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There are over 10,000 named saints and beati from history, the Roman Martyology and Orthodox sources, but no definitive "head count".

Canonization, the process the Church uses to name a saint, has only been used since the tenth century.

Patron saints are often chosen today because an interest, talent, or event in their lives overlaps with the special area.

For example, Francis of Assisi loved nature and so he is patron of ecologists.

The process begins after the death of a Catholic whom people regard as holy.

Often, the process starts many years after death in order give perspective on the candidate.

Patron saints are chosen as special protectors or guardians over areas of life.

Though this was a more democratic way to recognize saints, some saints' stories were distorted by legend and some never existed.

Gradually, the bishops and finally the Vatican took over authority for approving saints.

In 1983, Pope John Paul II made sweeping changes in the canonization procedure.

Look at the pictures of your loved ones in your wallet or around your home or office. You might answer that you carry those pictures to remind you of people you love, to help you feel that they're close to you when you're not together, or to share with people you meet. Those are some of the same reasons we have statues and pictures of saints.

Seeing a statue of Saint Therese of Lisieux who lost her mother when she was a child might make us feel less alone when we are grieving.

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