Saints abound in San Miguel de Allende! On buildings, street signs, daily greetings and villages around town but what, exactly, is a saint?
A saint is a person who is recognized as having an exceptional degree of holiness or closeness to God. Technically a saint is anyone in Heaven, whether recognized or not. The title “Saint” denotes a person who has been officially declared a saint by the Church, called canonization.
The Catholic Church’s perspective is that it does not create saints, but rather recognizes them.
A saint may be designated as a patron saint of a particular cause, profession, locale, or invoked as a protector against specific illnesses or disasters, sometimes by popular custom and sometimes by official declarations of the Church. For example St. Jude is the patron of loss causes and why the Memphis hospital focused on terminally ill children is named for him as they are lost causes.
Once a person has been canonized, or declared an official saint by the Church, the deceased body of the saint is considered holy as a relic. The relics of saints are usually placed in churches to be venerated like a painting or statue. Relics were big business back in medieval times as like photography does now, they provided a way for the faithful to relate to the holy.
The relics of St. Columbanus reside in the chapel of Mary’s home in the Oratorio in a life sized wax image of the man lying across the altar.
Some of the saints have a special symbol by tradition making them easier to recognize. For example St. Lucy always holds a pair eyeballs on a plate reminding the viewer her abilities to improve your vision or St. Peter holding the keys to Heaven, deciding who gets in.
The Church has canonized over 10,000 saints. But we know that the number of saints in Heaven is far more. All saints – those known and those unknown to us – are celebrated on All Saints Day on November 1st when dead children, being saints, can come back and visit for Day of the Dead.
The day a saint is celebrated is their feast day. The Catholic Church assigns one date out of the year for each and every canonized saint though there can be several on a single day to accommodate. As a kid I assumed it was called feast day because you got to pick your favorite meal for dinner. Here it is called your “Dia de santo”. Frequently a baby is named for a saint celebrated on their birth day.
St. Joseph is considered the most powerful saint, having been Jesus’s foster father, so he gets two feast days. The main one is March 19th then another on May 1st for St. Joseph the Worker, what most countries now celebrate as Labor Day. As the patron of the conquest and conversion of Mexico his name is the most commonly used in town, including assigned to most baby boys though they may go by their middle name to make roll call easier.
Plus, always remember, saints are simply sinners that just kept going in an effort to get life right!
by Joseph Toone
- TripAdvisor’s top tour guide in San Miguel de Allende with History and Culture Walking Tours and Joseph Toone Tours.
- Amazon’s best selling author of the San Miguel de Allende’s Secrets book series on making your adventures around town unique.
- Creator of the Maria Dolls coloring book helping indigenous doll makers.