A world full of gods. That was the interwoven reality in which Christianity of antiquity found itself. The Romans, the Greeks, the Druids, the Persians, the “Barbarians” they all had their respective pantheons. Gods of these pantheons ran the gamut from the mundane house hold variety to the specialty gods of the sacred cults of the oracles. The evolution, export and spread of early Christianity was to be dictated by these parameters. Making a switch to monotheism was going to prove to be a hard sell.
It has been documented that without the clout and persuasion of an aristocratic class among the Roman subjects who had converted to Christianity, the movement might not have succeeded in it's nascent form. These vested noblemen were also outstanding marketeers. They grasped that a synergistic and gradual shift to monotheism would be much easier than a drastic 1-80. Moreover, the Romans were steeped in ancestor worship and had a culture anchor in reliving tales of history. The abandonment of hundreds of years venerating many gods was not a concept in their collective wheelhouse.
So, the Christians of early antiquity kept the many gods but slowly altered their intrinsic meaning. The Saints were not gods but rather a group of more pious Christians than the rest of the believers. They were to become middlemen, sin brokers, and divine mediators. What was the rational? Why employ a Saint as a go between? To answer that we draw on the comparison with polytheism's many gods concept and their significance with the mundane; Jesus, the Ghost and God are just too damn busy. Don't bother the Godhead if you can use a Saint. It's akin to using a 1st line call center-customer service-help desk instead of getting patched through to the Chief Technical Officer.
Potential Catholic saints were scrutinized on the merits of their wonders before their canonization as a bona fide Saint. If the Pontiff is swayed by the empirically fuzzy proof then the dead person enters an undefined period of beatification. The beatification marks a cooling off period whereby more “proofs” of exceptional earthly divinity are gathered and filed away. Once enough evidence has been amassed the reigning Pope can cast off the beatification and officially canonize the Saint “in waiting”.
Catholic saints are believed to fly about, to have stigmata's, heal the infirm and occasionally imbue their clothing with mystical holy powers. Their place of birth and/or death are transformed by the believers into shrines of devotion. These shrines are the locale where yearly pilgrimages terminate and relics are bought and placed to insure the sanctity of the pilgrim and the shrine. Some are the patron of lost items or travelers or children or good health. The List of 5 Saints of the Strange has a few WTF's in store.
Era: Circa 331-387 A.D.
Patron Saint of: Alcoholics
Feast Day: August 27
Reason for patronage: Betrothed to a pagan man of her parents choosing. He proved to be philander and alcoholic until his conversion years later after copious amounts of dedicated prayer by St. Monica.
Fun Fact: Monica of Hippo was the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo.
St Isidore of Seville
Era: Circa 560-636
Patron Saint of: Internet
Feast Day: April 4
Reason for patronage: He was an astute learner and prolific author who published books grammar, astronomy, geography, history, and biography as well as theology. He has the acclaim of orchestrating the conversion the barbarian Visigoths.
Fun Fact: He was born into a saintly dynasty. His two brothers, Leander and Fulgentius, and one of his sisters, Florentina, are venerated saints in Spain.
Patron Saint of: Sexually Transmitted Disease and Hemorrhoids
Feast Day: September 1
Reason for patronage: Little is known about him prior to his trip and establishment of a hospice in France. He carried and yielded a large staff which he used to plow otherwise fallow ground. The same staff was used to poke and prod the infirm back to health at the hospice.
Fun Fact: He was an unabashed misogynist and refuse to aid woman and even forbid them from entering the hospice, hermitage and chapel.
Patron Saint of: Ice Skaters
Feast Day: April 14
Reason for patronage: At age 15 while ice skating, she fell and broke her ribs. From that day forward she became progressively more paralyzed. She acquired the divine talent of healing and was known to cure disease in and around her home town of Scheidam, the Netherlands.
Fun Fact: Documents purport that she shed skin, bones and her entrails all of which were kept by her parents in a vase. The vase supposedly emitted a sweet aroma.
St Guy of Anderlecht
Era: Circa 950 - 1012
Patron Saint of: Outhouses
Feast Day: September 12
Reason for patronage: An austere, pious and hardworking unlettered man he invested in maritime trade. The ship sank carrying the good. He saw this as a sign of his sinful avarice. He subsequently gave away his possessions and went on a penance pilgrimage first to Jerusalem then to Rome. Along the return journey to Anderlecht he died.
Fun Fact: He is also invoked as the patron saint against epilepsy, against rabies, and against mad dogs.