Saint Siddhartha Gautama, pray for us!
Sure, I’ve recognized the Buddha as a saint for years, but imagine my surprise when I received an email from a reader today pointing out that “Saint Josaphat” is a figure derived from the story of Siddhartha Gautama.
I decided to check it out, and found these links:
Check out the Wikipedia article on Saint Josaphat.
Still, I was wondering if this might be Christo-Buddhist wishful thinking, until I saw this article in the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia, which simply affirms that the story of Josaphat is a Christianized version of the Buddha’s story. The article nowhere calls Josaphat a saint, which leads to the question, did he actually become a Catholic saint or not, and if so, is he still?
The email I received stated that the Catholic Church “proclaimed” him a saint, and he was later reaffirmed as such by St. John of Damascus (aka the Hermit, aka Damascene) who died in the mid-8th century. Technically speaking he certainly wasn’t “proclaimed” a saint. Proclamation, the culmination of the rigorous process of canonization, had not yet been developed by the Church. Saints in the first millennium were recognized by popular acclamation, and it does seem he was regarded as a saint, with a feast day of November 27. And here at the Online Medieval and Classical Library is the story of Barlaam and Ioasaph, attributed to St. John of Damascus.
Apparently his feast day was removed from the Catholic liturgical calendar in 1969, but that technically does not “de-saint” a saint—it merely de-emphasizes them. (And sometimes not very successfully; just google St. Philomena or St. Christopher to see that devotion to those saints persists contrary to Church efforts.)
Of course, all this ultimately is irrelevant. Is the Buddha a saint? Duh!