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June 12, 2008 6:53 PM   Subscribe

Who are the lowest regarded saints? Not just of the Catholic Church, but of all denominations that claim saints (Methodist, Anglican, Orthodox, etc.)?

I read that someone had seen a poster "Meet one of India's highest-regarded Indian living saints." It got me wondering, who is lowest-regarded of the saints? I know that's an aside to my question. But seriously, who among the Christian saints are the most low-regarded?
posted by parmanparman to Grab Bag (31 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
United Methodists regard anyone as a saint who has died a believer. On All Saints Sunday, it is common during communion, for the names of church members who have died since last year to be read, and then there is time for people in the congregation to share the names of anyone who has died who was the light of Christ to them.
posted by 4ster at 7:11 PM on June 12, 2008

Response by poster: Forget the Methodists then.
posted by parmanparman at 7:14 PM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

In the Catholic church, you can count 'oh, those saints over there', but St Philomena, who got bumped off the liturgical calendar in 1961 (forcing my dad's parish church and school to be renamed) must come pretty near the bottom. A bit like Leeds United, really.
posted by holgate at 7:22 PM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

It is my (rudimentary) understanding that there are not "lower" saints, but "lesser-known" saints; before canonization became formalized and codified, there were many, many venerated local saints
who are now no longer liturgically honored, but are prominent in historical records.
Good PR, as always, gets you far.
posted by Dizzy at 7:23 PM on June 12, 2008

The Latter-day Saints?

Joking aside, probably the ones that haven't been canonized. As far as I understand it, in any of those denominations canonization doesn't make a saint but rather recognizes the person's existing sainthood. So if someone was a saint, but hadn't even been beatified or whatever, I think that's about the least regard you can get.

Compare also the anonymous Thirty-Six Righteous of Judaism.
posted by eritain at 7:26 PM on June 12, 2008

There are over 10,000 Roman Catholic Saints. It will probably be difficult to sort out those that are the lowest regarded.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:36 PM on June 12, 2008

Plus, "saint" isn't really a Hindu term (I assume that the "living saint" referred to is Hindu). It's the sort-of English equivalent of anyone who has the prefix Sri before their name, or is called swami or mahatma. They are saintly or holy, but they haven't been canonized, as in the ceremony Roman Catholic Church. I'm not sure that there is really a parallel to be drawn between the description of a Hindu "living saint" and those of various Christian faiths; nor do I think that the term "highest regarded" used on an advertisment necessarily implies there is a discrete lower tier of "lowest regarded" holy people. There are definitely obscure Catholic Saints, but they can be considered extremely important to particular towns, churches, or sites of which they are assosciated; and the people who live, worship, or make a pilgrimage to those places.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:48 PM on June 12, 2008

I'm also not saying that holy Hindu people are of a somehow lesser quality than people who have been canonized, it's just a different way each religion has of deciding who is saintly and how saintly they are.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:50 PM on June 12, 2008

In the Catholic Church, at least, one is more likely to find "saints about whom we have become very, very skeptical" (the disappeared St. Philomela) than "lowest-regarded saints." (The Bollandists, who specialize in hagiography, have been responsible for catching saints who have been deliberately or accidentally invented.)
posted by thomas j wise at 7:51 PM on June 12, 2008

Juan Diego, of Mexico's Lady of Guadalupe, is pretty poorly regarded. His miracle was in 1531 and he wasn't made a saint until 2002, which says something right there. There was a period where many thought he didn't even exist and was a legend invented by the Spaniards in order to help convert the Mexican Indigenous peoples to Catholicism.
posted by smackfu at 8:21 PM on June 12, 2008

As stated previously, there aren't really rankings of saints in the Catholic church. There was, however a bit of a kerfluffle in the 60's when St. Christopher got his feast day yanked. That's never a good sign for a saint.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 8:33 PM on June 12, 2008

Juan Diego, of Mexico's Lady of Guadalupe, is pretty poorly regarded.

Not in Mexico, he isn't.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:28 PM on June 12, 2008

It's a good thing those Bollandists are on the job, recalling accidental saints from the head table. Because God is probably like, "Who let these jokers in here? Somebody do something!"
posted by Askr at 9:31 PM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

From the Catholic perspective:

Juan Diego, of Mexico's Lady of Guadalupe, is pretty poorly regarded.

The present and continued building of shrines throughout the Americas (as mr_roboto points out) definitely says otherwise. I would venture to say the most often depicted devotion to the Virgin Mary in Catholicism is Our Lady of Guadalupe, and if you look at the bottom of any print, that's Juan Diego with the wings holding her up.

I'm also not convinced our characterization of St. Philomena correctly answers the asker's question. From the Wikipedia text:
The Church's decision to drop Philomena from the calendar was a liturgical directive, not a denial of sainthood.
In other words, the calendar is just too full of saints to give everybody a day. Devotion to Philomena continues despite this decision. While there are certainly saints whose historical veracity has been and will continue to be put to question, its hard to say that someone who never existed can be poorly regarded by definition. Of those saints who actually existed, finding any one figure who is nearly universally given a lower ranking is by definition difficult, if not impossible - saintliness is itself a mark of greatness.

On a practical level, there are saints which are highly regarded by the whole Church because: a) they have been placed on the liturgical calendar as designation of their importance to the success of the church, b) their stories are well-known or c) both. Of this group, the Church makes designations such as "Doctor of the Church" for those who were of importance to the development of essential doctrine. These are people like Augustine, Aquinas, More, the apostles, Paul and a variety of others. In addition, saints can receive high regard because they are from a particular country / area (St Patrick is the most famous example). Finally, the patronage of a saint can make them often cited by Catholics (St Anthony for lost things, St Valentine of lovers, etc). You can find a list of these here. So, there are a few ways to become famous as a saint.
As previous answers mention, there's a ton of other saints, which because of the obscurity of their patronage will not become famous. Most Catholics will never know, for example, that the patron saints of pharmacists are Cosmas and Damian , because they will never need to persay. This says nothing about the unworthiness of Cosmas and Damian and everything about there are just a lot of saints.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:11 PM on June 12, 2008

I think the best example of this might be St. Christopher who, as the patron saint of travelers, remains quite popular. However, the Church has been a little embarrassed about him for quite a while.
posted by washburn at 10:26 PM on June 12, 2008

There is a sense in which the Catholic Church, at least, considers any soul who has gained admission to heaven a "saint" and also many good souls still living on Earth as part of the "Communion of Saints." Thusly, many receive no regard at all.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:45 PM on June 12, 2008

Dymphna, the patron saint of nervous and mental disease, gets pretty short shrift. Jude takes a lot of her business.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:57 PM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Here's a pretty solid index to the apocryphality of the saints. I assume real puts you in higher regard than made up.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:35 AM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ok, thanks to ikkyu2, I'm nominating Dymphna as one of the lowest regarded Saints, because:

1. I am from the place in Ireland mentioned in the linked Wikipedia entry
2. The local mental hospital there (on the grounds of which I did my teenage drinking, yet), is called St Damhnets (a variation on her name) and
3. I was a practising Catholic from the ages of 0 - 18, Mass every week *plus saint's days* and at least 1-2 hours of religious instruction per school week.

And I still didn't know anything about her. If they haven't heard of you in your hometown, you're pretty low ranking.
posted by tiny crocodile at 2:24 AM on June 13, 2008 [5 favorites]

Just to clarify (and summarize what a few people have already said) even though it's a bit off the point:

The Bible regards *all* Christian believers as saints (cross reference with many of the new testament letters, written to the churches but starting "XYZ to .... and all the saints" referring to all the Christians there)

The Catholic church may have strayed from this slightly with the notion of saints being a somewhat extra feature conferred by humans a bit like a knighthood.

So in terms of what the Bible says, all Christians are on a level plain and there are no "lesser" saints. Although the way the Catholic church has portrayed saints, I can see why people may believe that is the case
posted by gkhewitt at 2:32 AM on June 13, 2008

This guy.
posted by gjc at 5:14 AM on June 13, 2008

Not in Mexico, he isn't.

True, but he's been popular in Mexico for hundreds of years and he wasn't made a Saint, and that means someone in power really doesn't regard him highly.
posted by smackfu at 5:34 AM on June 13, 2008

l33tpolicywonk: St Valentine of lovers

One thing that can happen to lower and middling saints is that saint superstars, like Valentine, take over your portfolio. The patron saint of lovers is St. Dwynwen. Though MetaFilter has done its best to remind the world of her (supposed) existance. Oh, and I once wrote a sonnet where I used her as part of the imagery and it was called The Temptation of Saint Dwynwen.
posted by Kattullus at 5:46 AM on June 13, 2008

I'm not sure I'm clear on what exactly is being asked. Are we talking about apocryphal saints, obscure saints, or saints who might seem...unsavory (mass murdering St. Olga, for example)?
posted by Chrysostom at 6:11 AM on June 13, 2008

I love the idea of ranking saints. "This week, St. Dymphna zooms to position 333 on the charts, thanks to a new al Qaeda video!"

If you want some awesome saints, check out miss lynnster's Patron Saints of Graphic Design.
posted by lukemeister at 6:56 AM on June 13, 2008

Kattullus brings up another issue which I forgot: many patronages have multiple saints! In this case, Kat, I think that St Dwynwen has particular importance to the Welsh, making her part of my regional importance category.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 7:18 AM on June 13, 2008

If you want to talk about one of the more straight-up evil saints, St. Irene of the Greek Orthodox church is a candidate. Ick.
posted by Oxydude at 11:55 AM on June 13, 2008

Saint Guinefort? If I had to think of the lowest-regarded saint I could I would definitely have to go with Guinefort.

John Bellairs' satirical hagiography of St. Fidgeta - written just a couple of years after Philomena was taken off the liturgical calendar - has a pretty biting section on the entire Philomena phenomenon. His, er, research reveals the story of Saint Floradora, whose "strange story beings in a pile of rubble at Pompeii. In this formless jumble were found some lettered tiles which somehow seemed to magically arrange themselves into the name FLORADORA. The stunned archaeologists rushed to the local priests, who immediately proclaimed that a martyr's tomb had been found...."

Of course, St. Fidgeta herself ("quieter of the giggly/steadier of the wiggly"), were she really to exist, would also probably be pretty far down there.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 12:08 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Too bad Guinefort was never canonized? Are there equally accomplished kitty saints?
posted by lukemeister at 8:19 AM on June 14, 2008

um, "canonized". I'm not a valley girl, honest.
posted by lukemeister at 8:19 AM on June 14, 2008

This book looks promising.
posted by lukemeister at 3:28 PM on June 14, 2008

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