Saints exist in almost all religions although they go by different titles. What passes for a saint for Christians might be a guru to Hindus, a wali to Muslims or a tzadik to Jews. Whatever the title, a saint is generally held to be a person whose holiness, virtuous life and deeds mark them as someone very special. Depending on the religion, sainthood can be conferred by a religious authority or by the desire of the people – the so-called ‘folk saints’. A saint is usually a person who serves as an excellent role model, is often a teacher and philosopher, and is someone who values the lives of others above material possessions.
Many saints performed extraordinary feats to prove their devotion and/or piety.
St Triduana, a Benedictine Abbess, was told by a local clan chieftain that she had nice eyes. Her response was to pluck them out, impale them on a thorn and send them to him on a plate.
St Simeon Stylites decided to live on a small platform on top of a pillar for 37 years, existing on the kindness of strangers.
And St Drogo the Ugly lived in a small cell for 40 years without any human contact except for a small window through which he received barley, water, the holy Eucharist as his only contact with humanity.
St Rene Goupil worked as a medic for missionaries in America. He was captured and tortured by the Iroquois, and became the first North American martyr after getting a tomahawk in the head. He consequently became the patron saint of anaesthesia.
The patron saint of arms dealers is St Adrian of Nicodemia. The patron saint of ice skating is the Dutch St Lidwina. St. Eustachius is the patron saint of difficult situations and St Apollonia is the patron saint of dentists (she had all her teeth violently extracted and was then burned alive).
St Nicholas (the Santa Claus one) restored to life three small boys who had been cut up and pickled in a barrel to be served as bacon. As a result, Santa is the patron saint of children and, in somewhat poor taste, barrel makers. He is also the patron saint of sailors, dockworkers, thieves, murderers, shoe-shiners and unfairly lost law suits.
Saint Clotilde is the patron saint of disappointing children. St Godelieve is a patron saint of victims of verbal abuse by a spouse as well as difficult marriages, in-law problems, healthy throats and, paradoxically, throat diseases. St Denis, Patron Saint of France, was martyred by decapitation. Afterwards he walked for six miles across Paris carrying his severed head.
St Fillan was a 7th century hermit who lived in a cave in Fife where it was so dark that he couldn’t read the scriptures or write his sermons. Having prayed for a solution, God made his arm glow in the dark to light his work. He is the patron saint of insanity.
St Columba (521-597CE), also known as Colum Cille, loved books so much that he would copy ones that took his fancy and hand them out to his monks. When his former master St Finnian brought the first copy of St Jerome's Psalter (book of psalms) back to Ireland from Rome the temptation proved too great to overcome. Even though Finnian guarded it jealously, Columba ‘borrowed’ the book and made a copy.
Finnian was furious and a huge row erupted between the two men. It was, in many ways, one of the first recorded disputes over the issue of copyright. Eventually the two men appeared before King Diarmaid, Overlord of Ireland, to ask for a ruling. Columba believed that the psalter belonged to everyone. Finnian believed it was his alone. 'To every cow her calf', said Diarmaid, 'And to every book its son-book. Therefore the copy you made, O Colum Cille, belongs to Finnian'.
Columba never forgave Diarmaid and their disagreement eventually spiralled into armed conflict at the Battle of Cúl Dreimhne in 561, during which as many as 3000 men were killed. Columba’s peers accused him of driving all of those unprepared souls into eternity and threatened to excommunicate him. But St Brendan of Birr spoke on his behalf with the result that he was allowed to go into exile instead. Columba left Ireland, and returned only once, many years later.
When in Rome, live as the Romans do; when elsewhere, live as they live elsewhere.
St Columba invented nettle soup, or, at least, he was the first to write the recipe down. St Columba’s Broth, first recorded in the 7th century, survives today. Made with milk and oatmeal it tastes just like pea soup.
He also recorded the first known sighting of the Loch Ness monster. In a 7th Century biography written it says that one of Columba’s followers was chased across the Loch by the monster. Columba is reported to have said: 'Go no further. Do not touch the man. Go back at once'. Sure enough the monster fled – which is presumably why we’ve not seen her since.
If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.
Pope John Paul II created more saints than all his predecessors in the previous 500 years put together.
The Medieval French created their own saints including St Coquette, the patron saint of talkative women.
St Jambon is the patron saint of ham.
St Peter was the only Jewish Pope.
St Vincent, patron saint of Lisbon, capital of Portugal, was a Spaniard. As a result of this, everybody in Lisbon completely ignores him.
St George is the patron saint of England. And of people with syphilis.
In the 11th century, St Peter Damien preached for 25 years fasting penance for couples who had sex with the woman on top.