earth, or not. By this definition, Adam and Eve, Moses, the various prophets, except for the angels and archangels are all given the title of "Saint". Sainthood in the Orthodox Church does not necessarily reflect a moral model, but the communion with God: there are countless people who lived in great sin and became saints by humility and repentance, such as Mary of Egypt, Moses the Ethiopian, and Dysmas, the repentant thief who was crucified. Therefore, a more complete definition of what a saint is, has to do with the way that saints, through their humility and their love of humankind, saved inside them the entire Church, and loved all people.

African origin people's "religious" movements ike Cuban Santeria, Haitian Vodou, Brazilian Umbanda, Candomblé, and other similar syncretist religions adopted the Catholic saints, or at least the images of the saints, and applied their own spirits/deities to them. They are worshipped in churches (as saints). in religious festivals, appearing as the deities. The name santería was originally a pejorative term for those whose worship of saints deviated from Catholic norms.

Buddhists in both the Theravada and Mahayana traditions hold the Arhats and Arahants in special esteem, as well as Bodhisattvas, other Buddhas, or eminent members of the Sangha. Tibetan Buddhists hold the tulkus (reincarnates of deceased eminent practitioners) as living saints on earth.

Islam's idea of Saint was similar as Catholics, Islam's Sufi followers had a history of veneration of saints (wali, means "Friend of God") which declined in some parts of the Islamic world in past 5 decades after Oil prices went sky high, & due to the influence of the various streams of Salafism - Wahabism. In Sunni Islam, the veneration of saints became a very common form of devotion early on, and Sufi saints came to be defined in the eighth-century as a group of "special people chosen by God and endowed with exceptional gifts, such as the ability to work miracles."

"Belief in the miracles of saints karmat al-awliya) a requirement in Sunni Islam," with even medieval critics of the ubiquitous practice of grave visitation like Ibn Taymiyyah emphatically declaring: "The miracles of saints are absolutely true and correct, and acknowledged by all Muslim scholars. Salafism has tried to curtail in both Sunni and Shia contexts include those of the veneration of saints, visiting their graves, seeking their intercession, and honoring their relics. Persia had many Sufi Saints "schools" even though many were beheaded by Arab lords and they did lots of conversion work in India. Sufism was not really "Islam" as per Islamic scholars but it was more akin to Indian Bhakti movement of 7th/8th century. Prior to Islam Christian & Greek Orthodox Saints were popular.

In pracitce of Sikhi, the concept of sant or bhagat is found in North Indian religious thought generally including Sikhism. Figures such as Kabir, Ravidas, Nanak, and others are widely regarded as belonging to the Sant tradition. Some of their mystical compositions are incorporated in the Guru Granth Sahib. The term "Sant" is still sometimes loosely applied to living individuals in the Sikh and related communities.

Native Americans have an idea of a healer, medicine man, wise man who advised the local people on all meta physical issues,nature, natural phenomenon and he was considered a natural Saint and revered with respect.

The most ancient foundation of natural faith called Vedic order that is also known as dharma or oldest existing religion called Hinduism recognizes a "Saint" by sanctity and spiritual knowledge but no authority creates or recognizes "Saints". A Saint is not someone who does miracles but one who motivates anyone who comes in his contact. People decide who is a genuine teacher, healer or a really realized being and there is no authority doing that. That is why India has had the longest tradition of producing genuine Saints of very high calibre over milleniums and the most important is that nobody is considered exclusive or only "representative of God". Each has own merit.

Almost all famous Vedic, Hindu & Jain saints had renounced the worldly affairs and were called with various titles like Swami [One who dominates his self], Sadhu [One who has a target of achieving a spiritual goal], A Guru is another title for a spiritual Master teacher, and Rshi was an ancient word used for Seers and scientists of ancient world. There are thousands of prominent ascetics, Saints and teachers from different parts of India in past many centuries and thousands of seers in hundreds of thousands of years in endless spiritual journey of India.

By Dr Naila Hussain - more posts Facebook


2 comments to Who Are The Saints?

  • Jake

    Nowadays, if asked to name a saint, you might say Mother Teresa. She is said to have spent her entire life caring for the poor and outcasts of Calcutta, showing the love of God in her concern for those in need. Yet in truth she was a troubled and nasty person as you pointed out in another article.

  • Margarito

    Hi, I think saints are just part of the churches propaganda

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