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Monday, January 10, 2011

St. Noah

Our readers are talking and saving me a lot of time! Asked:
While you on old testament people, how come they aren't referred to as Saints? I've never heard of St. Moses or Abraham but surely they're in heaven therefore Saints?

Is it just a convention that Saints come from Jesus lifetime forwards?

And answered:

Regarding Old Testament Saints, just as an example, 12/16 historically was the feast of Saints Ananias, Azarius and Mishael (Daniel's companions.) 12/24 was historically the feast of Saints Adam and Eve. 12/29 was historically the feast of St. David the King. Why don't they have days anymore?

I'm going to throw in my two cents. It is exactly two cents and it is entirely my own thought on the subject.

We know that the Church used to refer to some Old Testament folks as 'saints'.  To be clear, everyone who is dead and in Heaven is a saint.  That would include your Uncle Bert, if he's made it past Purgatory and into the Pearly Gates.

But we discourage you asking for the intercession of Uncle Bert, because we don't know for a fact that he did make it to Heaven. If a person has been canonized, however, we know for a fact that person is in Heaven. That's all we mean when we call someone a saint in the Catholic Church. The Church has proven that the soul is in Heaven, through heroic virtue and miracles.

Early on in the Church we did not have the canonization process.  Sainthood was more like the People's Choice Awards.  After a while we just had too many people who....well, some them didn't even exist. There was a person who, upon close inspection, turned out to be a dog.

Not a saint.

The Church is very old now.  New saints are marching into Heaven every hour and we have many, many people on the canonization waiting list. First they are deemed worthy of veneration, then they have one miracle attributed to them and are called "Blessed" and then many of them wait for decades, even centuries, to be canonized.  It doesn't mean they are not in Heaven.  It just means we don't know for a fact they are in Heaven.

And as we add saints to the calender, some other people get bumped off or rotated out.  Not out of Heaven.  Just off the calendar to make room so we get to meet everybody.

As for why we don't call Moses a saint, I do believe that is just the way our Tradition has developed. In particular because of the canonization process, we tend to think of people who are saints specifically as people who first and foremost were followers of Christ.  It doesn't mean Moses is not a saint. It just means we think of the people who carried the banner for Jesus as saints.

If you're new around here and you'd like to ask a question, just leave it in the comments section. Be sure and check back there from time to time, because sometimes our readers jump right in with your answer.

And their two cents.


Catherine Lucia said...

I once asked my parish priest this same question back in elementary school because I really wanted my Confirmation name to be Tziporah! He said something similar to what you said, Sister -- that we tend to think of saints, or that Saints with a capital S, are people who witnessed to Christ. which is hard to do if He hasn't been born yet. :)

I still love our Old Testament 'saints' and we can still learn from them. Celebrate them by imitation! (Well, not all of them...adultery, million wives, not so good.)

Anonymous said...

Sister Mary Martha, what does the Catholic Church say about holding hands during the Our Father during Mass? Recently someone told me that it is not allowed; can you verify this?
Thank you!

Lisa said...

According to the Catechism, if the bishop allows it, we can go ahead and hold hands, as long as we're respectful and reverent:

1369 The bishop of the place is always responsible for the Eucharist, even when a priest presides; the bishop's name is mentioned to signify his presidency over the particular Church, in the midst of his presbyterium and with the assistance of deacons. The community intercedes also for all ministers who, for it and with it, offer the Eucharistic sacrifice:

Let only that Eucharist be regarded as legitimate, which is celebrated under [the presidency of] the bishop or him to whom he has entrusted it.

1387 To prepare for worthy reception of this sacrament, the faithful should observe the fast required in their Church.220 Bodily demeanor (gestures, clothing) ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest.

JP said...

No one may add or take away from the Mass. The docs quoted here do not make an allowance for such things as hand-holding. If you read the General Instructions on the Roman Missal, it's not there either.


Now, hand holding during the Our Father is probably a small variation in liturgy and it will not invalidate the Mass, but once we start adding things of our own volition, where does it stop?

There are places in the Mass where a priest may 'ad lib' but they're clearly stated in the GIRM.

Because it is not in the liturgy, if a bishop allows hand-holding, this does not mean it is required. A priest does not have to request it, and parishioners do not have to do it.

Hand holding during the Our Father draws attention to ourselves rather than to The Father whom we address. There is another place where we may exchange the Sign of Peace, if we are invited to do so (again, not required, but this option IS in the liturgy).

Theresa said...

Hi Sr. Mary Martha:

Guess What? Moses IS once again called a saint! His feast day is Septmber 4. Many of the oldies were re-included in the 2004 edition of the Roman Martyrology (straight from the Vatican - written in Latin, translated by an 85-year-old Roman Catholic priest).

Here are a few more O.T. re-claimed saints:

Elisha - June 14
Lydia - May 20
Samuel - August 20
Joshua - September 1
King David - December 29

And, there are dozens more!

If you send me a physical address, I will send you a copy of "More Saints of the Bible" which includes all of the Biblical people who were re-added to the Roman Martyrology in 2004. (Butler's did their revisions right before 2004, so don't have these guys/gals yet).

Or, you can can find a quick list in the booklet found here:


Blessings, blessings to you!


p.s. Unfortuantley, Noah was not one of those re-added ... sad for me, becasue I have a son named Noah. But ... there is a Saint Noah on May 31 - he's one of the martyrs from Uganda.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sister Mary Martha,
What would happen if you did ask for the intercession of Uncle Bert and he didn't go up? Does the Lord allow another Saint to intercede or does your prayer fall to the ground (or worse)?
Thanks, Paullie

Christ is with us said...

I really love your blog it gives great answers to hard questions. These articles help me to answer a lot of questions to others about our faith. I just started a site like yours, I'm seventeen years old and really want to make a difference in our Catholic community. Thank you because people like you inspire me to be a better Catholic through knowledge. "Lordaboveus.blogspot.com"

sam said...

Thank you for answering my question!

Anonymous said...

Sister Mary Martha,
I stumbled upon your blog while I was doing some research, and all I can say is thank you! I have had some troubling times within the last few months, and your blog has given me hope and purpose again...and made me laugh! (Math class for me was alot like purgatory also!) I pray that only good things come your way and that you will continue to inspire us with your wisdom and witty humor!
God Bless You!

Anonymous said...

Please take down the dog picture. The IC XC inscription flanking the dog isn't just random squiggles -- it's the standard Greek iconographic abbreviation for "Jesus Christ". I know you intend no disrespect to our Lord by suggesting he's a dog, but that's what the picture implies.

Nan said...

Paulie, it isn't typical that we would ask for the intercession of someone unless we were pretty sure he lead a holy life. If you aren't sure, then pray for that person rather than asking him to intercede on your behalf. Prayers are never wasted and can release people from purgatory.

Note that Heaven was only opened when Jesus was crucified; when He descended to the dead, He went to bring the righteous who died before Him to heaven; in iconography He is depicted pulling Adam and Eve out of hell.