A Saint is an individual of exceptional holiness. The term originates within Christianity as one which has various definitions varying by denomination. The word itself means “holy” and is derived from the Latin sanctus which was the word used in translating hagios (άγιος meaning “holy” or “holy one”) in early Greek Christian literature and in the New Testament, where it is used to describe the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. This page is for quotes referring generally to saints and concepts of sainthood.
- Alphabetized by author
- Some say this world of trouble
Is the only one we need
But I’m waiting for that morning
When the new world is revealed.
Oh when the saints go marching in,
When the saints go marching in,
Oh lord I want to be in that number,
When the saints go marching in!
- A saint, whether Buddhist or Christian, who knows his business as a saint is rightly meditative and in proportion to the rightness of his meditation is the depth of his peace. We have it on an authority which Mr. Chesterton is bound to respect that the kingdom of heaven is within us. … Failing like many others to discriminate between romanticism and religion, Mr. Chesterton has managed to misrepresent both Buddhism and Christianity. The truth is, that though Christianity from the start was more emotional in its temper than Buddhism, and though an element of nostalgia entered into it from an early period, it is at one in its final emphasis with the older religion. In both faiths the emphasis is on the peace that passeth understanding.
- In general, just as painters in working from models constantly gaze at their exemplar and thus strive to transfer the expression of the original to their own artistry, so too he who is anxious to make himself perfect in all the kinds of virtue must gaze upon the lives of the saints as upon statues, so to speak, that move and act, and must make their excellence his own by imitation.
- Basil of Caesarea vol. 1, p. 17, Letters as translated by R. Deferrari (1926)
- We are not saints, but we have kept our appointment. How many people can boast as much?
- As the days went slowly by he came to see that Christianity and the denial of Christianity after all met as much as any other extremes do; it was a fight about names — not about things; practically the Church of Rome, the Church of England, and the freethinker have the same ideal standard and meet in the gentleman; for he is the most perfect saint who is the most perfect gentleman. Then he saw also that it matters little what profession, whether of religion or irreligion, a man may make, provided only he follows it out with charitable inconsistency, and without insisting on it to the bitter end. It is in the uncompromisingness with which dogma is held and not in the dogma or want of dogma that the danger lies.
- When I feed the hungry, they call me a saint. When I ask why people are hungry, they call me a Communist.
- Dom Helder Camara, Brazilian archbishop, as quoted in Peace Behind Bars : A Peacemaking Priest's Journal from Jail (1995) by John Dear, p. 65; this is a translation of "Quando dou comida aos pobres chamam-me de santo. Quando pergunto por que eles são pobres chamam-me de comunista."
- Variant translations:
- When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why are they poor, they call me a Communist.
- When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist.
- No two ideals could be more opposite than a Christian saint in a Gothic cathedral and a Buddhist saint in a Chinese temple. The opposition exists at every point; but perhaps the shortest statement of it is that the Buddhist saint always has his eyes shut, while the Christian saint always has them very wide open. The Buddhist saint has a sleek and harmonious body, but his eyes are heavy and sealed with sleep. The mediaeval saint's body is wasted to its crazy bones, but his eyes are frightfully alive. There cannot be any real community of spirit between forces that produced symbols so different as that. Granted that both images are extravagances, are perversions of the pure creed, it must be a real divergence which could produce such opposite extravagances. The Buddhist is looking with a peculiar intentness inwards. The Christian is staring with a frantic intentness outwards. If we follow that clue steadily we shall find some interesting things.
- G. K. Chesterton, in Orthodoxy (1908)
- What is a saint? A saint is someone who has achieved a remote human possibility. It is impossible to say what that possibility is. I think it has something to do with the energy of love. Contact with this energy results in the exercise of a kind of balance in the chaos of existence. A saint does not dissolve the chaos; if he did the world would have changed long ago. I do not think that a saint dissolves the chaos even for himself, for there is something arrogant and warlike in the notion of a man setting the universe in order. It is a kind of balance that is his glory. He rides the drifts like an escaped ski. His course is the caress of the hill. His track is a drawing of the snow in a moment of its particular arrangement with wind and rock. Something in him so loves the world that he gives himself to the laws of gravity and chance. Far from flying with the angels, he traces with the fidelity of a seismograph needle the state of the solid bloody landscape. His house is dangerous and finite, but he is at home in the world. He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love.
- They say that the world rests on the backs of 36 living saints — 36 unselfish men and women. Because of them the world continues to exist. They are the secret kings and queens of this world.
- We must shed the old stereotype of anarchists as bearded bomb throwers furtively stalking about city streets at night. Kropotkin was a genial man, almost saintly according to some, who promoted a vision of small communities setting their own standards by consensus for the benefit of all, thereby eliminating the need for most functions of a central government.
- Let us never forget that if we wish to die like the Saints we must live like them. Let us force ourselves to imitate their virtues, in particular humility and charity.
- Saint Theodore Guerin (Saint Mother Theodore), Letter to Sisters at Saint Mary's (1848)
- It makes a tremendous emotional and practical difference to one whether one accepts the universe in the drab discolored way of stoic resignation to necessity, or with the passionate happiness of Christian saints.
- William James, in The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature (1902), Lecture II, "Circumscription of the Topic"
- Both thought and feeling are determinants of conduct, and the same conduct may be determined either by feeling or by thought. When we survey the whole field of religion, we find a great variety in the thoughts that have prevailed there; but the feelings on the one hand and the conduct on the other are almost always the same, for Stoic, Christian, and Buddhist saints are practically indistinguishable in their lives. The theories which Religion generates, being thus variable, are secondary; and if you wish to grasp her essence, you must look to the feelings and the conduct as being the more constant elements. It is between these two elements that the short circuit exists on which she carries on her principal business, while the ideas and symbols and other institutions form loop-lines which may be perfections and improvements, and may even some day all be united into one harmonious system, but which are not to be regarded as organs with an indispensable function, necessary at all times for religious life to go on. This seems to me the first conclusion which we are entitled to draw from the phenomena we have passed in review.
- William James, in The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature (1902), Lecture XX, "Conclusions"
- Accurate reading on a wide range of subjects makes the scholar; careful selection of the better makes the saint.
- The more honesty a man has, the less he affects the air of a saint.
- Johann Kaspar Lavater, as quoted in Many Thoughts of Many Minds (1862) edited by Henry Southgate, p. 290
- I recalled the myth that I had once heard as a university student — thirty-six hidden saints in the world, all of them doing the work of humble men, carpenters, cobblers, shepherds. They bore the sorrows of the earth and they had a line of communication with God, all except one, the hidden saint, who was forgotten. The forgotten one was left to struggle on his own, with no line of communication to that which he so hugely needed. Corrigan had lost his line with God: he bore the sorrows on his own, the story of stories.
- We belong to the Society of Friends, a community of love, a family of persons. In so far as we are not just another “denomination,” we know also that the salvation of our age is in our keeping; that is, that it lies in the divine-human society which is "rooted and grounded in love." This is the unity which alone can make one world out of "one world", and not one nightmare, one hell, one burned-out cinder. We know also and in a way we respond to the fact that we have a mission, we are "called to be saints".
- A. J. Muste, in Saints for This Age (1962)
- In my opinion, he's a saint. If I had to deal with that level of fan dickishness, I would have already lost my shit in some spectacular way. There would be a video of me on youtube, gone all berserk with nerd rage, holding someone up by the neck, shouting "I've got your sequel right here, bitch!"
- Socrates was the chief saint of the Stoics throughout their history; his attitude at the time of his trial, his refusal to escape, his calmness in the face of death, and his contention that the perpetrator of injustice injures himself more than his victim, all fitted in perfectly with Stoic teaching.
- Kierkegaard was by far the most profound thinker of the last century. Kierkegaard was a saint.
- Ludwig Wittgenstein, as quoted in "Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard on the ethico-religious" by Roe Fremstedal in Ideas in History Vol. 1 (2006)