The saints are followers of Christ who lived lives of holiness on earth and now share in eternal life with God in Heaven. The saints' love and prayers for the Church are constant. These friends of God are our examples of holiness and by following their examples, we see how to live as disciples of Christ. The lives of the saints teach us about true discipleship. The saints are models of holiness for all Catholics.
Saints throughout history have represented every culture and many roles and professions. Though these holy men and women are very diverse, there are two primary distinctions for Catholic saints: martyrs and confessors.
Martyrs are those who died for their Catholic faith. The word martyr means “witness.” “Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even undo death.” (CCC, 2473). Early saints, like the Apostles, were martyrs due to the persecution of early Christians by Romans.
As persecutions of early Christians decreased, so did martyrdom. The distinction of confessors arose. Confessors lived lives of faith and witness but did not make the ultimate sacrifice like martyrs. At this time, the Church developed a process for investigating the sanctity of a Catholic who was not killed for his or her faith but instead died of natural causes.
There are some additional categories applied to saints. There are 36 Doctors of the Church, whose writings are given special distinction as contributing to theological or doctrinal understanding. Many, but not all, of the Fathers of the Church—influential theologians, bishops, and scholars whose work defined the early Church—are saints. The contributions of the Fathers of the Church and Doctors of the Church were foundational to building the Church and relevant to Catholics understanding of the faith today. Patron is a title given to a saint that reflects the relationship of a saint to a person or group of people. A person, group, parish, cause, or place may be dedicated to a patron saint. Individuals or communities may pray for the intercession of the patron saint on behalf of a cause or profession.
There are four pathways to sainthood.
The earliest saints were martyrs who were killed by Roman persecutors in the first centuries after Jesus Christ. These martyrs who sacrificed their lives for their faith in God were honored as saints immediately after death. Those who are killed for the Catholic faith may be beatified and declared blessed by virtue of martyrdom itself; unlike in other pathways, these martyrs do not have to have performed a miracle to be considered for canonization. A miracle is a scientifically inexplicable occurrence by the grace of God through the intercession of the individual being considered for sainthood.
Another pathway to sainthood is living a life of “heroic virtue,” defined as living the virtues to an exceptional degree for a decade or more.The “cardinal” virtues are justice, temperance, prudence, and fortitude.The “theological” virtues are faith, hope, and love. Saints on the heroic virtue pathway are considered confessors. To become a saint, two miracles must occur through the individual’s intercession: one for beatification and a second for canonization.
Another pathway to sainthood is known as “equipollent canonization” or “equivalent canonization,” which relies on ancient traditions. Individuals who have been historically and continually venerated since ancient times, particularly before the official canonization processes began in the 11th century, can be recognized as saints by the pope without a typical, formal canonization process. These saints can be publicly declared saints by the pope if they meet several criteria, including historical, continual public veneration, the fame of holiness and miraculous intercession, and either heroic virtues or martyrdom.
In a new pathway recently announced by Pope Francis, those who sacrifice their life for others can be considered for sainthood if they also meet several other criteria. These include the offering of their life freely and voluntarily in the face of certain and imminent death. (The offering and the death must be correlated.) They must have lived a life of ordinary (not heroic) Christian virtue and have a reputation for holiness. And finally, like those who have lived virtuously and had strong religious devotion, they too must be credited with performing a miracle.
Canonization is the formal process by which the Catholic Church declares a person to be a saint and worthy of universal veneration. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints is a department of the Roman Curia that recommends beatifications and canonizations to the pope. There are four major steps to canonization, or the process of being recognized as a Catholic saint.
There are four major steps to canonization, or the process of becoming a saint.
The first step is a request for canonization; a formal request to consider a person for sainthood at least five years after his or her death. This request is made to the bishop or diocese where the person died and includes reasons for considering the candidate for sainthood. If the bishop believes there is evidence in this request, a special tribunal is opened with permission from the Vatican. A person who passes this step in the process of canonization is named a "Servant of God. "Sister Thea Bowman is a candidate for canonization, and was recently declared a servant of God, a first step toward sainthood.
In the second step, a formal report is reviewed by theologians in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Candidates determined to be heroically virtuous in their faith are declared "Venerable."
The third step is beatification. Martyrs, or those who died for their faith, and saints whose intercession brought about a miracle are named "Blessed" and can be venerated, or officially honored in their cities, dioceses, regions, or religious communities.
In the final step, cause for canonization is sent to the pope who makes a final decision. There must be another miracle that occurred due to the person's intercession to be considered. The pope declares this person a "Saint" at a special Mass.
Though the exact number is unknown due to incomplete historical records and other factors, the estimated number of known Catholic saints tops 10,000 and may be near to 11,000. This number represents the martyrs and confessors throughout Church history from around the world who have been formally declared saints by the Catholic Church. Modern saints continue to demonstrate what it is to live as disciples of Christ.
Being named a Catholic saint is a very high honor. Catholics learn about and celebrate the lives of the saints and pray to the saints for their help and intercession. Devotion to and veneration of the saints unites the Church as the Body of Christ.
Catholics do not worship the saints; only God is the object of worship. The images of saints that adorn churches are a reminder that the saints are with God in heaven and a reminder of the call to sainthood for all Catholics.
Catholics believe that the saints share eternal life with God in heaven. Catholics pray to the saints for help and intercession. Many of the saints persevered through struggle and suffering in life and therefore can sympathize with the struggles brought to them in prayer.
Once a saint’s name is added to the official catalogue of saints, Masses and feast days can be celebrated in his or her honor. A feast day is a date assigned by the Church for a particular saint. Though Catholics focus on the lives of the saints during the liturgical season of Ordinary Time and especially on All Saints' Day, saints are remembered and honored on their feast days, which are celebrated once a year.Feast days are a great opportunity to introduce Catholic children to the saints and the call to sainthood.
Each day and month of the year invites us to remember and celebrate the saints. In the calendar that follows, read a short biography of a saint for every day of the calendar year, beginning with January 1st. Some of these saints are featured on their feast days, assigned by the Church. A monthly highlights section follows the daily list and emphasizes especially important solemnities or feast days and seasons.
As a bishop and a martyr, Saint Timothy was dedicated to spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. He helped to build up and encourage Christian communities during the early days of Christianity. Timothy reminds us of the powerful influence that community and friends can have on our faith. We celebrate his feast day on January 26.
On January 31, Catholics celebrate the feast day of Saint John Bosco who lived in the 1800s. He overcame obstacles of poverty and lack of education in his dream of becoming a priest. John Bosco was the founder of an order of priests called the Society of St. Francis de Sales (or Salesians), an order for women called the Daughters of Mary, and an organization of laypeople to help work with and teach neglected children. The Salesians continue to operate schools today, carrying on John Bosco's philosophy of education.
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On February 1, the Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Brigid, who lived around the time of Saint Patrick. Brigid became a nun and built convents and schools all around Ireland. Brigid made a small cross made from tall grasses to teach others about Jesus. These crosses became associated with Saint Brigid. On Brigid’s feast day in Ireland, people weave crosses from tall grasses and put them in their homes to keep them safe.On February 3, the Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Blaise, a bishop during the Roman Empire. While imprisoned for his faith, he is said to have miraculously healed a choking boy. People pray to Saint Blaise for healing of all illnesses of the throat, and a special blessing of the throat is offered in many parishes on this day.
Saint Valentine is remembered on Valentine’s Day, a day widely celebrated for its lovely themes and associations.
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On March 15, the Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Louise de Marillac, a friend of Saint Vincent de Paul who helped found the Daughters of Charity. She worked with this group that cared not only for poor people, but also for orphans, the elderly, and those who suffered from mental illness.
The feast days of Saint Patrick and Saint Joseph are two popular feast days in the month of March. Saint Patrick’s feast day is March 17 and Saint Joseph’s feast day is March 19. These days are marked by special traditions worldwide.
As a bishop and missionary in Ireland, Saint Patrick built over three hundred churches and baptized thousands. Legend has it that he used a shamrock to explain the Blessed Trinity. Just as there are three separate leaves on one plant, there are three distinct Persons in one God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Because of this, the shamrock is the traditional symbol of Ireland.
Saint Joseph, the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus, was a man of great compassion and great faith. He believed that God would protect him and in turn, protected and cared for Mary and Jesus.
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Saint Teresa de los Andes, the first saint of Chile, was a Carmelite nun and a prolific writer from 1900 until her death in 1920. She is very relatable to children. Teresa, whose feast day is celebrated on April 12, enjoyed doing many of the things children today enjoy doing. She was an ordinary person who focused her life on Jesus and tried to love others as he loves them.
On April 28, the feast day of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla is celebrated. A modern saint, Gianna followed Christ as a doctor, a mother, and a wife in Italy in the 1900s. She reminds us that we are called to follow Christ through prayerful service in every situation in life.
Saint Catherine of Siena is credited with writing many letters, encouraging people from all walks of life to live in peace. She is also credited with convincing the pope to move the papacy back to Rome from France in the 1300s. Her writing is among the classics of Italian literature. April 29 is her feast day.
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Even though her feast day is actually January 1, Catholics especially honor Mary, Mother of God, throughout the entire month of May. In addition to celebrating her feast day, there are lots of ways to honor Mary in May, with prayers, activities, and crownings.
Other saints honored during the month of May include husband and wife Isidore and Maria on May 15. Isidore and Maria lived a humble life during the early 1100s sharing all that they had with those who were in need. They serve as an example that ordinary lives can be filled with holiness.
Saint Madeline Sophie Barat, who lived in France during the 1700s, helped found the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She wanted to make education possible for women, and led this order for 63 years. This order still operates schools for young women throughout the world. Her feast day is May 25.
Saint Philip Neri is celebrated on May 26, and remembered for the gift of his sense of humor and his warm personality as an Italian priest in the 1500s. His life increased the faith of many people.
Joan of Arc, a teenage girl who became a soldier in France in the 1400s, was faithful to God's will in her life. She achieved what seemed impossible; she led an army and united the country of France because of her faith. Her feast day is celebrated on May 30.
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Saint Columba, celebrated on June 9, was an Irish missionary who helped to reintroduce Christianity to Scotland and Northern England. He was a talented preacher, an illustrator of manuscripts, and a poet.
Saint Thomas More was a trusted advisor of King Henry VIII of England. He resigned from government and refused to recognize the king's authority when he made himself head of the church of England. Executed for treason, Saint Thomas More is an example of courage and following his conscience. His feast day is June 22.
Jesus’s cousin, Saint John the Baptist, who baptized Jesus in the Jordan river, is celebrated on June 24. John baptized people as a symbol of conversion and taught that Jesus has the power to baptize with the Holy Spirit.
Saint Peter the Apostle, celebrated on June 29, was a fisherman before Jesus called him to follow him. Peter was present during the major events of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus entrusted Peter with a very special task, appointing him the leader of the Church. With the help of the Holy Spirit, he encouraged the early Christians to spread the Gospel message to people of all nations.
June 30 is the feast day of Venerable Pierre Toussaint, who was born a slave on the island of Haiti but died a free man in New York City. Despite lifelong discrimination, Pierre Toussaint had a successful business and did extensive charitable work. He chose to devote his life to the service of others.
Download a kit with short biographies and printable activities to learn about and celebrate saints with feast days in June.
On July 31, the Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Ignatius Loyola, sometimes referred to as a "soldier for Christ.” Saint Ignatius Loyola wrote The Spiritual Exercises in the 1500s to help people become more like Christ. Ignatius is best known for founding the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits.
Saint Benedict of Nursia was a fifth century mystic who left behind his family’s wealth and the corruption of the city in order to seek a life devoted to prayer. His feast day is celebrated on July 11.
Louis and Zelie Martin, parents of Saint Therese of Lisieux, were the first married couple to be made saints together. The Martins’s story is one of fidelity to one another and to God. Their feast day is July 12.
The feast day of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha is celebrated on July 14. She was the first Native American to be named a saint. She survived smallpox and was baptized at the age of 20. When life became hard, Kateri turned to God in prayer and focused on helping others, sharing stories about Jesus, and doing everyday chores as acts of love.
Saints Anne and Joachim are honored as the parents of Mary, Mother of God, and the grandparents of Jesus. When angels told them that God would bless them with a child who would be known throughout the world, Anne and Joachim placed their trust and faith in God. Their feast day is July 26.
Download a kit with short biographies and printable activities to learn about and celebrate saints with feast days in July.
Saint Dominic was well known for his interesting style of preaching, his generosity, and his knowledge. He made preaching his most important work. He started a religious order of priests called the Order of Preachers, now known as the Dominicans. His feast day is August 9.
When Edith Stein was 30 years old, she was inspired by the life of Saint Teresa of Avila and was baptized Catholic in 1922. She became a Carmelite sister. She and her sister were captured by the Nazis and killed in a prison camp. She is an example of courage and comfort. Her feast day is August 9.
Saint Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, celebrated on August 18, knew firsthand what it meant to be poor and he turned that knowledge into a ministry that served others. Alberto centered his work in his love for Jesus Christ. He worked tirelessly to remind people of their responsibility to help those in need. His charity, Hogar de Cristo, is still serving the poor today.
Saint Monica was a loving mother with strong faith who prayed that her son, Augustine, would change his sinful ways. Augustine was baptized, became a bishop, and then one of the Church's greatest saints. Augustine was always thankful for his mother and her prayers. The feast day of Saint Monica is August 27, and the feast day of Saint Augustine is August 28.
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On September 5, the Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Teresa of Calcutta, who devoted her life to caring for the homeless people on the streets of Calcutta, India, until her death in 1997. She began the Missionaries of Charity. Their mission is to love and serve the poor, especially those who have no one else to care for them. Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.
Saint Peter Claver is a saint who is an exceptional example of mercy. A Jesuit priest who traveled to modern day Colombia, he is known for his work with enslaved people and his feast day is celebrated September 9.
Also on September 9, the Church celebrates the feast day of Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, who dedicated his life to serving the poor and founded the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. He believed that charity and justice go hand in hand.
Blessed Sára Salkaházi offered her talents as a writer, teacher, and organizer in the service of Christ. She is credited with saving the lives of a hundred Jews, and her order protected more than a thousand during the Nazi occupation of Hungary in World War II. Her feast day is September 17.
On September 20, the Church celebrates the feast day of the courageous Saint Andrew Kim Taegŏn, who escaped from Korea to become a priest on September 20. Andrew took on the dangerous work of making it possible for other priests and catechists to enter Korea. He was imprisoned and martyred for his faith.
Saint Vincent de Paul recognized that his faith in Christ needed to be an active faith in service of his neighbor and charitable work. He and Saint Louise de Marillac founded the Daughters of Charity. His feast day is celebrated on September 27.
Download a kit with short biographies and printable activities to learn about and celebrate saints with feast days in September.
On October 1, the Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. As a Carmelite, she devoted herself to what she came to call her "little way" to holiness. She led a simple and quiet life of prayer. After her death, her writings were published as The Story of a Soul. She is a Doctor of the Church.
Saint Theodore Guerin was a missionary that traveled from France to Indiana in 1840. She helped open schools, orphanages, and pharmacies and was the superior of a school for girls called the Academy of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Her feast day is October 3.
On October 4, the Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi who lived in poverty, traveling and helping the poor. Francis is the patron saint of ecology. Pope Francis's encyclical letter Laudato Si': On Care for our Common Home, is named from the canticle of praise composed by Saint Francis.
Saint John XXIII was open-hearted, loving, generous, funny, caring, yet also seriously concerned about the future of the Church. Pope John XXIII’s most memorable act was calling the the Second Vatican Council, with the goal of renewing the Church. His feast day is October 11.
On October 15, the Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Teresa of Avila, a joyful mystic who founded sixteen monasteries of women and whose prayer, “The Bookmark Prayer,” is particularly relevant for today. Saint Teresa began the Order of Discalced Carmelites and was named a Doctor of the Church.
Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko was a Polish priest who served as a chaplain for nurses and students studying medicine in Warsaw and supported anti-communist protesters to the government. He was killed in 1984. He is remembered for his generous and courageous ministry and his work for freedom. His feast day is October 19.
Saint John Paul II inspired people throughout the world with his deep faith and his passion for social justice. He helped to transition the Church into the modern world and established World Youth Day. His feast day is October 22.
Download a kit with short biographies and printable activities to learn about and celebrate saintswith feast days in October.
In November, we have the opportunity to celebrate all the saints. Each year, on the solemnity of All Saints' Day, we honor those who inspire us with their generous and faith-filled lives. On All Saints’ Day, celebrated on November 1, we are obligated to attend Mass to praise and worship God and honor the lives of the saints. We celebrate all the saints–those who are known and unknown. We are especially mindful of our patron saints: the saints whose names we share, those that our families honor, or that our schools or parishes are named. There are many ways to celebrate All Saints’ Day with students.
On November 3, the Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Martin de Porres, who was born in Peru in 1579. He is remembered for his poverty, his humility, his gifts of healing, his care and concern, and his friendship with all, including the least of God's creatures.
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini always dreamed of becoming a missionary. She never lost sight of her dreams. In her mission to support and care for Italian immigrants, she founded schools, orphanages, child-care centers, and hospitals and became the first naturalized citizen of the United States to be declared a saint. Her feast day is November 13.
On November 16, the Church celebrates Saint Margaret of Scotland, who was known for her love of books and of learning. Margaret, born around the year 1045, was a queen. She used her position as an opportunity to help others. She used her resources and influence to improve the lives of her people and her eight children.
Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne was a French missionary who traveled to Missouri in 1818. As a teacher and educator and a founder of schools, she reminds us of the great value of education and the sacrifices it may demand. Her feast day is November 18.
November 22 is the feast day of Saint Cecilia, a Christian who lived during a time of persecution in the early Church. She is a famous martyr. She is the patron of music because of the way she sang during times of great trial and suffering during her life. Music expressed her great love for Christ, and her joyful belief that God would watch over her.
Download a kit with short biographies and printable activities to learn about and celebrate saints with feast days in November.
One of the world’s most popular saints, Saint Nicholas of Myra, is celebrated on December 6. Not much is known about this bishop but legends abound. He is the patron saint of children and remembered for his generosity and kindness. A Blessing of Candy Canes and a prayer service are some ways to celebrate this feast day.
On December 9, the Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Juan Diego, and on December 12, we honor Mary as Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas. Mary appeared to Juan Diego in Mexico in 1531. She gave Juan Diego the special task of building a shrine on the spot she appeared to show her "love, compassion, help, and protection" of all people.
Download a kit with short biographies and printable activities to learn about and celebrate saints with feast days in December.
The saints’ love and prayers for the Church are constant. We celebrate the saints throughout the year and follow and share their holy examples so that we too can live as disciples of Christ.