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The term later came to be applied to "elite" Christians whose lives were distinguished and exemplary because of their self-sacrifice, witness, virtue, or accomplishments. Special recognition was given to the martyrs of the early church. A feast of All Martyrs dates from at least the third century. The saints were the heroes of the church. The identification of saints as exceptional Christians has been associated with the legalization of Christianity and the growth of the church to include members who were not fervently committed to Christian faith. The celebration of All Saints' Day in the west dates from at least the ninth century. In the western church, the requirement for papal approval for canonization of a saint dates from the twelfth century. An elaborate and complicated process for canonization developed in the Roman Catholic Church. A multiplication of saints' days followed the establishment of Christianity in the Roman world. This may reflect a need to provide a Christian alternative to days of celebration for pagan gods and heroes. The saints came to be seen as protectors and intercessors rather than witnesses for the Christian faith. Saints' days proliferated in the western church during the middle ages. Churches and institutions were named for saints. Many faithful people made pilgrimages to shrines of saints, such as the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury. 

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.
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1/22/2012  - 1/27/2012    - Camp McDowell, AL

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