Many religious traditions honor people who are considered especially holy, and saints hold a special significance in the Catholic Church. From its earliest days the Church has venerated men and women recognized for their “heroic virtue” and their faithfulness to the Gospel challenges of their day. Moreover, one of Catholicism’s most distinctive beliefs — articulated in the doctrine of the “communion of saints” — is that in every age, in every century, and in every generation such individuals serve as mediating figures for those of us still striving toward sanctity — the goal to which all Christians are called.
The Catholic process for determining and officially naming of saints is complex, involving a deeply layered inquiry into the individual’s life, and requiring specific posthumous examples of the individual’s holiness. The bar is obviously high. Still, thousands have been officially recognized or “canonized” by the Church, continuing to the present day.