RS 340:  Saints and Holiness

The Changing Ideal of Sanctity in the Christian Tradition

Syllabus- Spring 2005

MW  2:30-4:15 pm

JE 366



Dr. Raymond A. Patterson


SE 225


ex. 2427

Office Hours:

Tues     1-2:30 pm

Wed     4:30-6 pm


Web Page:



Course Description


RS 340: Saints and Holiness will provide an historical overview of the Christian concept of sanctity from its New Testament origins to the present day. The ideal of holiness has taken many forms in the course of the Christian tradition, including martyrdom, monasticism, mysticism, pious living, and social activism. An examination of the “saints” from various periods of Christian history reveals the diverse ways that particular communities have understood and practiced essential elements of the Christian Gospel. Readings will concentrate on primary sources including Acts of the Martyrs, lives of the saints, treatises on Christian holiness, and accounts of modern Christian heroes. Each class will consist of background lecture and the discussion of texts, often led by students with short written assignments prepared for class.


Prerequisite:  a 100-level and 200-level Religious Studies course




During the semester the class will consider a variety of recurring themes associated with saints, including:

What are the sources for the Christian concept of holiness?

How does gender shape the concept of holiness?

What role does social and ecclesiastical status play in ideals of sainthood?
Are the saints presented as models for imitation or admiration?

What is the relationship between "canonization by acclaim" and the formal canonization process of the Roman Catholic Church?

What are the significance and role of the cult of relics?
What is the social and political significance of the saint for the keepers of the cult and how does that shape the way the saint is remembered as a patron?

What is the connection between the writings about the saint and the historical saint (are the writings about the saint history or theology)?



Required Texts:


Students should have access to a Bible. I’ll be using the New American Bible, but other translations are acceptable. The texts for the class, available at the bookstore, are:


Early Christian Lives. Carolinne White, trans. and ed. New York: Penguin Books, 1998.


St. Therese of Lisieux: Essential Writings. Mary Frohlich, ed.  Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2003.


Woodward, Kenneth. Making Saints. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.


Other readings will be made available on Reserve or on-line through the syllabus. Students should search the library catalog for the reserve readings, which are organized by the title of the articles listed under my name. Select the title to see the folder number of the article. Please do not mark the Reserve readings when taking notes.



Class Requirements:


Regular attendance is expected of all students. If a student is unable to attend class, he or she should notify the instructor. More than one absence without the instructor’s permission will negatively impact the final grade. Frequent absences will result in a failing grade.


Students should be on time for class. Arriving late or leaving during the class period is disruptive for the class and the instructor. Excessive tardiness will be reflected in a lower grade for class attendance. Please turn off cell phones during the class period.


All assignments should be handed in during class. I will consider an assignment completed when I receive a hard copy- you should not submit a paper as an E-mail attachment.



Students will be evaluated on the following course work:



Brief written assignments

(for leading class discussion)



Take-home Final Exam



Term Paper Project (approx. 12-15 pages)

(including Bibliography)



Class Participation



Academic Integrity


Students are expected to adhere to the Academic Integrity Policy established by St. Michael’s College and distributed to all students. Plagiarism of any kind will result in a failing grade and could result in dismissal from Saint Michael’s College.


Class Schedule


(The instructor reserves the right to change the schedule. Students will be notified in class of any changes. All changes will be reflected on the on-line syllabus)



January 17

Class Introduction

Cross-cultural Approaches to Sanctity
Nature and Sources of Christian Sanctity

January 19

Models of Holiness in the Hebrew Bible

New Testament Sanctity-I


The Holy Person in Comparative Perspective (T. Head)

Selections from Hebrew Bible

Selection from the Gospels


January 24

New Testament Sanctity-II


Sections from Acts, NT Epistles, Revelation

Woodward,  50-64


January 26

Pagan Virtue and the Search for Truth


Selections from Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Selections from Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho and Second Apology


Lucian of Samosata, Passing of Peregrinus


January 31

Martyrdom in the Early Church


Ehrman, 28-50
[Ignatius' Letter to the Romans, Marytyrdom of Polycarp,
The Letter of the Churches of Vienne and Lyons,
Acts of the Scillitan Martyrs]

"Texts" on Reserve- PAT FO 93


February 2



Martyrdom in the Early Church-II


Passion of Perpetua

"Texts" on Reserve- PAT FO 93


Diocletian: Edicts against Christians
Tertullian. To the Martyrs

 Martyrdom of Ignatius


February 7

Virginity in the Early Church


Jerome’s Life of Malchus, in Early Christian Lives (ECL ), 119-128

also in Early Christian Biographies on Reserve

Acts of Thecla, Ehrman, 278-284.
Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Macrina


Brown, "The Notion of Virginity in the Early Church" in Christian Spirituality: Origins to the Twelfth Century, 427-443.

 [REF BV4490 .C464 198]


February 9

Desert Asceticism-I


Athanasius’ Life of Antony, ECL 3-70.

(see also Life of Antony on Reserve)

Jerome's Life of Paul, ECL 73-84.

Both are also in Early Christian Biographies on Reserve




February 14

Desert Asceticism-II


Evagrius’ St. Simeon Stylites

Sayings of the Desert Fathers

Life of Mary of Egypt


Also of Interest:


Palladius: The Lausiac History


February 16

Patrons and Thaumaturges-I


Sulpicius Severus, Life of Martin, ECL, 131-159.

In Soldiers of Christ and Sulpicius Severus' Writings on Reserve



February 21


Winter Break

February 23

Patrons and Thaumaturges-II


Gregory the Great’s Life of Benedict, ECL, 163-204.

In Gregory the Great's Dialogues on Reserve.

Paulinus of Nola, Poem 27

Brown, “The Invisible Companion,” in Cult of the Saints, 50-68.


February 28

Two Irish Case-Studies:
 I. Saints and Pagan Ideals
II. Hagiography and Power:


Selections from Cogitosus’ Life of Brigit, Muirchu’s Life of Patrick,  and the Life of St. Declan of Ardmore.

Paper #1 Due

March 2

Royal Saints and Crusaders


Selections from Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People Selections from the Song of Roland


March 7


Hagiography and the Canonization Process

Woodward, Making Saints, 64-86.


Claudius of Turin (9th cent), Apology: An Attack on Veneration of Relics.
Guibert of Nogent, (1053-1124): On the Relics of the Saints
(12th/13th century) Exempla Stories: Tales of Relics
Stephen de Bourbon: De Supersticione: On St Guinefort 


Francis' Canonization:

Gregory IX: Bull Mira Circa Nos, July 16, 1228
Thomas of Celano. Two Lives of St. Francis


March 9

Apostolic Life in the Medieval Ages


Female Sanctity


Abby Stoner, Sisters Between:Gender and the Medieval Beguines


Of Interest:


Chenu, “Monks, Canons, and Laymen in Search of the Apostolic Life,” 202-237.

Caroline Walker Bynum, “Women Mystics and Eucharistic Devotion in the Thirteenth Century,” 119-150.

Jo Ann McNamara, “The Need to Give: Suffering and Female Sanctity in the Middle Ages” in Images of Sainthood in Medieval Europe


March 14 & 16

Spring Break


March 21


The Golden Legend


Francis Frescoes


March 23

Late Medieval Hagiography


 Selections from Henry Suso, The Exemplar


March 28

Devotio Moderna and other lay movements

Kieckhefer, Unquiet Souls, 180-201.
Selections from Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471) Imitatio Christi
I:1-3, 12, 15-25, II:1-2, 8-12; III: 1-2, 13,18-19, 23,  56; IV:8-13

Martin Luther, Sermon on Christ's Holy Sufferings

March 30

Reformed Sanctity
Reformation Martyrs

Calvin, Institutes I.12, III.6-10

Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560). Augsburg Confession: Art. 21: Worship of Saints.
Synod of Dort (1619), Perseverance of Saints

Council of Trent,
On the Invocation, Veneration, and Relics, of Saints, and on Sacred Images


April 4

Puritans and Pietists


Readings  from the Martyr's Mirror [Felix Mantz and Michael Sattler] and John Foxe's  Book of Martyrs (1516-1587) [especially John Rogers and Archbishop Cramner]


Readings on Puritan Conversion Narratives and Jakob Spener's Pia Desideria


Also of Interest:


New England Primer,
New England Primer


April 6

American Protestant Sanctity:

Revivalism and Frontier Holiness


Jonathan Edwards, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections
John Wesley,
A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, esp 32-38


Also of Interest:

Why a Sanctoral Cycle? Or Are we ready for Methodist Hagiography

John Wesley and Sanctification


April 11

Roman Catholic Devotionalism-I

Spanish and French Spiritual movements- 16th-19th c.


Selections from Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part I: 2-4, 9-11; II: 1-2, 16-17;  III: 25-26; V:1-9


April 13

Roman Catholic Devotionalism-II


Selections from Therese of Lisieux 33-61, 88-106 (Intro, 13-61)


April 18


Therese of Lisieux


Selections from Therese of Lisieux 107-119, 124-136, 141-150, 157-168




April 20


Canonization in the Twentieth Century


Woodward, 15-49, 87-126, 191-279



April 25

Twentieth Century Sanctity-I:


 “American” and Immigrant saints


Term Paper Due


April 27

Twentieth Century Sanctity-II:


Visionaries and Intellectuals



 Woodward, 127-190


Selections from Bonhoffer


May 2


Twentieth Century Sanctity-III:
Social Justice

Popes as Saints


Woodward, 280-335

Selections about Dorothy Day


May 4


Twentieth Century Sanctity-IV:
John Paul II and the “Inculturated” Saint

Future of Sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church


Woodward, 336-406


May 9



Take-home Final Due