saints and martrys

Saints and Martyrs #

The word “saint” comes from the Greek word hagios, which means “consecrated to God, holy, sacred, pious."

"…Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem" (Acts 9:13).

“Now as Peter was traveling through all those regions, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda” (Acts 9:32). “And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons …“ (Acts 26:10).

The idea of the word “saints” is a group of people set apart for the Lord and His kingdom. There are three references referring to godly character of saints:

  • “that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints …” (Romans 16:2).
  • “For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12).
  • “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Ephesians 5:3).

Therefore, scripturally speaking, the “saints” are the body of Christ, Christians, the church. All Christians are considered saints.

First Corinthians 1:2 states it clearly: “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy…”

The words “sanctified” and “holy” come from the same Greek root as the word that is commonly translated “saints.” Christians are saints by virtue of their connection with Jesus Christ.

In Roman Catholic theology, the saints are in heaven.

In the Bible, the saints are on earth.

In Roman Catholic teaching, a person does not become a saint unless he/she is “beatified” or “canonized” by the Pope or prominent bishop.

In the Bible, everyone who has received Jesus Christ by faith is a saint.

In Roman Catholic practice, the saints are revered, prayed to, and in some instances, worshiped.

In the Bible, saints are called to revere, worship, and pray to God alone.

According to John Dickson’s Bullies and Saints:

Is religion a pernicious force in the world? Does it poison everything? Would we be better off without religion in general and Christianity in particular? Many think so. But the critics are only partly right: this is not what Christianity was at its foundation or on its best days. Jesus of Nazareth gave the world a beautiful melody - of charity, humility, and human dignity - and while many of its followers have been tone-deaf, many others have sung the tune and transformed the world.

Orwell maintained All saints should be considered guilty until proven innocent.

Denis Diderot claimed

” Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest".

Bishop Gene Robinson notes that:

If you preach a judgmental, vengeful and angry god, no one minds. If you preach a loving, accepting, forgiving, merciful, God, you are in trouble. You are likely a heretic.

We should love the individuals rather than society; reject love of humanity but neglect your family.

Crispin and Crispinian, twin brothers #

Born to a noble Roman family in the 3rd century AD, Crispin and Crispinian fled persecution for their faith, ending up at Soissons, where they preached Christianity to the Gauls while making shoes by night. They earned enough by their trade to support themselves and also to aid the poor. Their success attracted the ire of Rictus Varus, governor of Belgic Gaul, who had them tortured and thrown into the river with millstones around their necks. Though they survived, they were beheaded by the emperor.

Their Veneration is on the feast day, 25 October. The feast was removed from the Roman Catholic Church’s universal liturgical calendar following the Second Vatican Council, the two saints are still commemorated on that day in the most recent edition of the Roman Church’s martyrology.

St Augustine #

Bishop of Hippo from 396 to 430, one of the Latin Fathers of the Church and perhaps the most significant Christian thinker after St. Paul. Augustine’s adaptation of classical thought to Christian teaching created a theological system of great power and lasting influence.

Intellectually, Augustine represents the most influential adaptation of the ancient Platonic tradition with Christian ideas that ever occurred in the Latin Christian world. Augustine received the Platonic past in a far more limited and diluted way than did many of his Greek-speaking contemporaries, but his writings were so widely read and imitated throughout Latin Christendom that his particular synthesis of Christian, Roman, and Platonic traditions defined the terms for much later tradition and debate. Both modern Roman Catholic and Protestant Christianity owe much to Augustine, though in some ways each community has at times been embarrassed to own up to that allegiance in the face of irreconcilable elements in his thought. For example, Augustine has been cited as both a champion of human freedom and an articulate defender of divine predestination, and his views on sexuality were humane in intent but have often been received as oppressive in effect.

“Make me pure, but not just yet”.

There are many things that are true which it is not useful for the vulgar crowd to know; and certain things which though they are false, it is expedient for the people to believe otherwise. City of God 345 – 430 AD

St. Francis of Assisi (1181–1226) … #

Born to a wealthy family, Francis wanted to be an heroic soldier, but deserting the army of the Fourth Crusade, and forsaking his father’s wealth he devoted himself to God’s provenance. From then on Francis had nothing…and everything.

Scandal and avarice were working on the Church from the inside while outside heresies flourished by appealing to those longing for something different or adventurous. He preached about returning to God and obedience to the Church. Francis must have known about the decay in the Church, but he always showed the Church and its people his utmost respect.

He read in the Bible the command to the rich young man to sell all his good and give to the poor, the order to the apostles to take nothing on their journey, and the demand to take up the cross daily. “Here is our rule,” Francis said – as simple, and as seemingly impossible, as that. He was going to do what no one thought possible any more – live by the Gospel. Francis took these commands so literally that he made one brother run after the thief who stole his hood and offer him his robe!

Francis practiced true equality by showing honor, respect, and love to every person whether they were beggar or pope.

Make me an instrument of your peace

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) #

After the rediscovery of Aristotle, Aquinas attempted to reconcile Philosophy and faith.

The first and major formal difference between philosophy and theology is found in their principles. The presuppositions of the philosopher are not themselves the products of deductive proof— not immune to rational analysis and inquiry—and thus known by themselves. The fact that they are known does not imply that they are easily known to just anyone who considers them. A good deal of experience of the world and inquiry, plus native intelligence, and the ability to avoid intellectual distraction, may be required to actually apprehend their truth.

By contrast, the discourse of the theologian is ultimately driven by principles that are held to be true on the basis of faith; truths authoritatively conveyed by Revelations of God. Some believers reflect on these truths and see other truths implied by them, spell out their interrelations and defend them against the accusation of being nonsense. Theological discourse and inquiry are taken to be truth-bearing only for one who accepts Scriptural revelation as true.

Lollards #

A society based on Christian love, an old dream of a British radicalism disseminated from Oxford in the fourteenth century, centered in the work of John Wycliffe, (1328 - 1384) a professor and writer known throughout Europe as one of the great philosophic minds of his time. Wycliffe was indignant at the treatment of the poor—he wrote, for example, that:

lords many times do wrongs to poor men by extortion & unreasonable [fees] and unreasonable taxes, & take poor men’s goods…& despise them & menace them & sometime beat them when they ask their pay. & thus lords devour poor men’s goods in gluttony & waste and pride, & they perish for mischief, & hunger & thirst & cold, & their children also…[they] withhold from poor men their hire, for which they have spended their flesh & their blood. & so in a manner they eat & drink poor men’s flesh & blood & are mankillers…and more to the same effect.

Since he was at the same time an eminent scholar, Wycliffe helped to give British religious dissent a distinctive intellectualism that bypassed barriers of class. He accomplished this, notably, by making the first translation of the entire Bible into English and by writing religious/political tracts in English, like the one just quoted, some of which circulated for more than a century, though possession of them was deeply incriminating. Oxford students and others took pages of Scripture out among the poor so that they could hear them read in their own language.

Wycliffe challenged the need for Priestly intercession and the exclusive power of the Pope to pardon or excommunicate individuals. This was a direct threat to Papal power which depended on simony, indulgences and the selling of relics.

In one of his tracts speaking of the pope and his collectors:

They draw out of our land poor men’s livelihood and man thousand marks, by the year of the king’s money for sacraments and spiritual things, that is cursed heresy of simony and maketh all Christendom huge hill of gold.

Papal thunders were hurled against him with three Bulls dispatched to England, all commanding immediate and decisive measures to silence this teacher of heresy.

Despite fierce opposition, Wycliffe lived to place into the hands of Englishmen, the Bible, the most powerful weapon to enlighten, liberate and evangelise the people.

At this time there was a moment of early literary brilliance, in the English writing of Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower, William Langland, and others. These poets, and Wycliffe as well, enjoyed the protection of important figures, notably John of Gaunt, possibly Richard II and certainly his wife, Anne of Bohemia. Anne of Bohemia, had a great influence on Richard, urging clemency for the leaders of the Peasants Revolt, but she died childless in 1394 of the Black Plague.

The movement associated with Wycliffe, called Lollardy, was violently suppressed and driven underground by Henry IV. Many Lollards were burned, but their movement remained active and influential, finally merging with the Reformation and Puritanism. Wycliffe died in his own bed.

Jan Hus 1370, - 1415 #

Bohemian religious leader, Czech religious reformer, whose work was transitional between the medieval and the Reformation periods and anticipated the Lutheran Reformation by a full century. He was embroiled in the bitter controversy of the Western Schism (1378–1417) for his entire career, and he was convicted of heresy at the Council of Constance and burned at the stake.

He was an enthusiastic readers of the philosophical writings of John Wycliffe, and was particularly impressed by Wycliffe’s proposals for reform of the Roman Catholic clergy.

To demonstrate to illiterate citizens, the excessive wealth of church leaders, two English artists drew two pictures.

One represented the entrance of Christ into Jerusalem, meek and sitting on an ass (Matthew 21:5) and follwoed by his disciples in travel worn garments with naked feet.

The second picture depicted the Pope arrayed in his rich robes and triple crown mounted on a horse magnificently adorned, preceded by trumpeteers and follwed by cardinals in dazzling array.

The contrast between the meekness and humility of Christ and the pride and arrogance of the Popes retinue, was inescapable by even the lowest members of society.

The clerical estate owned about one-half of all the land in Bohemia, and the great wealth and simoniacal practices of the higher clergy aroused jealousy and resentment among the poor priests. The Bohemian peasantry, too, resented the church as one of the heaviest land taxers. There was thus a large potential base of support for any church reform movement at a time when the authority of the papacy itself was discredited by the Western Schism.

The Bethlehem Chapel in Prague, where public sermons were preached in Czech (rather than in Latin)

In 1403 a German university master, Johann Hübner, drew up a list of 45 articles, presumably selected from Wycliffe’s writings, and had them condemned as heretical. The principal charge against Wycliffe’s teaching was his tenet of remanence—i.e., that the bread and wine in the Eucharist retain their material substance. Wycliffe also declared the Scriptures to be the sole source of Christian doctrine.

Since 1378 the Roman Catholic Church had been split by the Western Schism, during which the papal jurisdiction was divided between two popes. As the leader of reform, Hus unhesitatingly quarreled with Archbishop Zbyněk when the latter opposed the Council of Pisa (1409), which was called to dethrone the rival popes and to reform the church. The Council of Pisa deposed both Pope Gregory XII, whose authority was recognized in Bohemia, and the antipope Benedict XIII and in their place elected Alexander V. The deposed popes, however, retained jurisdiction over portions of western Europe; thus, instead of two, there were now three popes.

Hus’s heresy, was a dispute over the sale of indulgences issued by the antipope John XXIII, to finance his campaign against Gregory XII. Their sale in Bohemia aroused general indignation. Hus was assured of safe-conduct for the journey to Constance but was arrested and placed in close confinement, from which he never emerged. Hus’s enemies succeeded in having him tried before the Council of Constance as a Wycliffite heretic. All that the earnest intervention by the Bohemian nobles could obtain for him was three public hearings, at which he was allowed to defend himself and succeeded in refuting some of the charges against him. The council urged Hus to recant in order to save his life, but to the majority of its members he was a dangerous heretic fit only for death. When he refused to recant, he was solemnly sentenced on July 6, 1415, and burned at the stake.

At Constance he refused to submit to the council’s demand that he disavow Wycliffe entirely, and he undoubtedly did support the doctrine of predestination and advocate the supremacy of biblical authority over that of the Catholic church.

Abridged from Matthew Spinka František M. Bartoš - Britannia

Girolamo Savonarola 1452 - 1498 #

Perhaps the most controversial figure of the early European reformers. The dominant view is that he was a fanatical unhinged Friar prophesising end times. In context of his times, the disobliging view is one of an advocate for righteousness.

Savonarola was a complex and conflicted fiery Florentine Friar who preached against art as a contributing factor to the spread of vice and spiritual decay – particularly overt same sex activity prevalent in Enrique’s court in Sergovia. His prophetic fire and brimstone preaching exhorted the masses to reject the secular materialism and corruption of Rodrigo Borgia’s Papacy. He was known for the destruction of secular art and culture, and his calls for Christian renewal. He denounced clerical corruption, despotic rule and the exploitation of the poor.

His attacks on the openly dissolute Papacy of Alexander VI found many adherents throughout Europe, including Queen Isabella from 1492. They were similar to concerns expressed by John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, Jerome and later Martin Luther.

The Pope tried to appease him by offering to make him a Cardinal, which he rejected.

With the death of Lorenzo de’Medici in 1496, Florence was hit by drought and starvation, which Savonarola attributed to the sybaritic ways of the Church. He instituted the Bonfires of the Vanities, where all would bring and burn all objects that represented human vices and luxuries – rich clothing, mirrors, playing cards, paintings and books – representing the sensuality of the Italian Renaissance.

Pope Alexander initially ignored him, then ex-communicated him but finally called on the Church: “this little worm had to be put to death”. He was charged with the serious crime of Heresy.

Despite Savonarola’s appeals to various crowns of Europe to convene a council to overthrow an openly corrupt Papacy, it was Savonarola who faced an Inquisition, He was tortured, confessed that ”his sermons were acts of pride for personal glory” and having given the Church what it needed, was hanged and his body burned.

Even his supporters abandoned him as Florentines threw gun powder on the fire to make the blaze hotter. Dissenters seldom prosper.

Chaucer and Savonarola, as with all movements, like the Reformation, werea motivated and sustained by strong passions about powerful ideas about reform and emotional attachment to figureheads.

We end on a note of faint hope:

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”Theodore Parker – 1810

Martin Luther #

Luther, a fully trained Priest, was not out to start a new religion, rather reform his church. He objected to the venal fetishes (simony, indulgences, relics) of the Church. His main tenant was that man can justifiably seek his own communion with God through faith and did not need the influence of priests.

Luther won his arguments with the masses because he addressed them in the vernacular while the Church maintained the false gravity of Latin. Priests who gave sermons in colloquial languages rather than Latin, appealed openly to the emotions of their hearers.

One of the reasons Martin Luther rejected mandatory celibacy was because he saw widespread evidence that church clerics of all ranks commonly violated the rules with women, other men, and young boys.

On his first visit to Rome he was astounded by the wealth, magnificence and luxury he witnessed. The monks dwelt in splendid apartments, attired themselves in the richest and most costly robes and feasted at sumptuous tables – in contrast to their vows of poverty. Visiting the churches he was astonished and horrified by the iniquity he witnessed among all classes of the clergy. He heard indecent jokes from the prelates, and was filled with horror at their awful profanity, even during mass. As he mingled with the monks and citizens he met dissipation and debauchery. No one can imagine what sins and infamous transgressions are committed in Rome. If there is a hell, Rome is built over it: it is an abyss whence issues every king of sin.

Friar Martin focused his ire (and most of the ninety-five theses) on one particular practice of the institutional church: the sale of indulgences. These papal dispensations, confirmed by paper certificates, grew out of a traditional medieval conviction that prayer, repentance, good works, and pilgrimage could atone in some measure for sin.

Giving alms or endowing a church could also earn remission from sins, reducing the amount of time a person would need to spend after death in the uncomfortable realm of Purgatory, where, in late medieval Christian belief, human souls were gradually cleansed of their iniquities until they were pure enough to enter the Earthly Paradise, there to await final admission to Heaven on Judgment Day. By the late fifteenth century, however, remission from sins could simply be purchased from a papal agent, for oneself or for another person, whether alive or deceased.

The sale of indulgences had already been an industry one hundred years earlier in Chaucer’s times.

William Tyndale #

William Tyndale, whose English translation of the Bible in 1526 was the first to take advantage of the printing press, was tried on a charge of heresy in 1536 and was condemned to be burned to death for his efforts:

Cardinal Newman #

Ordained as an Anglican priest in 1825, Newman, sought to address the liberal tendencies in the Church of England, emphasizing the church’s apostolic roots and arguing for its catholic nature.

The British prime minister, the Duke of Wellington, and Sir Robert Peel carried the Emancipation Act of 1829, admitting Irish and English Roman Catholics to Parliament and by 1831, public offices in the colonies.

In 1845, Newman converted to Roman Catholicism. Two years later, he was ordained a Catholic priest in Rome, and in 1879, , Pope Leo XIII elevated Newman to the rank of cardinal.

In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI beatified him; in 2019, when Pope Francis declared him a saint.

Gerard Manly Hopkins #

Hopkins converteed into the Roman Catholic Church in 1866), because he believes it was a conviction which had come upon him suddenly to be “the only consistent position” He attributes his new found certainty to “(i) simple and strictly drawn arguments […] (ii) common sense (iii) reading the Bible.” He became a Catholic “because two and two makes four.”

His terrible sonnets could be a symptom of changing religions.

Lord Acton #

John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, 1st Baron Acton, English historian and moralist BY A. Walter James

Some have described him as a conservative Catholic even though he championed liberalism.

Perhaps he was a progressive conservative.

Acton was a stern critic of nationalism; his liberalism was rooted in Christianity.

“I fully admit that political Rights proceed directly from religious duties, and hold this to be the true basis of Liberalism.”

For him, conscience was the fount of freedom, and its claims were superior to those of the state. “The nation is responsible to Heaven for the acts of the State.” If democracy could not restrain itself, liberty would be lost.

The test of a country’s freedom was the amount of security enjoyed by minorities. For Acton, in his judgment of politics as of history, morality was fundamental. He was the great modern philosopher of resistance to the evil state. Civilized, cosmopolitan, rich, learned, and widely connected, he is remembered as much for his few historical writings as for his prescient concern with the problems of political morality.

Lord Acton had papal infallibility in mind when writing to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887.

“I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility.

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority.

There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it.”