The Beginner’s Guide to Catholic Saints

By: Katie Tejada

Being Catholic has many joys, but one aspect I truly cherish about my faith is the vast community of Catholics worldwide. Millions of people from all walks of life have followed the path of Jesus and embraced his teachings. As a mere mortal, trying to live up to the standards Christ exemplified can be challenging, but thankfully, we have a source of inspiration to keep us striving – the lives of the Saints.

Communion of saints

How Does a Person Become a Saint?

Contrary to popular belief, a Saint isn’t a perfect person who has lived their life without sin. Here are the basic requirements:

  • Extensive evidence of the person living in such a spirit-filled way that they are worthy of imitation based on their virtue and goodness,
  • Having died a martyr or as a hero for their Catholic faith
  • Casting aside an immoral life for one of exemplary holiness

In addition, for canonization to Sainthood, two verifiable postmortem miracles are required. A person may be beatified or given the “Blessed” designation with only one demonstrated miracle.

After several phases of a comprehensive examination of the person’s life and legacy, the Pope ultimately chooses those who are to be formally declared as Saints.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Saint?

The process for being declared a Saint is a lengthy one. Typically, the canonization process cannot start until five years after the person’s death. Throughout the many phases of canonization, witnesses offer evidence that the person lived a holy life and conformed to church doctrine.

While many people have lived exemplary lives or died under heroic conditions for their Catholic faith, identifying and certifying a bona fide miracle can be challenging. However, Pope John Paul II streamlined the path to Sainthood. Now, miracles “only” require empirical evidence that a phenomenon took place (such as miraculous healing) that lies outside of scientific explanation.

Drawing Strength and Inspiration from Catholic Saints

Learning about the Saints can help us when we struggle with our faith because all of them started as ordinary people. However, by living their beliefs, they turned ordinary lives into extraordinary ones. While there are more than 10,000 Saints formally recognized by the Catholic Church, here are a few of the well-known ones you may wish to turn to for guidance and support in your everyday life.

Saint Joseph

Pope Francis has called 2021 “The Year of St. Joseph,” and as the father of Jesus, he can teach us a great deal about humility, love, and trust in our marriages and family life. It is through Joseph’s selfless actions that Mary brought the Son of God into this world.

Saint Francis of Assisi

St. Francis is best known for his love of animals and the environment, but his compassion also included the poor, disabled, and sick. He preached that all living creatures are children of God and worthy in his eyes.

Saint Martin de Porres

Martin de Porres’ parents were a Spanish nobleman and an African or indigenous woman. As a young man, he suffered social rejection due to his mixed-race ancestry and was refused entry to the Dominican order. However, he remained true to his faith and cared for those on the margins of society while promoting peace and forgiveness. He is now known as the first Black Saint of the Americas.

Mary, Mother of God

Icon portraying Mary as Theotokos

The Blessed Mother Mary

As the mother of Jesus and the Catholic Church, Mary provides an excellent example of virtue and faith in God. Mary offers comfort in times of trouble, an attentive ear for discernment questions, and a loving gaze when joy and happiness abounds.

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

St. Thérèse of Lisieux is a very popular Catholic Saint loved and prayed to by people from many walks of life and faiths. St. Thérèse offers us her “Little Way” of finding holiness throughout the common moments of everyday life. For those struggling to find God, her words and teachings offer a path to connection and joy.

Saint Joan of Arc

In popular culture, Joan of Arc is known as a hero and a martyr for her role in the Hundred Years War in the early 1400s. While much of her story today includes both facts and legend, her courage and love for her faith cannot be denied. Her connection with God has inspired many over the centuries. Whenever courage is needed, whisper her words: “I am not afraid, for God is with me. I was born to do this.” You’ll feel strengthened and transformed!

live purposefully

Embody the Saints’ Teachings in Your Life

So, the next time you’re struggling with a task at work, feeling frustrated with family life, or wondering how to deepen your connection to God and your faith, turn to the Saints for advice and guidance. Their stories for turning an ordinary life into a spirit-filled extraordinary one are always there for you!


About our guest blogger

Katie Tejada is a writer, editor, and former HR professional. She works with a variety of Catholic businesses and often covers developments in decor, interiors, and events. She also enjoys writing about parenthood and faith.

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3 Childhood Experiences that Taught Me about Purgatory


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 5, 2017.


Over the past several years, I find myself frequently reflecting on the implications the teaching of purgatory as on my daily life. To cite the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph number 1030, “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”

Wait! Hold it. Why would God need to postpone our union with Him for people who die in grace? Also, the word purgatory does not even make an appearance in the New Testament. I know that the teachings of the Catholic Church are based on both Scripture and Tradition, but how do we reconcile a major teaching with a collection of books [the Bible] that barely mentions purgatory?

Although I never really despaired about this seeming lack of evidence for purgatory, my inquisitorial nature still longed for answers in case my non-Catholic friends pushed me on this matter. Below I want to share three examples from my childhood that helped me better reconcile the apparent lack of evidence in the Bible for purgatory. I will also briefly highlight New Testament evidence I learned about that hint at and point toward the doctrine of purgatory.

washing hands.jpg

Please use soap and water

The dictionary defines purgatory as “having the quality of cleansing or purifying”. Going back to what the Catechism tells us about this teaching, we are to undergo a final cleansing or purification before we enter the joy of Heaven. Thinking about a hygiene example as a kid helped me better understand the need for purgatory.

My parents developed a good habit of having our family sit down for dinner on a daily basis. One of the conditions before I could join the table was that I needed to wash my hands.

I needed to be clean before I could participate in the joy of our family meal. In an analogous way, our heavenly Father desires His children to be completely cleansed before we participate in the joy of Heaven. I was never going to be denied eating my food as a kid if I had dirt under my fingernails. I simply needed to undergo a purification process at the bathroom sink to clean my hands. Likewise, at death people who are overall good and holy people will not be denied Heaven. Rather, they will undergo a purification process to eliminate all stain of sin.

Do you Round the Bases if a Window is Broken?

“Take me out to the ball game, Take me out with the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack, I don’t care if I never get back, Let me root, root, root for the home team, If they don’t win it’s a shame. For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out, At the old ball game.”

Summertime will forever be linked to baseball. Despite being terrible at playing the actual sport in an official setting, I loved watching, studying, and playing backyard versions of baseball. Along with my love of the analytics of the game, my younger brother played. He was a fantastic ballplayer. I will always cherish the memories we made playing a pick-up game with the neighbor kids.

rounding the bases.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

During a warm June afternoon my brother and neighbor friends played a game at a nearby elementary baseball field. Things were going great. We had a blast playing and kept our stomachs full with snacks. I do not remember who actually hit this particular home-run, but shortly after it soared over the fence a crash ensued. We paused. The window of the house next to the field broke. I do not remember the exact details of how the window was eventually fixed. What I do know is that the baseball game was interrupted until we resolved the broken window issue [i.e. telling the homeowner the news, offering to pay for the window, etc].

Celebration of the home-run hit could only happen once our crew mended things with the owner of the broken window. Similarly, our celebration in Heaven cannot fully occur until we are fully purified completely through the process of purgatory. Purgatory once again is not to be viewed as a roadblock to Heaven but rather a process to ensure our complete union with God.

Finder Keepers, Losers Weepers

In the spring of my 5th grade year, my classmates and I had a weekend long lock-in event hosted by our municipal police department to talk about the dangers of smoking and drugs. On my way to the registration booth, I noticed a twenty dollar bill. I picked it up and immediately notified the event staff that someone lost money. I am grateful that my parents raised me right to listen to my conscience as I was not tempted to obey the adage “Finders keepers, losers weepers”. Ironically, listening to my conscience paid off—literally—no one claimed the twenty dollars by the end of the weekend so the staff gave the bill to me.

20 dollars on ground.jpg

Mr. Jackson was lost but now he’s found!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This memory taught me that purgatory is a necessary process. If I did not listen to my conscience and simply pilfered the money that the person lost that I would need to confess the sin of stealing. Even if the individual forgave me of taking his twenty dollar bill the relationship would not be fully restored until I paid him back. Now imagine if the individual passed away before I could repay him. Here is where the doctrine of purgatory comes into play. God allows for purgation of the temporal effects of sin [i.e. not paying back someone you stole from] through purgative suffering after death.

Purgatory in the Bible?

Along with my experiences as a child, I discovered a passage from St. Paul’s epistles that hint at the doctrine of purgatory. The Apostle of the Gentile writes in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15,

According to the grace of God given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But each one must be careful how he builds upon it, 11for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. 12If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13the work of each will come to light, for the Day- will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire [itself] will test the quality of each one’s work 14If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. 15But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.

The Catechism actually cites this same passage in paragraph 1031 in its reference to a cleansing fire. St. Paul’s words tell us that although the purification experience is painful it is ultimately a cleansing experience and aimed at a higher aim—complete and full union with God! Having a deeper understanding on the purgatory increased my understanding the purpose of suffering and strengthened my fervor for God’s love. I am far from an expert in matters on purgatory, but I have learned a lot in the past few years. I will continue to learn and pray for knowledge on this subject from the Holy Spirit. If your window(s) get shattered by a baseball maybe your own perspective will change!

fire cleansing.jpg

The fires of purgatory are painful, but they’re healing (purifying) flames.

 

 

Related Links

3 Reasons Why I Thought Purgatory was Basically Overtime in a Football Game

Purgatory 101

What is Purgatory?

 

 

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Catholic Meme Monday— Issue 14

Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

Time for another Catholic Meme Monday:

It’s a role I take seriously. 🙂
I actually enjoy cleaning the dishes. 🧼 🍽️
Holy Spirit guide my words and actions. 🙏
One of the more helpful memes in existence.
Catholicism houses the fullness of truth.
An orthodox Orthodox meme but still funny. 😆
Jesus is the True Bread from Heaven.
Ending with a punny one!

That’s all I have this week. Stay alert for next week’s Catholic Meme Monday. Receive updates straight to your email inbox by subscribing to The Simple Catholic blog.

Thank you for sharing!

How an Elementary Student Taught Me More Theology than My Master’s Program


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on March 31, 2017.


A few years ago, I started volunteering as a mentor to an elementary student at a local Catholic school. I was nervous at first because this was the first time I served as a mentor to a young student. On that first day, the school counselor thought it would be nice for the student to give me a tour of the school. On this tour, I was making small-talk and the topic eventually led to saints [Icons of saints are present at every classroom door].

I posed this simple question to the student, “Who is your favorite saint?” The reason I received from him was simple but also tightly packed with theology! The student quickly responded with a sheepish grin, “Fr. John is my favorite saint!” Though I was half-tempted to qualify his statement by saying, “Well, I meant technically a canonized saint…”  I stopped myself. Since that day I have pondered this revelatory statement at least once a week.

The more I reflected on my mentor student’s statement the more and more theology I realized was packed into it. Here are a few truths I gleaned from his statement:

Holiness can start now

Sanctity is not reserved for after our death or even later in our earthly lives. To reference my recent post on purgatory, I used to believe purgatory was a “period” similar to an extra period in a sports game. Yet, my student’s reply is simple and true, our priest is like a saint to him because he knows holiness when he sees it.

Priest, like saints, reflect God’s light

The moon, which reflects the sun’s light, is a common image the early Church Fathers used to describe Mary, who reflects the son’s light. Similarly, we are called to be that same reflection. Christ even goes further when he calls his followers in Matthew 5:14-16 to be the “light of the world”. Perhaps the best truth that came forth from my student’s statement is summed up best when placing it next to St. Athanasius’ famous quote from On the Incarnation. He says, “God became man that man might become God”. I truly believe our parish priest is on that same path.

My parish is doing something right

I should qualify this by saying our parish is doing something right by allowing God’s grace to work in the people I have encountered there. My student’s proclamation, “Fr. John is my favorite saint!” is certainly a testament to our priest’s strong faith and reverence for the sacrament of Holy Orders. But I am sure he will agree with me in saying there is another source at work besides himself. It is the work of the Trinity. Not only at work in my student’s heart, but God is working through the dedicated teachers, administrative staff, and parishioners alike.

Many people tell me I am having a positive impact on that elementary student’s life each week I meet with him over lunch. What I do know for certain is that I get more graces than I give in mentoring. This “living theology” is something I never experienced during my graduate studies.  I thank God every day for the joy He gives me each week in serving Him.

Related Links

3 Things about the Holy Trinity I Learned from Elementary Students

3 Childhood Experiences that Taught Me about Purgatory

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3 Ways You Can Actually Get Rest through Play


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on September 24, 2019.


According to Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” This weekend I found a temporary fountain of youth—at a pumpkin patch!  Celebrating the birthdays of two of my nieces and my daughter, we visited a small-town Nebraskan pumpkin patch on Saturday.  This experience was what I needed to infuse live into me.

Rest and play

 

 

 

 

 

My overnight work schedule has been challenging.  Getting naps throughout the day are hit or miss depending on how fussy or not my teething 8 month old daughter is on a a particular day. Balancing work and life has like trying to battle 16 monkey ninjas on your own. Our three year old has regressed over the past few weeks, meltdowns are on the rise, I only get to see my wife about 30 minutes most days, and the list of struggles goes on and on.

The purpose of this post is not to complain, but rather give a bit of context as to why my content has been irregular recently. I am thankfully for people providing guest posts in the midst of my chaotic schedule. I will be publishing more guest posts to help give me a break during this season. Rest. I did not appreciate sleep until I lacked it. This post will focus on a few ways I have been able to discover how to get rest during a grueling schedule. If you are in a similar or more serious situation than my family I hope you find value in these tips.

Play and Positivity

A common factoid you may have learned in school is that it takes less muscles to smile than it does to frown. If you never heard this amazing fact, please check out the link in the related resources section at the end of this post to read about the science behind smiling. This weekend I smiled.

Traveling on a zip line, sliding down the barn slide, pedaling a cart, and chasing my kids on the pumpkin patch playground incited smiles. We need playtime help reset our mindset. Going into work on Monday I was much more motivated and cheery. Playtime leads to positivity.

Observational Play is Still Fun

According to Angela Schwindt, “While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” During the breaks between pumpkin patch activities I got the chance to watch my children caper with their cousins. The joy and excitement in their faces caused me to beam with gratitude. I rarely have the opportunity to simply rest and observe them in the middle of play.

Overcoming from a recent sinus infection and my continual job hunt for work from home opportunities has drained much of my energy the past few weeks. This weekend provided me the chance to pause and have fun watching my kids play!

Recapping the Day is Restful

Another way to fit in play during a busy schedule is to reflect on the revelry throughout the day. We had a three hour drive back home so I spent some time replaying the fun our family had in my mind. Next, my wife and I talked about our favorite moments. I asked each of my children which activity they enjoyed the best. “Pumpkin, I have a pumpkin daddy!” my three year old exclaimed from his car seat. Looking back, I saw a wide grin on his face and the orange vegetable proudly held in his hand.

Pumpkin Patch

Memory gave me the ability to play again while sitting down in the car. As I recapped the day, I regained my energy that was completely drained during the week.

Make it a priority to get daily playtime. It is necessary for a healthy body and mind. Play renewed my endurance. Rediscover joy in life by embracing playtime. A work and life balance is important. How do you plan on resting and playing this week?

Related Links

How Playing Paper Football Led to Prayer

Finding the Creative Spirit of God in Play!

Why Being Funny Helps You Seriously Practice the Catholic Faith

 

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Catholic Meme Monday— Issue 13

Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

Due to the Labor Day Holiday this post was delayed for a day. Time for another Catholic Meme Monday (this time on a Tuesday 🙂😆):

The Venerable Ventriloquist. 😆🙂
Even the Sith had architectural standards!
Accurate. 😆🙂🙏🎵
The primary mission in life is to become a saint.
My family always seem to be running late to Mass (yes I know I suck) so we usually sit in the back.
Fanboying at the Transfiguration. ☀️🙌🙂
Acronyms matter. 🤦🙂😆
“He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus,
20 and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.”
—Acts 9:19-20

That’s all I have this week. Stay tuned for next week’s Catholic Meme Monday. Receive updates straight to your email inbox by subscribing to The Simple Catholic blog.

Thank you for sharing!