Saints are holy dead people who are believed to be with God in heaven and thus deserve special veneration on Earth. They are often recognized for their exceptional loyalty, love and devotion to Jesus and for the sacrifices they made for Christianity. The Catholic and Orthodox churches hold saints in high esteem. Some Protestant sects do too but generally they do not. The leaders of the Reformation rejected the Catholic “cult of the saints” as pagan superstition. Saints and saint-like figures are widely venerated in other religions. There are a number of local Muslim saints despite Islamic prohibitions on such forms of worship.
There are currently over 10,000 Christian saints. Some have been selected for their good deeds and piousness. Others have been selected because they suffered nasty deaths at the hands of Christian persecutors or because they were associated with miracles. The ones who were killed became known as martyrs.
The saints include apostles and martyrs and few popes, prelates and clerics. Patron saints are those who look after special things and select groups of people. Some saints are honored with pilgrimages and feasts. Some are adopted by people as their personal saints. Others have their names attached to churches, chapels and altars.
Angels and saints are often depicted with halo around their heads, symbolizing God’s holiness radiating from them. The idea of the halo did not originate with Christianity. Gods and spirits in ancient Hindu, Indian, Greek and Roman art sometimes had light radiating from their heads.
Sometimes the saints weren’t even Christians. The Roman-Greco god Artemis was canonized as Saint Artemis. The sun god Helious became Saint Elias; the ewe-goddess Rachel became Saint Agnes. Even Buddha was canonized as Saint Josaphat (a mispronunciation of Bodhisat).
Peter Stanford wrote for the BBC: “The Catholic Church places great emphasis on moral law and is strong in its devotion to saints. It embraces a mystical dimension - most clearly visible in its liturgy - which sits uneasily with the modern secular and scientific world. [Source: Peter Stanford, BBC, June 29, 2011]
Inspiration of Saint Matthew by Caravaggio Paul Halsall of Fordham University wrote: “Saints' lives are a major resource for anyone concerned with the history of the late ancient world, Byzantium, or the Latin Middle ages. Just as whole genres of ancient literature vanished or diminished, the genre of hagiography became a major form of literary production. Such saint's Lives - or vitae - survive in astonishing numbers. Careful reading of them reveals, as one might expect, a great deal about the religious life of the periods that produced them. Frequently, however, such Lives are also our best sources for basic social and cultural history. They provide information on, among other things:- details of daily life; food and drink; organization of local rural and urban society; the impact of commerce; gender relations; class relations; and even, on occasion, specific dates for military and political history. This page's goal is to present ancient, Byzantine, and medieval hagiographic original texts - in translation and otherwise - along with basic data on the cult of saints. Modern Christians, especially Orthodox Christians, still read such lives for their religious value. They will find some of these texts profitable for that goal. But the emphasis here is on the historical understanding of the texts and the cult of saints. [The word cult, by the way, is a technical term referring to the religious practices surrounding devotion to saints.] [Source: Paul Halsall, fordham.edu]
Websites and Resources: Christianity Britannica on Christianity britannica.com//Christianity ; History of Christianity history-world.org/jesus_christ ; BBC on Christianity bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity ;Wikipedia article on Christianity Wikipedia ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/christ.htm ; Christian Answers christiananswers.net ; Christian Classics Ethereal Library www.ccel.org ; Early Christianity: Elaine Pagels website elaine-pagels.com ; Sacred Texts website sacred-texts.com ; Gnostic Society Library gnosis.org ; PBS Frontline From Jesus to Christ, The First Christians pbs.org ; Guide to Early Church Documents iclnet.org; Early Christian Writing earlychristianwritings.com ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Early Christian Art oneonta.edu/farberas/arth/arth212/Early_Christian_art ; Early Christian Images jesuswalk.com/christian-symbols ; Early Christian and Byzantine Images belmont.edu/honors/byzart2001/byzindex ; Bible and Biblical History: Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible biblegateway.com ; King James Version of the Bible gutenberg.org/ebooks ; Bible History Online bible-history.com ; Biblical Archaeology Society biblicalarchaeology.org ; Saints and Their Lives Today's Saints on the Calendar catholicsaints.info ; Saints' Books Library saintsbooks.net ; Saints and Their Legends: A Selection of Saints libmma.contentdm ; Saints engravings. Old Masters from the De Verda collection colecciondeverda.blogspot.com ; Lives of the Saints - Orthodox Church in America oca.org/saints/lives ; Lives of the Saints: Catholic.org catholicism.org
Also See St. Peter, St. Paul, the Apostles, Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, Monks
St. James Much of what is known about the lives of the saints is based is much on legend as fact. The Golden Legend, a popular 13th century myth book on the saint’s lives, is the source of many stories. Most saint days commemorate the days on which a given saint died although the dates in many cases have been modified. In some cases the stories, deeds and miracles attributed to a given saint were actually believed to be carried out by several individuals.
Paul Halsall of Fordham University wrote: “Saints' lives are a major resource for anyone concerned with the history of the late ancient world, Byzantium, or the Latin Middle ages. Just as whole genres of ancient literature vanished or diminished, the genre of hagiography became a major form of literary production. Such saint's Lives - or vitae - survive in astonishing numbers. Careful reading of them reveals, as one might expect, a great deal about the religious life of the periods that produced them. [Source: Paul Halsall, fordham.edu]
“Frequently, however, such Lives are also our best sources for basic social and cultural history. They provide information on, among other things:- details of daily life; food and drink; organization of local rural and urban society; the impact of commerce; gender relations; class relations; and even, on occasion, specific dates for military and political history. This page's goal is to present ancient, Byzantine, and medieval hagiographic original texts - in translation and otherwise - along with basic data on the cult of saints. Modern Christians, especially Orthodox Christians, still read such lives for their religious value. They will find some of these texts profitable for that goal. But the emphasis here is on the historical understanding of the texts and the cult of saints. [The word cult, by the way, is a technical term referring to the religious practices surrounding devotion to saints.]”
History of Sainthood
St. Peter Nowhere is there anything in the Bible about worshiping saint but the practice was common in the early days of Christianity. St. Paul called all the believers in Christ “saints” or “holy people.” At first all saints were popularly proclaimed and all martyrs were canonized.
In the early days, the church had very little say over was and who was not designated a saint. The designation of saints was a grassroots movement in the hands of congregations and regions. The church steeped when saint fraud became a problem and some people achieved sainthood through bribes. Local bishops were put in charge determine eligibility for new saints and naming feasts days to honor them.
Saints were popularly acclaimed for centuries. Worried that the veneration of saints might threaten the worship of Jesus, church authorities declared at the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 that God alone could be worshiped and saints were given respect and veneration.
Up until the 10th century individual churches could canonize saints if they wanted to. By the twelfth century the Catholic church said only it could canonize saint and it set down strict guidelines: first a petition had to be submitted to the pope. He then formed a committee that examined and questioned witnesses in a courtroom-like set-up. A record of the testimony was given to the papal Curia , a church office that assisted in pope in decided whether or not the applicant could be considered a saint. In the early church miracles were performed by saints while they were alive. Later on, beginning in medieval times, most miracles were attributed to saints and others after they died.
In the Catholic church, the title has been reserved since the 11th century for those who have been canonized by the Holy See. By the 12th and 13th century, the pope became the sole authority for condoning saints in the Roman Catholic Church. According to the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s the relationship between saint and living was defined as one of "communion and solidarity" rather than “supplicant and benefactor" and saints were to be regarded as an "example for their way of life, fellowship, in their communion and aid by intercession."
The Catholic church has made an effort to remove the names of certain saints’such as St. Lucy and St. Christopher---whose existence is in some doubt. In 1969 the Vatican revised it liturgical calendar and dropped many popular saint days for lack of evidence that the saints even existed. Among these were St. Christopher. Other saints had their entries rewritten. Among these was Mary Magdalene, whose designation as a prostitute was dropped.
Requirements for Sainthood
St. Thomas The procedures for beatification and then canonization were defined by Pope Alexander III in the 13th century and has been revised several times since then. Responded to the challenges of the Reformation, the Vatican made sainthood more difficult to attain. In the 1730s, a five volume work on beatification and canonization set the terms, which included two miracles for beautification; and two more for canonization. Martyrs could be beautified without proven miracles.
The six steps taken to formally make someone a saint usually begins at least five years after the person has died. To qualify the person must be a Catholic with a reputation for holiness and possess "heroic virtue, among which are charity and humility.” The process usually begins at least 10 years after the death to see whether the candidates reputation blossoms and expands.
Pope John Paul eased the requirements for sainthood to one miracle for beautification and one more for sainthood. There used to be a Devil's Advocate, a person who cast a skeptical eyes at the evidence, until rules eliminated it 1983. The new rules, some critics, made the saint selection process like a courtroom where defense attorneys are barred and judges were the persecutors.
Canonization procedures varied over the centuries, and from one Christian Church to another. The Roman Catholic situation is summarized as follows: "In the first six centuries of the Church, the sanctity, at first of martyrs, then of confessors of the faith, and later of those of heroic Christian virtue and of those exemplary in their apostolic zeal for the Church -- doctors, bishops, missionaries -- was so acclaimed by the vox populi of the faithful. From the sixth to the tenth century the definitive pronouncement of approval on the part of the local bishop gradually became a necessary culmination of a process of inquiry into the validity of such a veneration, the cult of doulia on the part of the faithful. Canonization has By 973 formal approval of the Roman Pontiff was deemed a matter of greater prestige for the veneration of a venerated saint, St. Udalricus.
St. Peter in Prison Under Gregory IX (1234) papal canonization became the only and exclusive legitimate form of inquiry into the saints' lives and miracles according to newly established procedural formes and canonical processes. In 1588 Pope Sixtus V, by his Immensa Aeterni Dei, entrusted the process of papal canonization to the Congregation of Rites. In 1642 Urban VIII ordered all the decrees and studies of canonizations during his own pontificate to be published in one volume -- and a century later, Benedict XIV systematized in a clear and definitive manner the basic expectations of heroic virtue and the indispensable requirements of the canonical processes according to the evidences of the Congregation of Rites. Pius X (1914) divided this Congregation into two sections: one, the liturgical section, and the other assigned entirely to the causes for canonization. In 1930, Pius XI established the historical section devoted to the critical-historical scrutiny of the evidences put forth in the causes for canonization."
In 1917, the formal procedure was incorporated in the Church's Code of Canon Law. In 1982, Pope John Paul II introduced a new simplified process. After a rigorous examination of a candidate's life, work and writings, undertaken by the Postulator of the Cause, the Pope accepts that the Servant of God has practised the Christian virtues in a heroic degree, and declares them Venerable, the first of three steps on the road of sainthood.Following a physical miracle, such as an unexplained healing, the candidate is Beatified by the Pope, and declared Blessed. A further physical miracle is required before the person is Canonised and declared a Saint of the Church.”
For an individual to become a saint today, he or she often requires tireless supporters who are willing to spend a great deal of time and money and has some connections in Rome and is willing see the saint-declaring process through from beginning to end. A cardinal patron doesn't hurt. The costs often to amount to $500,000 or more. Some supporters sell cups and meals with the candidate's picture.
Crucifixion of Saint Andrew
by Caravaggio The canonization process is cumbersome. Every minute detail of a candidate is checked out. Vatican investigators cut every newspaper article they can find in local newspapers of the candidate's hometown, go through all the candidate's religious writing, and interview dozens of witness and the spend years translating the articles and testimonies into English, Italian or Latin if necessary. Much of the work is done by one-person in the Brussels-based Jesuit society called Bollandists.
Once all relevant materials have been assembled then a dissertation-like position paper is written and presented. This process is often accompanied by exhumation of the candidate’s corpse to determine unequivocally the cause of death and that the person existed.
One reason that the process is rigorous is that beatification and canonization are considered infallible decisions by the pope and the Vatican doesn't want any slip ups. Because the process is rigorous, many saint named these days are not controversial figures who have not gone out on a limb and risked doing anything controversial. Some scholars say that today St. Augustine would never be named a saint today because of he had a mistress before her converted.
Six Steps Towards Sainthood
The first step towards canonization is the informal phase, when a local group promotes devotion to the saint candidate more than five years after death. A petition is submitted to Rome appealing for a "cause" (the term used to refer to each case). In cases such as Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II, the pope can issue a special dispensation to shorten the waiting period to less than five years. If the Vatican declares it has no objection the cause moves forward and the candidate receives a "Servant of God" title.
The second step, the investigative phase, begins when a local bishop appoints officials to collect writings by and about the candidate that are reviewed at tribunals in which witnesses are also asked to give testimony for or against the "cause." The Vatican checks its archives to see if there is any reason to prevent the cause from proceeding.
Mary Magdalene During the third step, the evaluation and judgement phase, local bishops send testimonies and other material to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Sainthood. A realtor is pointed to write a biography of the candidate and eight theologians of the faith judge the cause. If approved, cardinals and bishops of the congregation vote. If the pope approves, the candidate is declared "Venerable." This ends the process of judging the candidates earthly achievements.
The fourth step, marking the beginning of the investigation of candidates nonworldy powers, is the Miracle Process. Candidates for sainthood must have a miracle accredited to them and only miracles that occurred after their death count (as one Newsweek journalist put it "Mother Teresa may have walked on water everyday to work but that would have no bearing on her case").
The fifth step is beatification---when the church declares a deceased person to be among the blessed in heaven. Once the miracles process has been approved by the cardinals and the pope, the pope beatifies the candidate and her or she is declared "Blessed." Beautification of a martyr used to require one miracle, a saint two miracles. Now only one miracle is necessary.
The sixth step, canonization, is the formal elevation of the candidate to a saint. Before a candidate can be canonized, one more miracle is necessary and this one must have occurred after the beatification. Once the miracle has been confirmed, the pope canonizes the saint.
Miracles and Sainthood
For sainthood miracle to be accepted it must be "organic, immediate and irreversible." Nearly all the miracles that are acknowledged take place after the candidate is dead. Catholics believed that a saint will remain active after death in responding to prayers of the faithful (with the actual miracles perfomed by God).
Miracles are usually "healing" miracles that science can't explain. Because eyewitness accounts run the risk of being clouded by human error, theologians demand a miracle in the form of a sign of God, which usually means a miraculous healing of some sort that can not be explained by science. The evidence is judged by both medical experts and a panel of theologians. Doctors are often brought in. They don’t have to vouch for a miracle "they only have to declare that there is no natural explanation for a sudden cure."
Whether something is indeed a miracle is judged by the the Vatican beautification tribunal of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, which consists of eight Roman doctors and 25 cardinals and bishops and their staff. Their job mainly is to determine scientifically if medical miracles are indeed miracles.
One member of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints told U.S. News and World Report, "We do not accept any cure as a miracle unless were scientifically, humanly certain that the cure has been instantaneous, not expected and complete." On doctor who testified at a Vatican beautification tribunal told the Washington Post, "It is not a cakewalk. It went on for almost five hours and we were arguing for almost the whole five hours
There is also often a lot of public relations involved. After a saint candidate dies, the sick and disabled are encouraged to pray to him or her and the word is spread through guilds, and newsletters. Often candidates have their own prayer bulletins with reports of miracles attributed them.
Confirmed miracles are rare. The Congregation for the Causes has hundreds of candidates for sainthood, some of them centuries old, that have not moved forward because no evidence of a miracle has been produced. The pope has the power to waive the miracle rule. A priest at the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints, told TIME, "All rules regarding beatification and canonization are Church rules, part of Canon Law. The Pope is above the law, and could in theory make Mother Teresa a saint tomorrow."
Mother Katherine Drexel, the founder of a Sisters of the Blessed Sacraments died in 1955 and was beautified in 1988. One of her miracles involved Robert Gutherman, a boy who was diagnosed with a bone-eating disease that rendered him deaf in one ear. He suffered from great pain and prayed to Mother Katherine and was not only cured but his hearing returned. "When I went back for a checkup," Gutherman later said, the doctor "was looking in my ears and he said, 'I can't believe what I'm seeing. His body is healing itself? In his record the doctor wrote "Is this possible?" In 1988, after years of investigation, Gutherman's case was judged miraculous.
Mother Katherine Drexel was canonized in March 2000. [Source: Brandan Koerner, U.S. News and World Report, January 11, 1999]
Among the miracles that were rejected were from a priest who regained sight on one eye because his recovery was only 90 percent. The reasoning goes that God would not perform a miracle halfway. Cancer cases are usually regarded with skepticism until after 10 years and no remission has occurred.
Miracles of Saints
In the 1600s, the saint and mystic St. Joseph of Cupertino entered into a religious trance and reportedly began hovering over the crowds. He apparently experienced this levitation multiple times — one time in front of Pope Urban VIII. As a result of his flying exploits, this mystic is the patron saint of pilots. In more recent history, other instances of levitation have been revealed as visual illusions, hoaxes or hallucinations. [Source: Live Science July 9, 2013]
Tia Ghose of Live Science wrote: Several people throughout history have claimed to have stigmata, injuries similar to those Jesus Christ received during the crucifixion. One man, St. Pio of Pietrelcina reportedly had bleeding on his palms. However, skeptics say such miracle claims can be frauds or self-inflicted wounds. Dozens of saints reportedly do not decay after death, instead exuding a sweet and floral odor, which is considered a mark of sanctity. One example is St. Bernadette Soubirous, who died in 1879. In 1909, a bishop exhumed her and found that she had not decayed. She is now displayed, covered in wax imprints, in the Chapel of St. Bernadette in France.”
Pannichius, a priest of Poitou, when sitting at dinner with some friends he had invited, asked for a drink. When it was served a very troublesome fly kept flying about the cup and trying to soil it. The priest waved it off with his hand a number of times but it would go off a little and then try to get back, and he perceived that it was a crafty device of the enemy. He changed the cup to his left hand and made a cross with his right; then he divided the liquor in the cup into four parts and lifted it up high and poured it on the ground. For it was very plain that it was a device of the enemy. [Source: Book in Honor of the Martyrs: Chap 103]
Phantom Attacks a Woman: At this time when a certain woman remained alone at the loom when the others had gone, a most frightful phantom appeared as she sat, and laid hold of the woman and began to drag her off. She screamed and wept since she saw there was no one to help, but still tried to make a courageous resistance. After two or three hours the other women returned and found her lying on the ground half dead and unable to speak. Still she made signs with her hand, but they did not understand and she continued speechless. The phantom which had appeared to her attacked so many persons in that house that they left it and went elsewhere. In two or three months' time the woman came to the church and had the merit to recover her speech. And so she told with her own lips what she endured. [Source: The Four Books of the Miracles of St. Martin: Book 3; Chap 37]
Procedure in Case of a Miracle: The facts that I relate ought not to seem to any one unworthy of belief, because the names of individuals are not mentioned in the account. The cause of it is this: when they are restored to health by the saint of God, they leave immediately, and they sometimes go so secretly that, so to speak, they are noticed by no one. And when the report has spread that a miracle has been done by the blessed bishop, I summon those who have charge of the church and inquire into what has happened; but I do not always learn the names from them. I generally tell by name of those I have been able to see or examine personally. [Source: The Four Books of the Miracles of St. Martin: Book 3; Chap 45]
Minor Miracles Worked on Gregory: At one time my tongue became uncomfortably swelled up, so that when I wished to speak it usually made me stutter, which was somewhat unseemly. I went to the saint's tomb and drew my awkward tongue along the wooden lattice. The swelling went own at once and I became well. It was a serious swelling and filled the cavity where the palate is. Then three days later my lip began to have a painful beating in it. I went again to the tomb to get help and when I had touched my lip to the hanging curtain the pulsation stopped at once. And I suppose this came from a over abundance of blood; still trusting to the saint's power I did not try to lessen the [amount of] blood and this matter caused me no further trouble. [Source: Four Books of the Miracles of St. Martin: Book 4; Chap 2]
Incorruptibles and Stigmata
stigmata Stigmata is the technical term for wounds that are spontaneously produced on the parts of the body of a religious follower that correspond with the places that Jesus was injured during the crucifixion. They include the places on his hands and feet, where he was nailed to the cross, his forehead where he was scraped by the crown of the thorns and the side where he was jabbed by the Roman centurion.
Stygmata has occurred to over 330 people, most them nuns, priest and monks. The Catholic church is reluctant to recognize stigmata as miraculous. Still more than 60 people who have reportedly experienced it have been beatified. Among them are St. Catherine of Siena and St. Francis of Assisi (See Above), who two years before his death, had a vision of "fiery angel with six wings carrying a crucified man," after which he had wounds in his hands and feet and spear wound in his side. Stygmata wounds appeared on the hands, feet, sides and forehead of the Italian Saint St. Gemma Galgani (1878-1903) at the age of 21 after he had a vision of St. Gabriel Possenti while suffering from severe tuberculosis in his spine.
Incorruptibles are saints who were selected for sainthood not so much because of their good works but because there bodies failed to decay even when they were interned for decades or centuries. In some cases, it was said, the bodies were so astonishingly well preserved they looked as if they were still alive when they were dug up. Around half of the 100 or so Incorrupibles lie in reliquaries in Catholic churches in Italy. The others are in France, Spain, Poland, Austria, Germany, Belgium, India, Peru, Lebanon and other places around the globe.
Chemists, pathologists, radiologists and other doctors---hired by Vatican office that investigates saints--- have carefully examined the bodies of some Incorruptibles. They found that most of the bodies clearly had been mummified using procedures similar to those used by the Egyptians but some had been preserved apparently without being tampered with. Some of these resisted decay were kept in extremely dry places or containers. Others were bathed in floodwaters of highly alkaline waters which acted as a preservative. Others offered no plausible explanation. Perhaps it as the work of God
Miracles in Gregory's Family
At that time my father's brother Gallus was bishop of Auverxne, and I do not think I should fail to tell how he was aided in his youth by a miracle of the saint. Now I have often described the ruin king Theodoric brought upon Auvergne, when none of their property was left to either old or young except the bare land which the barbarians were unable to carry off. [note: Cf. p. 58. (Bk 3:11-13) This punishment of Auvergne took place in 532, 6 years before Gregory's birth.] In those days, then, my uncle of glorious memory who afterwards, as I have told, governed the church of Auvergne in the high office of bishop, was a ward; and his property was so plundered by the soldiers that there was nothing at all left that was available; and he himself used often to go on foot with only one attendant to the village of Brioude. [note: The site of St. Julian's church. Brioude is situated about 40 miles up the valley of the Allier from Clermont.] [Source: Miracles of St. Julian: Chap 23, 24]
It happened once when he was trudging along on this journey, that he took his shoes off on account of the heat, and as he walked in his bare feet he stepped on a sharp thorn. This by chance had been cut, but was still lying on the ground and was concealed point upward in the green grass. It entered his foot and went clear through and then broke off and could not be drawn out. The blood ran in streams and as he could not walk he begged the blessed martyr's aid and after the pain had grown a little less he went on his way limping. But the third night the wound began to gather and there was great pain. Then he turned to the source from which he had already obtained help and threw himself down before the glorious tomb; when the watch was finished he returned to bed and was overcome by sleep while awaiting the miraculous help of the martyr. On arising later he felt no pain and examining his foot he could not see the thorn which had entered it; and he perceived it had been drawn from his foot. He looked carefully for it and found it in his bed and saw with wonder how it had come out. When bishop he used to exhibit the place, where a great hollow was still to be seen, and to testify that this had been a miracle of the blessed martyr.
A long time after, when the festival of the blessed martyr came, my father with all his household made haste to attend the joyful celebration. As we were on the way, my older brother Peter was seized by a fever and became so ill that he could not move about or take food. We journeyed on in great grief and it was doubtful whether he would recover or die. In this state of distress we at length arrived; we entered the church and worshipped at the holy martyr's tomb. The sick boy cast himself down on the pavement, praying for a cure by the glorious martyr Finishing his prayer he returned to his lodging and the fever went down a little. When night came we hastened to keep watch and he asked to be carried along, and lying before the tomb he begged the martyr's favor all night long. When the watch was over he asked them to gather dust from the blessed tomb and give it to him in a drink, and hang it about his neck. This was done, and the heat of the fever went down so that on the very same day he took food without suffering and walked about wherever his fancy took him.
Miracles of St. Martin
The miracles which the Lord our God deigned to work through the blessed Martin, his bishop, when living in the body, He still deigns to confirm daily in order to strengthen the faith of believers. He who worked miracles through him when he was in the world, now honors his tomb with miracles, and He who at that time sent him to save the perishing heathen, [now] bestows through him blessings on the Christians. Therefore let no one have doubt about the miracles worked in former time when he sees the bounty of the present wonders bestowed, when he looks upon the lame being raised up, the blind receiving sight, demons being driven out and every other kind of disease being cured through his healing power. As for me I will establish belief in the book written about his life by earlier writers, by relating for posterity at God's command his present―day miracles as far as I can recall them. This I would not presume to do if I had not been warned twice or thrice in a vision. I call all―powerful God to witness that I once saw in a dream at midday many who were crippled and overwhelmed by various diseases being cured in St. Martin's church, and I saw this in the presence of my mother who said to me: "Why are you so sluggish about writing of these things that you see?" I replied: You know well enough that I am unskilled in letters, and that, simple and untrained as I am, I would not dare to describe such wonderful miracles. [Source: The Four Books of the Miracles of St. Martin, Preface]
I wish Severus or Paulinus were alive or that Fortunatus at the least were here to describe them. I have no skill for such a task and I should be blamed if I undertook it" [note: Gregory's confessions of inability to write in a polished style, though probably hypocritical, are nevertheless in accordance with fact.] But she said: "Don't you know that nowadays on account of the people's ignorance one who speaks as you can is more clearly understood? Therefore do not hesitate or delay, for you will be guilty if you pass this over in silence." So I wished to follow her advice and was doubly tortured with grief and fear; grief that miracles as great as were done under our predecessors should not be recorded; fear of undertaking so noble a task, ignorant as I am. However, led on by the hope of divine mercy, I am going to attempt the task thus urged upon me. For, as I suppose, He who produced water in the desert from a dry rock and cooled the thirsty people, is able to set these matters forth in my words; and it will be surely proved that he has again opened the ass's mouth if he deigns to open my lips and make known these miracles through an untaught person like me. But why should I fear my ignorance when the Lord our God and Redeemer chose not orators, but fishermen, not philosophers, but countrymen, to destroy the vanity of worldly wisdom. I have confidence, then, thanks to your prayers, that even if my rude speech cannot adorn the page, the great bishop will give it fame by his glorious miracles.
Since I have told two or three times how miracles were performed and dangers averted by the mere invocation of the glorious name, I shall now describe how the blessed bishop was called upon and brought help to one who was falling headlong to death! [note: Gregory's interest in this miracle is one of technique. As a rule material " touch"of the source of "virtue" was regarded as a necessity, but "mere invocation" was sometimes effective. The cure that is related is an extreme form of the latter. See Introd. xx-xxi ] Ammonius, an officer of the holy church, arose from dinner somewhat under the influence of wine, and, the enemy giving him a push, he fell headlong over a lofty cliff that bordered the road. There was there a drop of about two hundred feet. While he was whirling about as he fell headlong and was flying down without wings he kept crying for aid from St. Martin at every instant of his fall. Then he felt as if he were tossed from a saddle by some one and he landed among the trees that were in the valley. And thus coming down slowly limb by limb he reached the ground without danger of death. However that the plotter's undertaking might not seem to have been completely in vain, he suffered a slight injury in one foot. But he went to the glorious master's church and prayed and was relieved of all pain. [Source: The Four Books of the Miracles of St. Martin: Book 1; Chap 20]
Miracles Worked on Gregory
Having related the miracles performed for others, I shall tell what the miraculous power of this protector has done for my unworthy self. In the hundred and sixtieth year after that holy and praiseworthy man, the blessed bishop Martin, was taken up to heaven, when the holy bishop Eufronius was governing the church of Tours in his seventh year, and in the second year of the glorious king Sigibert, I became ill with malignant pimples and fever, and being unable to eat or drink I was reduced to such a state that I lost all hope of the present life and thought of nothing but of the details of my burial. For death was constantly raging at me, eager to separate my soul from my body. Then when I was almost dead I called on the name of the blessed champion Martin and made some improvement, and began slowly and painfully to prepare for my journey; for I had made my mind up that I ought to visit his venerable tomb. And my desire was so great that I did not even wish to live if I was to be delayed in going. Although I had scarcely escaped from a dangerous fever, I began to be on fire again with the fever of desire. And so, although not yet strong, I hastened to go with my people. [Source: Four Books of the Miracles of St. Martin: Book 1; Chap 32,33]
After two or three stages, on entering the forest, I fell ill of the fever again, and was in such a serious condition that they all said I was dying. Then my friends came to me and saw I was very weak, and said: "Let us return home and if God wishes to call you, you will die in your own home; and if you recover, you will make the journey you have vowed more easily. For it is better to return home than to die in the wilderness." On hearing this I wept bitterly and bewailed my ill―luck, and said: "I adjure you by all―powerful God and the day of judgment which all fear who have to make answer there, that you agree to my request. Don't give up the journey we have begun, and if I have merit to see the holy Martin's church, I shall thank God; but if not, carry my dead body there and bury it because I am determined not to return home, if I have not the merit to appear at his tomb." Then we all wept together and went on, and, guarded by the glorious master, we arrived at his church….. The third night after arriving at the holy church we planned to keep watch and did so. In the morning when the bell for matins rang, we returned to our lodging and going to bed we slept until nearly the second hour. Then I woke up and found that all weakness and pain were gone and I had recovered my former health, and I gladly called my usual attendant to wait on me….And I shall not forget to say that after forty days that one was the first on which I took pleasure in drinking wine, since beause of my illness I detested it until then.
In the second month after my ordination, when I was at a country place, I suffered from dysentery and high fever and began to be so ill that I altogether despaired of living. Everything that I could eat was always vomited before it had been digested and I loathed food, and when my stomach had no more strength as a result of no food the fever was the only thing that gave me strength; I could in no way take anything substantial and strengthening. I had severe pain, too, that darted all through my stomach and went down into my bowels, exhausting me by its pain no less than the fever had done. And when I was in such a condition that no hope of life was left and everything was being made ready for my death and the physician's medicine could do nothing for one whom death had laid claim to, I was in despair and called the chief physician Armentarius and said to him: "You have used every trick your profession, you have tried the power of all your remedies, but secular means are of no avail to the perishing. There is only one thing left for me to do. I will show you a great remedy: [note: Tyriaca for therioca, (a) antidote against the bite of serpents, (b) remedy in general.] Let them bring dust from the holy master's tomb and make a potion for me from it. And if this does not cure me, every means of escape is lost." Then the deacon was sent to the tomb of the holy bishop just mentioned and he brought the sacred dust and put it in water and gave me a drink of it. When I had drunk soon all pain was gone and I received health from the tomb. And the benefit was so immediate that although this happened in th third hour, I became quite well and went to dinner that very day at the sixth hour. [note: noon] [Source: The Four Books of the Miracles of St. Martin: Book 2; Chap 1]
.... Whenever headache comes on or a throbbing in the temples or a dulness of hearing or a dimness of sight or a pain attacks some other part, I am cured at once when I have touched the affected part on the tomb or the curtain hanging before it and I wonder within myself that at the very touch the pain is immediately gone. [Source: The Four Books of the Miracles of St. Martin: Book 3; Preface & Chap 1]
I shall place first in this book a miracle that I experienced recently. We were sitting at dinner after a fast and eating, when a fish was served. The sign of the cross of the Lord was made over it, but as we ate, a bone from this very fish stuck in my throat most painfully. It caused me great distress, for the point was fastened in my throat and its length blocked the passage. It prevented my speaking and kept the saliva which comes frequently from the palate, from passing. On the third day, when I could get rid of it neither by coughing or hawking, I resorted to my usual resource. I went to the tomb and prostrated myself on the pavement and wept abundantly and groaned and begged the confessor's aid. Then I rose and touched the full length of my throat and all my head with the curtain. I was immediately cured and before leaving the holy threshold I was rid of all uneasiness. What became of the unlucky bone I do not know. I did not cough it up nor feel it go down into my stomach. One thing only I know, that I so quickly perceived that I was cured that I thought that some one had put in his hand and pulled out the bone that hurt my throat.
Oil of Saints
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia: ““An oily substance, which is said to have flowed, or still flows, from the relics or burial places of certain saints; sometimes the oil in the lamps that burn before their shrines; also the water that flows from the wells near their burial places; or the oil and the water which have in some way come in contact with their relics. These oils are or have been used by the faithful, with the belief that they will cure bodily and spiritual ailments, not through any intrinsic power of their own, but through the intercession of the saints with whom the oils have some connection. In the days of the St. Paulinus of Nola (d. 431) the custom prevailed of pouring oil over the relics or reliquaries of martyrs and then gathering it in vases, sponges, or pieces of cloth. This oil, oleum martyris, was distributed among the faithful as a remedy against sickness ["Paulini Nolani Carmen," XVIII, lines 38-40 and "Carmen," XXI, lines 590-600, in "Corpus Script. Eccl. Latinorum" (Vienna, 1866 sq.), XXX, 98, 177]. According to the testimony of Paulinus of Pétrigeux (wrote about 470) in Gaul this custom was extended also to the relics of saints that did not die as martyrs, especially to the relics of St. Martin of Tours ("Paulini Petricordiæ Carmen de vita S. Martini," V, 101 sq. in "Corpus Script. Eccl. Lat., " XVI, 111). In their accounts of miracles, wrought through the application of oils of saints, the early ecclesiastical writers do not always state just what kind of oils of saints is meant. Thus St. Augustine (City of God XXII) mentions that a dead man was brought to life by the agency of the oil of St. Stephen. [Source: New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia ^\^]
“Following is a list of other saints from whose relics or sepulchres oil is said to have flowed at certain times: ; ; St. Antipas, Bishop of Pergamum, martyred under Emperor Domitian ("Acta SS., " April, II, 4); St. Babolenus, Abbot of St-Maur-des-Fossés near Paris, d. in the seventh century ("Acta SS., " June, VII, 160); St. Candida the Younger of Naples, d. 586 ("Acta SS., " Sept., II, 230); St. Demetrius of Thessalonica, martyred in 306 or 290 ("Acta SS., " Oct., IV, 73-8); St. Eligius, Bishop of Noyon, d. 660 or soon after (Surius, "De probatis sanctorum historiis," VI, 678); St. Euthymius the Great, abbot in Palestine, d. 473 ("Acta SS., " Jan., II, 687); St. Fantinus, confessor, at Tauriano in Calabria, d. under Constantine the Great ("Acta SS., " July, V, 556); St. Felix of Nola, priest, died about 260 ("Acta SS., " Jan., II, 223); St. Franca, Cistercian abbess, d. 1218 ("Acta SS., " April, III, 393-4); St. Glyceria, martyred during the reign of Antoninus Pius ("Acta SS., " May, III, 191); Bl. Gundecar, Bishop of Eichstädt, d. 1075 ("Acta SS., " August, I, 184); St. Humilitas, first abbess of the Vallombrosian Nuns, d. 1310 ("Acta SS., " May, V, 211); St. John the Almsgiver, Patriarch of Alexandria, d. 620 or 616 ("Acta SS., ", Jan., III, 130-1); St. John on Beverley, Bishop of York, d. 721 ("Acta SS., " May, II, 192); St. Luke the Younger, surnamed Thaumaturgos, a hermit in Greece, d. 945-6 ("Acta SS., " Feb., II, 99); ^\^
St. Paphnutius, bishop and martyr in Greece, d. probably in the fourth century ("Acta SS., " April, II, 620); St. Paul, Bishop of Verdun, d. 648 ("Acta SS., " Feb., II, 174); St. Perpetuus, Bishop of Tongres-Utrecht, d. 630 ("Acta SS., " Nov., II, 295); St. Peter González, Dominican, d. 1246 ("Acta SS., " April, II, 393); St. Peter Thaumaturgus, Bishop of Argos, d. about 890 ("Acta SS., " May, I, 432); St. Rolendis, virgin, at Gerpinnes in Belgium, d. in the seventh or eighth century ("Acta SS., " May, III, 243); St. Reverianus, Bishop of Autun, and Companions, martyred about 273 ("Acta SS., " June, I, 40-1); St. Sabinus, Bishop of Canosa, d. about 566 ("Acta SS., " Feb., II, 329); St. Sigolena, Abbess of Troclar, d. about 700 ("Acta SS., " July, V, 636); St. Tillo Paulus, a Benedictine monk at Solignac in Gaul, d. 703 ("Acta SS., " Jan., I, 380); St. Venerius, hermit on the Island of Palamaria in the gulf of Genoa, d. in the seventh century ("Acta SS., " Sept., IV, 118); St. William, Archbishop of York, d. 1154 ("Acta SS., " June, II, 140); and a few others. ^\^
Oil of St. Nicholas, St. Walburga and St. Menas
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia: “At present the most famous of the oils of saints is the Oil of St. Walburga (Walburgis oleum). It flows from the stone slab and the surrounding metal plate on which rest the relics of St. Walburga in her church in Eichstädt in Bavaria. The fluid is caught in a silver cup, placed beneath the slab for that purpose, and is distributed among the faithful in small vials by the Sisters of St. Benedict, to whom the church belongs. A chemical analysis has shown that the fluid contains nothing but the ingredients of water. Though the origin of the fluid is probably due to natural causes, the fact that it came in contact with the relics of the saint justifies the practice of using it as a remedy against diseases of the body and the soul. Mention of the oil of St. Walburga is made as early as the ninth century by her biographer Wolfhard of Herrieden ("Acta SS., " Feb., III, 562-3 and "Mon. Germ. Script., " XV, 535 sq.). [Source: New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia ^\^]
“In 1905-8, thousands of little flasks with the inscription: EULOGIA TOU AGIOU MENA (Remembrance of St. Menas), or the like were excavated by C.M. Kaufmann at Baumma (Karm Abum) in the desert of Mareotis, in the northern part of the Libyan desert. The present Bumma is the burial place of the Libyan martyr Menas, which during the fifth and perhaps the sixth century was one of the most famous pilgrimage places in the Christian world. The flasks of St. Menas were well known for a long time to archeologists, and had been found not only in Africa, but also in Spain, Italy, Dalmatia, France, and Russia, whither they had been brought by pilgrims from the shrine of Menas. Until the discoveries of Kaufmann, however, the flasks were supposed to have contained oil from the lamps that burned at the sepulchre of Menas. From various inscriptions on the flasks that were excavated by Kaufmann, it is certain that at least some, if not all, of them contained water from a holy well near the shrine of St. Menas, and were given as remembrances to the pilgrims. The so-called oil of St. Menas was therefore in reality, water from his holy well, which was used as a remedy against bodily and spiritual ailments. ^\^
“The oil of St. Nicholas of Myra emanates from his relics at Bari in Italy, whither they were brought in 1087. It is said to have also flowed from his relics when they were still in Myra. St. Gregory of Tours ("De Gloria martyrum," xxx, P.L., LXXI, 730) testifies that a certain substance like flour emanated from the sepulchre of John the Evangelist. The same Gregory writes (ibid., xxxi) that from the sepulchre of the Apostle St. Andrew at Patræ emanated manna in the form of flour and fragrant oil. ^\^
Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons except oil blessing from SF Communion and St. Raymond from Madame Pamita
Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org; New International Version (NIV) of The Bible, biblegateway.com; “Egeria's Description of the Liturgical Year in Jerusalem” users.ox.ac.uk ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), translated by William Whiston, ccel.org , Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org, Frontline, PBS, “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated September 2018