As I frequently discuss on this site, Catholicism is a popular inspiration for religions in fiction due to how interesting it is aesthetically. From the music to the vestments to the architecture the inspiration is everywhere. But not only are the aesthetics cool, but the words and terminology are cool as well. In particular, the title “saint” shows up frequently in fictional religions. So today I’m going to discuss what a saint is in games as well as in Catholicism.
In most games, the term “saint” refers to some major figure, typically associated with the game’s religion. Often these will be figures in the game’s backstory, although occasionally they show up in the present as leaders. Here are a few examples. In Fire Emblem: Three Houses you have the saints Seiros, Cethleann, Cichol, Indech and Macuil, all of whom fought the evil Nemesis 1000 years ago and are heroes to the Church of Seiros of the present.
In Final Fantasy Tactics, you have the saint Ajora- a prophet whose followers founded the Church of Galbados after he was executed by the dominant religion of the time (although in true Final Fantasy Tactics fashion, there is much more to that story). As I mentioned in a previous post, Ys 9 has the saint Rosvita- a common girl who managed to fight off an invading army (in her case the title seems to come more from the fact that she is based on Saint Joan of Arc rather than association with the religion in the game). However, in other games the term saint is just a title for some cool person rather than having any association with religion. For example, in Final Fantasy 14, there is a group of scholars who give the title saint to anyone who did something amazingly well in their lives. Some are still combat oriented such as the saint Finnea who managed to fight off an invading dragon hoard, but others are from skills in pretty random fields. For example, the saint Coinach actually left his religion to become an archaeologist after interpreting some scripture, spent his whole life looking for an ancient civilization and found it right before he died. You even have the saint Adama Landama who was just known for being a good and fair merchant.
So as you can see, the term saint can really refer to all kinds of things in games, religious or otherwise. Now that we’ve seen some fictional examples, let’s discuss what a saint is in Catholicism.
At the end of the day, a saint is anyone in Heaven. Whether recognized on Earth or not, if someone is in Heaven they are a saint. This is why All Saint’s Day (November 1) exists, to celebrate all the saints, known and unknown alike. That being said, when most people refer to the term “saint” they are thinking of canonized saints. A canonized saint is someone that the Catholic Church is extremely confident is in Heaven and that lived a life of heroic virtue worth emulating. For a well known example, you have Saint Francis of Assisi who radically tried to emulate the Gospels. In more modern times, you have Saint Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) caring for the dying in India or Pope Saint John Paul the Great who led the church for the last part of the turbulent 20th century. Saints are typically patron saints of certain things and people are told they are a particularly good intercessor for those topics (for a well known example, people ask for Saint Anthony’s intercession to help find lost items). In the distant past people were canonized simply by popular declaration, but over time the process has been formalized. First, a bishop can open the cause for someone in their diocese after their death and begin an investigation of their life, giving the person the title “Servant of God” in the process. If good evidence is found of heroic virtue, it is sent to Rome where the pope can then declare the person “Venerable.” At this point, people are encouraged to pray for the person’s intercession for a miracle. After one confirmed miracle someone is beatified and called “Blessed” and after two they can be canonized and declared “Saint.” There are two additional things to note. First, that the miracles are thoroughly investigated by scientists and thus only count if no one can come up with a good alternative explanation for what happened. Second, martyrs typically don’t require as many miracles since dying for the faith is both obviously heroic virtue as well as a one way ticket to Heaven. To see this process in action, you can check out Blessed Michael J. McGivney who was recently beatified after a boy was miraculously cured at his intercession. In conclusion, a saint is anyone in Heaven and a canonized saint is someone the church is confident is in Heaven that lived a life of heroic virtue.
So there is a discussion on saints in games as well as saints in Catholicism. As someone with an interest in history, I enjoy reading about the saints. Simply reading about the lives of saints can give you a good feel for what was going on in the church during their times. On top of that, many saints lived interesting lives that make great stories (check out the story of one of my favorite saints, Saint Maximilian Kolbe for a good example there). So if you haven’t before, pick out a few and look into their stories yourself.
Song of the Post-
Garreg Mach Cathedral
Fire Emblem: Three Houses