Song du Jour

Song du Jour

Benedictine Thoughts, Teachings, and Prayers

What is a Saint by Any Other Name?

November 12, 2012

When I was growing up, saints were people who were untouchable, unreachable and invisible. I used to look at the statues with their long robes, their eyes gazing up at heaven, and wearing half-mooned halos. When our school choir was asked to sing for a funeral Mass, we would always receive a holy card with a saint’s picture on it. The saints were almost spiritual aliens (UFO’s) per se…flying to our side when we needed their help and then flying back to heaven until the next crisis. The mystery was that we couldn’t see them. But from my Religion classes in Catholic school, I learned that they were real people, who were ancient, and who had historical backgrounds.

On November 1st each year we commemorate the Communion of Saints as a Holy Day praising them and thanking them for all that they did to pave the spiritual path for us by their witnessing. On November 2nd each year we remember all of the people who have been dear to us and have passed away from this life but have transitioned into eternal life through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The origin of the word saint comes from the apostle Paul. Just as Paul became the architect of the word love in his first letter to the Corinthians, he also developed the first Christian understanding of holiness and sainthood throughout his epistles. As Notre Dame professor Lawrence Cunningham explains in his book, A Brief History of Saints ( ,) Paul’s frequent use of the Greek word agios as a generic term for members of the early Christian communities was a way of saying, “by their identification with God, through the saving works of Christ, they have become linked to and identified with God, and in this sense, are saints.”

“Saints” are a group of people set apart for the Lord and His kingdom who represent the body of Christ. All Christians are considered saints and are called to be saints as well. Christians are called to be saints in order for their daily life to imitate Christ. A person does not become a saint unless they have been beatified or canonized by the Pope or a prominent bishop. In the Roman Catholic tradition, saints are revered, prayed to, and sometimes worshipped whereas in the Bible, saints are called to revere, worship, and pray to God alone.

It is our faith that gives each saint life. When we acknowledge them on their perspective feast day or pray to them for a specific favor, they come alive. Twenty- four years ago, I moved into a parish whose name revered St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and whose feast day was celebrated on January 4th. No matter what day of the week it fell on, the parish really didn’t accent it. I went home and mentioned it to my daughter Emily and this is what she said, “Mom, the reason why they don’t mention her is because they don’t think of her as being a real person.” I began to think about this aspect and realized that Emily was accurate in making this statement. So I found a book of four saints that featured four saints and one of them was Elizabeth Ann Seton. The chapter contained facts about her life but most importantly, it featured photographs so as to make her real to all those who aspired to learn of her intriguing life. The book had authentic pictures of her handwriting, her jewelry, her piano, her furniture etc…She was the first native born citizen of the United States to be canonized. She was, in essence, a current saint…not a medieval saint; therefore we could identify with her.

For the past three weeks, I spent time bringing to the surface Hildegard de Bingen as well as many aspects of her life. She was canonized this year on May 10, 2012, made a Doctor of the Church (the fourth woman in 2000 yrs), and she is 900 yrs. old. Now since this is the month of the saints, Pope Benedict made three other saints. On October 7, 2012, Hildegard de Bingen and John of Avila were made saints and on October 21, 2012, Kateri Tekakwitha and Blessed Marianne Cope were made saints. Their names have surfaced after hundreds of years, their stories that brought them to sainthood made them come alive again, and the elevation to sainthood enriches our faith to an entirely new level.

Some quotes:


v The only difference between a saint and a sinner is that the saint has a past and the sinner has a future.

By Oscar Wilde


v For centuries the church has confronted the human community with the role models of greatness. We call them saints when what we really mean to say is: ‘icon,’ ‘star,’ ‘hero,’ ones so possessed by an eternal vision of divine goodness that they give a glimpse of the face of God in the center of the human. They give us a taste of the possibilities of greatness in ourselves. By Joan Chittister in her book: A Passion for Life .


v Keep in mind that our community is not composed of those who are already saints, but of those who are trying to become saints. Therefore let us be extremely patient with each other’s faults and failures. By Mother Teresa.


Song du jour: “Saints of God in glory, be with us, rejoice with us, sing praise with us, and be with us now.” Composed by: Bernadette Farrell


Art: taken from


“That in all things God may be glorified”


Sr. Jo-El McLaughlin, O.S.B.


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