The word ‘saint’ is mentioned many times in the bible. It refers to a follower of Christ (or of God when mentioned in the Old Testament) much as we would use the word ‘Christian’ today. In the early days of the Church, anyone who belonged to the Christian community was called a saint. But as the Romans conquered much of the world, the term saint took on a new meaning. Christians tortured and killed for their faith by the Romans were called martyrs. By this ultimate sacrifice, martyrs gain immediate access to Heaven. Martyrs came to be known as Saints and later, people who modeled heroic virtue and exemplary spiritual lives were also venerated as Saints. A Saint was someone the community felt certain was now in Heaven with God. Their lives were upheld as examples to all of us who long for Heaven.
As the years went by the church formalized the process by which someone could be called a Saint. It involved a lengthy examination of his live and proof that God worked a miracle or two through that person. When the church is able to proclaim with authority that this person is now in Heaven with God, they are officially called a Saint and they are available to us for prayers and intersession.
So there are two types of saints: the Saints in Heaven who are already with God, and us little saints on earth stumbling toward our eternal glory.
Only God can see into a person’s heart and knows who deserves to be honoured as a saint. So the church honours ALL the saints who have ever lived on November 1st – those declared saints by the church and those known only to God, the great Saints in Heaven and us little saints on earth.
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