I'm reading a book now that touches on some of the history of what makes a saint....
At first, "saint" was a term Christians used to refer to each other, but especially to those who knew the earthly Jesus. Peter, Paul, James and John were especially considered saints.
It quickly became a reference to those who were martyred for their faith--Stephen, Paul, Peter. Those who followed the "way" of the cross to martyrdom.
But at first, there was a sort of unity between church authorities (Peter, Paul) and those called "saint." The same way that there was a unity of prophet, holy man and leader in Moses.
Later, especially as Christianity spread (and was eventually no longer as persecuted), hermits were considered saints because they took up a cross of self-denial and world-denial in the name of holiness. Not martyrdom, but a death-to-self.
Still no official process for discerning who was a saint--it was more by popular acclaim and recognition of holiness, humility, charity, prayerfulness, self- and world-denial, etc.
But as hermits were considered saints, there opened a bit of a gap: Those in authority were not automatically considered saints, as the Apostles were. The hermits were outside the authority structure, just as later prophets after Moses were not kings, but outside the religious and political authority structure.
This continued with figures like Francis and Theresa, Catherine of Siena and many others: monks, nuns, etc. With figures like Francis, you have not a hermit so much as both a mystic and a servant of the poor--unlike some mystics, he didn't withdraw from the world like a hermit, although he had his own creative and thorough means of self-denial.
Under that dual (at least) mystic-servant umbrella, there are other mystic-saints, and also other saints who were considered servants of the poor.
And still, a number of popes and bishops are considered saints: Nicolas of Mira (on whom some of the Santa Claus stuff is based) was a bishop, as was Martin of Tours, and others. Pope St. Gregory the Great, and others.
Jerome was both a hermit and a scholar-translator. There is a long tradition of scholar-saints, like Thomas Aquinas and Augustine (also a bishop).
Eventually, after more than a thousand years, they decided there should be an official process. Sometimes it seemed that popular acclamation of a saint elevated people of questionable virtue to sainthood. Having a process with checks and balances, and the official stamp of authority, seemed wise. It was a sort of innovation at first, but one we assume in faith was in harmony with the orginal seed of faith.
The process requires miracles and proofs, and there's a "devil's advocate" (so-called) - or used to be - who looks with care and some skepticism on any claims that might be over-blown, and tries to ensure that the person up for sainthood is actually worthy of the official title. And there are steps along the way. You don't go from nobody to saint in a day. You have to get promoted, sort of, in a step-by-step process.
When one reads through the lives of the saints, one is often struck by the diversity, although the church has favored priests and celebates who belong to religious orders far more than married folks. There are a some exceptions. Two examples: Thomas More, and a 20th century European woman who refused an abortion in spite of the fact that doctors told her a pregnancy would threaten her life--and she died either giving birth or shortly thereafter.
There were other saints who were once married, but separated and got themselves into monestaries and convents before becoming saints. Not exactly the type of role model for those who believe strongly in the sacrament of marriage, but there's a saint for everyone, or just about, we hope.
We still use the term "saint" in the more informal sense: We call saintly people "saints" although it's not official. And all the baptised are considered saints in terms of our calling. Baptism is a very optimistic thing in that way. There is hope for us all, for nothing is impossible with God.Linkback: https://tubagbohol.mikeligalig.com/index.php?topic=17725.0