The album was inspired by a line from the wryly regretful 1979 ballad "Came So Far for Beauty," by the twins' fellow Canadian, Leonard Cohen. The songs, Tegan and Sara explained in publicity materials, were "inspired by emotional longing and the quiet actions we hope may be noticed by the objects of our affection." They added: "Sainthood is about obsession with romantic ideals. In the service of relationships we practice being perfect. We practice our sainthood in the hope that we will be rewarded with adoration. As we are driven to become anything for someone else, we sometimes become martyrs for our cause. Love, like faith, can never be held in an individual's hands. But the story of a great love affair – especially one that is unrequited or has ended too soon – can be woven like scripture or a bedtime story. And so the themes of Sainthood are tied together by this simple title, borrowed, with great respect, from the lyrics of the Leonard Cohen song 'Came So Far For Beauty': 'I practiced all my sainthood / I gave to one and all / But the rumors of my virtue / They moved her not at all.'"