Since saints have played a role in the church for hundreds of years, KPC broke down some of the most common saints and their history. While saints play many different roles based on each of their religions affiliation, many share common backgrounds or stories. According to Pastor Philip Rigdon at St. John Lutheran Church in Kendallvile, saints in the Lutheran faith are represented differently.
“Lutherans are coming from the Protestant tradition, the start of the Protestant tradition so in a nutshell, Lutherans don’t think of saints the same way the Roman Catholic Church would,” Rigdon said. “The way that Lutherans believe, the way the Bible describes it, the only way a person is made a saint is through Jesus Christ. Thus, anybody who is a Christian can be a saint. By recognizing all people are sinners. Jesus comes, dies on a cross and rises from the dead and through that faith, we are forgiven of our sins.”
The Lutheran church dates back to 1500s, when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of Wittenberg Castle Church. Luther, who lived from 1483-1546, didn’t intend to start a new religion.
“His goal was never to start a denomination, his effort was targeted in reforming the existing Roman Catholic Church. In terms of a separate church body, it developed at the end of his life,” Rigdon said. As a result, Lutheran churches themselves can vary in appearance. Some Lutheran churches are very simple while others are very Gothic, with more embellishment. In general, most tend to have long pews, space with the wood and the altar, so on and so forth, Rigon said.
There are however, people in the Bible that the Lutheran church celebrates. Any of the apostles, for example, could be mentioned.
“We might have a service recognizing Saint Andrew or John the Baptist, but in terms of what a saint is, a saint is anybody who has died and gone to heaven or one living on earth,” Rigdon said.
Any of Jesus’ 12 apostles, which included Peter, Andrew, James and John, Philip, Nathanael, Matthew, Thomas, Simon and Judas could be included, according to Rigdon. All Saints Day, held after Halloween, is a special occasion for the Lutheran church. The church celebrates with a service and an emphasis in worship, according to Rigdon. Some families might go and visit the grave of a deceased loved one that day.
The Roman Catholic church also has many saints, according to Father Timothy Wrozek at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Auburn. Their saints include Jesus’ 12 apostles, who are portrayed in many Catholic churches’ stained-glass windows, as well as a few others. The main difference, according to Wrozek, is how they’ve viewed. Even in the modern-day world, some myths link certain saints to represent certain things. See if you recognize any of these saints.
Many people recognize St. Anthony as the patron of lost things
According to catholics.org, a little jingle goes like this: “St. Anthony, please look around; something is lost and must be found.” This attribution is believed to come from an incident where a novice carried off a valuable psalter Saint Anthony was using. According to the story, Saint Anthony prayed very hard that the psalter would be found and after seeing an alarming apparition of St. Anthony, the novice returned the psalter. Others also suggest that he is more importantly the patron of lost souls – those who have fallen to mortal sin, have abandoned the Church and have grown apathetic to the practice of the faith.
People looking to move or buy a home have sometimes buried an upside down St. Anthony in their front yard. The idea is to speed up the sale of the house. Once a home is sold, Saint Anthony is unburied and brought to the new home. While the practice is known, how it came to be is still unknown.
Saint Francis of Assisi
St. Francis of Assisi is known as the patron saints of animals, merchants and ecology, due to his love of animals and nature. Saint Francis is estimated to have lived from 1181-1226 and to have been the founder of the Franciscan Order. His feastday is on Oct. 4.
In one famous story, Francis preached to hundreds of birds about being thankful to God for their wonderful clothes, for their independence and for God’s care. The story tells the birds stood still as he walked among him, only flying off when he said they could leave.
Another story involves a wolf that had been eating human beings. Saint Francis intervened when the town wanted to kill the wolf and talked the wolf into never killing again. The wolf became a pet of the townspeople, who made sure that he always had plenty to eat.
Today, it’s not uncommon for some veterinarian’s offices to have a Saint Francis status somewhere in their building.
Saint Patrick is known as the patron saint of Ireland, and his feastday is on March 17. Estimated to have lived, from 387-461, Saint Patrick of Ireland is one of the world’s most popular saints. He was born in Roman Britain and when he was 14 or so, he was captured by Irish pirates during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. At the time, Ireland was a land of Druids and pagans, but Patrick turned to God and wrote his memoir, The Confession. Patrick’s captivity lasted until he was 20, when he escaped after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There, he found some sailors who took him back to Britain and was reunited with his family.
Some historical references state he often used shamrocks to explain the Holy Trinity, hence the connection. Some entire kingdoms were eventually converted to Christianity after hearing Saint Patrick’s message.
St. Valentine is the patron saint of “courtly love.” Every February, people gather to celebrate St. Valentine’s Feast Day, Feb. 14. Stories say that Saint Valentine was imprisoned for marrying Christian couples and aiding Christians being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. Both acts were considered serious crimes. A relationship between the saint and emperor began to grow, until Valentine attempted to convince Claudius of Christianity. Claudius became enraged and sentenced Valentine to death, commanding him to renounce his faith or be beaten with clubs and beheaded. St. Valentine refused to renounce his faith and Christianity and was executed outside the Flaminian Gate. Other depictions of St. Valentine’s arrests tell that he secretly married couples, so husbands wouldn’t have to go to war.
Pope Julius I is said to have built a church near Ponte Mole in his memory, which for a long time gave name to the gate now called Porta del Popolo, formerly, Porta Valetini. Relics of St. Valentine can be found all over the world. A flower-crowned skull of St. Valentine can be found in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. In 1836, other relics were exhumed from the catacombs of Saint Hippolytus on the Via Tiburtina and were identified as Valentine’s.
Saint Nicholas is another favorite among saints, especially for children. Also known as “Nikolaos of Myra,” he was a fourth century saint and Greek bishop of Myra. Nicholas was born in Asia Minor in the Roman Empire as an only child to Christian parents. Both of his parents tragically died during an epidemic when he was a young man, leaving him well off, but to be raised by his uncle, the Bishop of Patara. Nicholas was determined to devote his inheritance to works of charity, and his uncle mentored him as a reader and later ordained him as a priest. According to catholics.org, the image of Saint Nicholas is, more often than any other, found on Byzantine seals. In the later middle ages nearly 400 churches were dedicated in his honor in England alone, and he is said to have been represented by Christian artists more frequently than any saint, except our Lady.
In Germany, Saint Nicholas and his helper visit children by going to homes on Dec. 7. Children lay their shoes out by the door and Nicholas deposits either sweets or coal in their shoes, based on their behavior the months prior. This is one of many Christmas-time traditions in Germany that still exist today.