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A good book for understanding the many saints that are memorized at daily Masses

Book: The Invention of Saintliness
Editor: Anneke B. Mulder-Bakker
Routledge, New York, pp. 222

Excerpt from Introduction:

The study of saints and saintliness has enjoyed new scholarly interest over the past decades. Historians, scholars working in the field of religion, and others have gained new insights into the rise and function of holy men and women, holy sites, and holy objects, thanks to new approaches borrowed from other disciplines. Illuminating and stimulating publications by trend-setting scholars like Peter Brown and others have changed and deepened our perceptions and understanding of the role and importance of saints and their cults, holy sites and relics in late antique, Byzantine, and medieval societies. They have furthermore given new impetus to hagiographical research and the development of new methodological approaches. Even though we have gained a better comprehension of saints and saintliness, there is still a lot of work to be done . . .

Excerpt from Book:

Canon 2104: In [canonization] procedures of confessors the question to be discussed is whether the Servant of God possessed, to a heroic degree, the theological virtues of Faith , Hope, and Love of God and neighbor, as well as the cardinal virtues, Prudence, Justice, Temperance, Fortitude and related virtues, and whether this is certain enough to permit proceedings towards beatification.

However, in the case of the canonization of a martyr, the question is whether his martyrdom is absolutely certain and whether it is known for sure that signs or miracles occurred, and whether all this is certain enough to permit proceedings towards beatification.

Canon 2116: In addition to a heroic degree of virtue or martyrdom, another requirement for the beatification of a Servant of God is that miracles have been performed through his intercession.

This, then, is the official definition: a saint is a deceased person, who once excelled in virtue. A saint is one who possessed faith, hope, and love, demonstrated wisdom and justice, exercised moderation and perseverance. A person who occasionally manifested these virtues can make no claim to sainthood, but only he who persevered through his entire life, to a heroic degree, in gradu heroico, under difficult circumstances, and with a cheerful heart. Only he who took true delight in the practice of virtue can be considered for canonization, provided that a few miracles after death revealed the man’s saintly ability to intercede with God — the man’s ability, yes, for only seldom are women admitted to his select group.

After exemplary exercise of virtue and a holy life, the existence of a cult, public veneration after the persons death, is the ultimate indication of sainthood. Sanctity, in other words, is a quality ascribed posthumously. Saints live in the hereafter, in the company surrounding the throne of God. Here on earth believers have to be satisfied with the material remains of their earthly existence, their relics, or their graves; and, of course, with the stories of their exemplary lives or the legends about their miraculous deeds.

Table of Contents:

Part I


1. The invention of saintliness: texts and contexts

Part II: Contexts: the cult of saints and the invention of saintliness

2. Relics and their veneration in the Middle Ages

3. Saints without a past: sacred places and intercessory power in saint’s Lives from the Low Countries.

4. Life and afterlife: Arnulf of Oudenburg, bishop of Soissons, and Godelieve of Gistel. Their function as intercessors in medieval Flanders.

Part III: Texts: the Lives of saints and the invention of saintliness

5. “Whither runnest thou?: the conception of saintliness in Philostratus’ Life of Appollonius

6. The West European Alexius legend: with an Appendix presenting the medieval Latin text corpus in its context

7. Bernward of Hildesheim: a case of self-planned sainthood?

8. Dealing with Brother Ass: bodily aspects of the Franciscan sanctification of the self

9. Saints and despair: twelfth-century hagiography as ‘intimate biography.’

10. Literary genre and degrees of saintliness: the perception of holiness in writings by and about female mystics