A series of studies conducted by University of Ottawa researchers and published in the journal PLOS ONE suggests that we should probably stop looking for an explanation for the decline of the saint.
The research, which examined a large number of historical and contemporary sources, found that while there was a general trend towards less saintliness in the early church, there was no general trend toward less saintly behavior.
Instead, the number of times people gave up trying to understand the mystery of Jesus rose.
While the findings do not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between saintliness and behavior, they suggest that more saints may have been around to help people figure out the mystery and more people were exposed to the faith in the first place.
The researchers also concluded that this was probably a function of the increased visibility of the Catholic Church and the spread of the faith among young people.
“While the increase in exposure to the Catholic faith did not increase the probability of becoming a Christian, the increase could have contributed to an increased number of saintly persons who could be perceived as ‘good Catholics’ and thus a ‘good reason to believe in the Catholic Faith,'” the researchers wrote.
“Thus, it is not clear that the rise of the church as a whole was a cause of the decrease of saintliness, but rather a consequence of the greater exposure to Catholic spirituality during the early years of the Church.”
The researchers said their findings also indicate that the church may have had a strong effect on the development of the belief in the truthfulness of the Christian faith.
“It is possible that the early Church and Catholic spirituality influenced the growth of belief in truthfulness,” they wrote.
As for why we are not looking for a causal relationship, the researchers said that while it was possible that “the decline of a particular religion or faith may result in an increase in a specific type of behavior, it would not be plausible that the same could happen for the phenomenon of saintiness in general.”
The study is the first to examine the relationship between the rise in the number and prominence of saints and the increase of the number with whom we interact.
They also said that the data does not necessarily show that we are seeing a causal connection between these two phenomena.
The data “suggest that the spread and visibility of religion could lead to an increase of people’s exposure to it,” the researchers concluded.
The paper was co-authored by a professor in the Department of History at the University of Toronto and the university’s Paul Wesselman School of Social Work.