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.
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 Churchs 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 persons
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,
Pope John XXIII: An 'Ordinary' Holiness, by Nancy Celaschi,
was Juan Diego, anyway?
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.
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 uncles
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
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
"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.
Got an opinion? Due to strong reader interest
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forum on clergy sexual abuse at AmericanCatholic.org. Read others'
opinions and submit your own comments there for everyone to see!