July 23, 2002

Friar Jack's Catechism Quiz:
Test Your Knowledge on
How Saints Are Made
by Julie Zimmerman

Millions of Mexican Catholics will be on hand July 30 when Pope John Paul II formally declares Juan Diego, the Indian peasant to whom the Virgin Mary appeared, a saint. It was almost 20 years ago that Juan Diego's supporters intensified their centuries-old efforts to have him canonized. This edition of "Friar Jack's Catechism Quiz" looks at the road to sainthood for holy men and women.

We also take a look at the mail we received in response to Friar Jack's "A Dozen Red Roses."



This Month's Quiz: (peeking encouraged!)

How does a person become a Catholic saint?
When did the first formal canonization take place?
Who was Juan Diego, anyway?

Friar Jack's Inbox:

Readers reflect on "A Dozen Red Roses"


How does a person become a Catholic saint?

First of all, one becomes a saint by imitating Jesus. When the Church declares someone a saint, the Church is saying we are sure, beyond doubt, that this person was holy on earth and is now in the presence of God. We add this person's name to the canon, or list, of known saints. Hence the word canonization, a process that became formal during Christianity's second millennium.

The process of canonization has changed since it was instituted in the 10th century. Pope John Paul II last updated the process in 1983 by eliminating the "devil's advocate" from the review process and modifying the requirements for miracles, among other changes.

In most cases, supporters must wait five years after a person's death before mounting a campaign in favor of sainthood. This permits a more objective look at the candidate's life. (Pope John Paul II waived this rule in the case of Mother Teresa.) After the waiting period, the local bishop looks for examples of "heroic virtue" in the person's life. Theologians and cardinals associated with the Congregation for Cause of Saints reviews that evidence and, with their approval, the candidate receives the title of "Venerable."

Beatification comes next. To be beatified, the person in question must be credited with a miracle that occurred after his or her death, and the Vatican must confirm the miracle. Martyrs are exempted from the requirement of a miracle. A second posthumous miracle is required for formal sainthood. These miracles are evidence that the saint is in the presence of God.

Adapted from Mother Teresa: The Road to Official Sainthood, by John Bookser Feister and Julie Zimmerman.

When did the first formal canonization take place?

Ever heard of St. Ulrich, bishop of Augsburg, Germany? Canonized in the year 993, he is the first person for whom we have a record of canonization.

In the Church’s early centuries, the vox populi (voice of the people) declared someone a saint, and canonizations were done on the diocesan or regional level. Relatively soon after very holy people died, the local Church affirmed that they could be liturgically celebrated as saints. This is the case with many popular saints such as St. Patrick and St. Nicholas.

Since the 13th century, the beatification-canonization process has included a formal investigation to see if the person’s life is indeed worthy of imitation. Now it often takes centuries for the Church to beatify or canonize people.

Adapted from Ask A Franciscan, a monthly feature in St. Anthony Messenger, and Blessed Pope John XXIII: An 'Ordinary' Holiness, by Nancy Celaschi, O.S.F.

Who was Juan Diego, anyway?

Until recently, very little was known except that Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego in December 1531. The apparitions occurred at Tepeyac, a small hill and a former sanctuary to the Aztec goddess Tonanzin. Mary asked Juan Diego to request that the local bishop build a church on that site. There she could be present with all her love and compassion for “all the inhabitants of this land.”

Not believing Juan Diego at first, Bishop Juan Zumarraga asked for a heavenly sign. On the day Mary promised that Juan Diego would receive this sign, his uncle Juan Bernardino was dying of a disease introduced by the Europeans. Instead of going to the Lady for this sign, Juan Diego took another route, seeking a priest to hear his uncle’s confession.

The Lady appeared to him, assuring him that his uncle had been healed, and that on the top of Tepeyac hill Juan Diego would find what the bishop requested. Juan climbed the hill and found its summit covered with beautiful flowers of all colors. He cut the flowers; the Lady arranged them on his cloak of very coarse fiber, known as a tilma, and sent him off to the bishop.

When Juan unfolded the tilma before the bishop and his assistants, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared on it. A visit to Juan Bernardino revealed that she had appeared to him, healed him and called herself “Our Lady of Guadalupe.”

This was the first of many miracles worked to this day through her intercession.

There is a group of scholars who theorize Juan Diego never existed. By canonizing him, the Church rejects this theory.

From St. Anthony Messenger, St. Juan Diego: New World Apostle, by Virgilio Elizondo


Friar Jack's Inbox

Readers respond to Friar Jack's reflections on "A Dozen Red Roses"

"Dear Friar Jack: I was delighted to read your story about Father Silas Oleksinski. Back in the 1960's we belonged to a Third Order group in Elmhurst, Queens, NY. One of our members had met Fr. Silas at a convention and became very good friends with him. A couple of times he came to New York to do special programs for us. He was such a marvelous guest and a great inspiration to us with his wonderful sense of humor. I could almost hear his whistling as you wrote of it. I would be interested in hearing more about his mission to Russia. Is he still there?—Joan F., New York

Friar Jack responds: Thank you for your kind words about the Friar Jack column, and your questions about Father Silas. As it turned out, Father Silas discovered he had cancer before he ever got fully established in his new mission country and had to change plans for medical reasons. He died several years ago, but his faith and spirit remained strong to the end. His courageous example lives on. May he rest in peace, and may you be blessed.

"Dear Friar Jack: I enjoy your e-letters. However, the current issue contained a phrase that I found unsettling — which I've highlighted: "...If and when Franciscans go to heaven,..." I am concerned with the "if" part of your sentence. I am trying to pin my hopes on the "certainty" that we will go to heaven after death if we have lived with God at the center of our lives and if we have clung to His Divine Mercy. Since I, myself, get anxious about my own salvation, if Franciscans who lead such holy lives do not have any certainty, how can I?—Joan

Father Jack responds: Yes, we are right to trust in Divine Mercy. The phrase was meant to be a gentle reminder that no matter how virtuous any group seems to be, we should not presume on God's mercy. Of course, I trust in God's goodness and the words of St. Francis that those followers of his "who persevere to the end, will be saved."

"Dear Friar Jack: As a music minister and cantor in my church thank you for this teaching. It always is a privilege and a joy to be able to minister to others via song. To look out among the parishioners and see how the words of a song can make others smile, mist over some eyes, or see eyes close in prayer shows how the spirit is stirred by music. Your e-spiration is a great encouragement to me to continue in this venue of ministry.— Stasia

Got an opinion? Due to strong reader interest in the topic, we've set up an online forum on clergy sexual abuse at AmericanCatholic.org. Read others' opinions and submit your own comments there for everyone to see!

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Welcome! I hope you'll enjoy all of the news about what's happening at AmericanCatholic.org, as well as my "musings." By the way, I am a real Franciscan friar. You can find out more about me here.

St. Juan Diego:
New World Saint

By Virgilio Elizondo

This month Pope John Paul II plans to visit Tepeyac, near Mexico City, to canonize 16th-century Indian Juan Diego. Click here to read the story, facts, proclamation, Marian connection and the enduring message of St. Juan Diego.

A Retreat With Our Lady of Guadalupe and Juan Diego
By Virgilio Elizondo and Friends

Heed the call heard by Juan Diego to proclaim the word of God even against powerful obstacles of disbelief and discrimination.
A Retreat With Our Lady of Guadalupe and Juan Diego

Send a Blessed Juan Diego E-greeting!

Juan Diego stands as a bridge between the worlds of the powerful and the powerless. He was asked to participate in the divine plan, and he said yes.
Send a Blessed Juan Diego E-greeting!

Pope Challenges Teens to Be Salt and Light at World Youth Day in Toronto

Can you name one of the nine patron saints for World Youth Day? Do you know someone making the pilgrimage to Toronto? Then click here to uncover the themes and messages for World Youth Day in Toronto, July 18-28. And then say a prayer for the youth attending.

Send a World Youth Day E-greeting!

Pope John Paul II is in Toronto for World Youth Day before going to Mexico for Juan Diego's canonization. CatholicGreetings.org offers World Youth Day and John Paul II e-cards. You'll see e-greetings for the specially named patron saints, too. Send a World Youth Day E-greeting!!

A Retreat With Pope John Paul II: Be Not Afraid
By Jack Wintz, O.F.M.

Your director for this retreat is Karol Wojtyla—Pope John Paul II. Follow his life's journey and embrace the courage to open wide the door to Christ.
A Retreat With Pope John Paul II: Be Not Afraid


Listen to "Saint of the Day" Every Day!

You may have noticed last month that American Catholic launched a new FREE daily e-newsletter, "Saint of the Day" based on the popular daily feature. But did you notice the newly revised "Saint of the Day" feature now includes online audio? Click here to listen to or read today's "Saint of the Day."

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Holy Orders and Matrimony: Both Vocation Sacraments

Both Holy Orders and Matrimony are essential to building Church. Without either of these sacraments of service, the Church would not exist. Click here to understand the relationship between ordained and married.

Summertime Reading

Check out the monthly book offerings from the Messenger Book Service. A great way to enjoy spiritual nourishment is with a great book—gotten with a discount!


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