Made up aspects of our faith

While I understand the need to nourish our faith, there are some saints who were never real people, and there are heroic stories about martyrdom in the colluseum that were not true, doesn’t it somehow hurt our faith’s credibility?

Why do we still have legends and stories of people who never even existed?

You are talking about this like it’s obvious common knowledge, but I think the only myth here is the myth that some of the saints are made up people. Could you give an example of one? Because I think all of our saints were real people.

I am unaware of any “made-up” saints or martyrdoms. Examples?

Wasn’t there some issue about St Christopher a while back? Something to the effect that they couldn’t determine whether he actually existed or not…

As for heroic stories of martyrdom in the coliseum…I think the more important point is the overall fact that Christians did die there rather than renounce their faith.

Just some thoughts


Legends may have grown around certain saints and martyrs, but my understanding is that they were all based on real people and events. Just because the fog of time does not permit the kind of precise history we expect and demand these days, it is not sufficient reason to jettison those saints long venerated by the faithful. St. Christopher is a prime example (and a sore spot with me since my name is Christopher!).

In 1969, the Church removed Saint Christopher’s Feast Day (July 25), along those of with Saint Valentine and Saint Barbara, from the General Roman Calendar. Simply put, they removed his feast day from the overarching list of feast days and left the decision to celebrate to the local churches. Nothing prohibits a church to continue to celebrate Saint Christopher.
I drove commercially on our nations highways for 25 years. There was and still is a St.
Christopher medal on my key chain. He is still my patron. No accidents or traffic violations
the whole time.


There are martyrs of which we have their names only in the Martiriologium. Meaning that we have no other historical proof of them, except from the writings of Christians and the testimony of the Church. So there is no reason to believe these people didn’t exist. No offense, but are you somehow implying that the Church made them up!?
Not all people had the status of citizens, you know. The slaves, for example, were not looked upon as real people, but as domestic animals, so they weren’t necessarily noted somewhere. Even if they were this documents were not of great value, and were not kept for much time.
And the state did have an evidence of most of it’s population (if you remember the census called in the time Jesus was born), but your identity was tied to the paper that stated you are a roman citizen or not. So that too is easily misplaced or lost.
Don’t jump to rash conclusions every time you hear something new. Search the Truth, learn the Faith, pray for your salvation and that of others, like mine. :smiley:

Pax Christi!

At most, a handful of saints are questionable. Dymphna and Catherine of Alexandria.

St. Christopher was and is real. His feast-day was demoted but not abolished.

99.9+% are VERY real, even if some legends about them are allegorical lessons. St. George shows us not that dragons exist, but that evil can be beaten.

The saints are great allies. Love them!

God bless.

Yeah, he’s the only saint in history of the Church to be portrayed with his mother-in-law. :slight_smile:

You mean his mother-in-law was a dragon? Mine reminds me of that sometimes. Perhaps I should invest in a ceremonial sword or perhaps a light saber…

I was rather disillusioned some years back when I found out that my Confirmation saint probably never existed. New Advent uses some “weasel words” to describe her: “The accounts of her martyrdom which we possess belong to a late period and as usual contain many amplifications which have not, as Baronius has already observed, any historical value.” St. Martina’s bones were discovered in 1634, but nothing was really known about the person to whom those bones belonged.

From “…unfortunately many of the saints so named were based on legends, pagan mythology, or even other religions – for example, the story of the Buddha traveled west to Europe and he was “converted” into a Catholic saint! In 1969, the Church took a long look at all the saints on its calendar to see if there was historical evidence that that saint existed and lived a life of holiness. In taking that long look, the Church discovered that there was little proof that many “saints”, including some very popular ones, ever lived. Christopher was one of the names that was determined to have a basis mostly in legend. Therefore Christopher (and others) were dropped from the universal calendar.
Some saints were considered so legendary that their cult was completely repressed (including St. Ursula). Christopher’s cult was not suppressed but it is confined to local calendars (those for a diocese, country, or so forth).” (

These made-up stories about saints who may have never existed are, I think, like the Fioretti (Little Flowers) of St. Francis of Assisi. They are delightful stories that often point to a truth, but are not themselves true.

This fabrication of saints and events happened not just in the dim past; it still happens today. Mother Theresa hasn’t been dead all that long, yet there are many sayings attributed to her that she never said. Her Sisters have been fighting hard to preserve the real memory of her, not a fabricated one. (

D.Q. McInerny, PhD, Professor of Philosophy at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary, had an article published in a recent issue of the Fraternity Newsletter of the FSSP called “The Truth of Fiction.” In it he says, “The fictitious is not synonymous with untruth…” Good reading.

As for the made-up saints: We are human – we like stories. And if they inspire us to better lives, the stories have done their job. Though it would be helpful if they were properly labeled.

There is a good article here at Catholic Answers which discusses the issue:

I don’t think the thing about St. Ursula being outright suppressed is true–she’s still in the martyrology, Cologne’s church named for her is still allowed to be named for her and her relics are still allowed to be venerated.

Some local Saints were completely suppressed (these local cults were equivalent to who we now title “Blessed”), like a couple based on blood-libel myths (Simon of Trent, for example was removed from the martyrology).

Anyway, it is always a temptation to embellish with good intentions the lives of Saints, but we shouldn’t. Here’s what St. Peter Damien said of this practice, in his book on the life of St. Romuald:

[quote=St. Peter Damien]There are those who think they are honoring God when they make up lies about the saints whose virtues they are extolling. Unaware that God does not need their falsehoods such men abandon truth–in other words God Himself–on the mistaken grounds that they will please Him by their bogus fabrications.

The canonization of saints is an exercise of infallibility. How could someone who is exercising infallibility declare someone who never existed a saint?

Furthermore, if miracles are in fact required for sainthood and somehow those miracles took place, does that indicate someone else performed the miracle and we mistakenly attributed it to someone else? If thats the case, how do we know if anyone we declare a saint, is actually that person and how do we know theyre in Heaven? :shrug:

This is true, but the few actually suppressed were never canonized, but merely had permitted cults of often local scope. Likewise, the calendar choices were made not on the notion that the Saint didn’t exist, but that little was concretely known about them–they were replaced by those with more ascertainable histories (there’s only so much room on the calendar!).

But if that saint performed miracles after their death, we wouldnt need to know that much about them because the miracle proves not only their existence, but their saintliness as well. Were some saints’ required miracles possibly waived?

If I have questions about anything that the Church teaches. I don’t not mean any one bishop or priest, but a teaching of the Church, I keep this in mind :

  1. The Church is infallible.
  2. If it looks like there is an Error in something being taught by the Church see rule 1.

With that in mind if we look at the Saint the Church teaches that this person is in heaven. the Church does not teach that every story about that persons life is completely 100% fact. As for St Christopher with the passage of time what the Church has found is that the stories about him could by three different people is what I believe I read some where. And that they comprise the legends that are all attributed to the one St Christopher.

This is true–but if for calendar purposes one had to choose between two existing Saints who were both known in general to be saintly and both performed miracles after falling asleep in the Lord, but for one there are specific records of actual acts of heroic virtue and not for the other, I can see why the more known one would be chosen to be held up for emulation.

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