Saints are ordinary people who lived in our world. In the past, the saints were martyrs but today, the Catholic Church recognizes exemplary good deeds of people to become saint. They may not be good people initially but because they were reformed, their sins were forgiven when they did remarkable things. The love of God is beyond measure and the big heart of our Lord embraces repentant sinners. And the penitent sinners have places in our eternal home.
We pray to saints for intercession. They help us in praying for the grant of our petitions. A majority of Catholics have their respective favorite saints. Shall we say that saints do have specialization? For instance, there are saints we pray for cancer patients (Sts. Peregrine, Ezequiel, Agatha) and there is a saint for heart ailment (St. Clara de Montefalco). St. Gerald Majella is the saint for expectant mothers as St. Joseph is the patron saint for the family and happy death. But many had prayed for the intercession of St. Therese of Lisieux referred to as the “Prodigy of Miracles” and “Greatest Saint of Modern Times”. And there are more other saints we always ask for intercession.
What does it really take to be among the saints? It is a long process and there are four stages – Servant of God, Venerable, Blessed and Saint.
Servant of God
This is the first stage and should start at the diocese level. The religious person to start the inquiry is bishop with jurisdiction. The jurisdiction is the place where the candidate to become a servant of God died or was buried. This may not be restrictive as even an ordinary religious person can be authorized to open or initiate the process or investigation. There must be petition executed by the faithful, normally after five years of the candidate’s death. This requirement may be waived by the Pope. Investigation will be conducted, tracing the biography and the doings of the candidate. Recommendation for the “Causes of Saints” is made where a postulator is assigned to lead the investigation. There may be cases when the dead body is exhumed – perhaps for further examination.
Having enough information, the congregation will make recommendation to the Holy Father to proclaim the heroic virtues of the Servant of God. Among the virtues are faith, hope, charity, justice, fortitude, temperance and more that could be considered to reach the heroic degree. He or she will then be called Venerable or Heroic in Virtue. Unlike the Saints, the Venerables are not yet bestowed with feast days. However, people can pray to them for their intercession for miracles.
To be beatified, one must be a martyr or a confessor. Once beatified, the Venerable is called “Blessed”. It only takes the Pope to declare martyrdom for a Venerable to be elevated as Blessed. Non-martyrs are confessors of their faith and must have done miracles through their intercession. God lets them do miracles, usually cures; such person enjoyed “Beatific Vision by God” in response to prayers. Miraculous cures are today the easiest bases for blessedness. These candidates for sainthood will now have their feast days but only where they died or lived.
The blessed becomes saint with canonization. To be canonized, an additional miracle must be attributed through the intercession of the Blessed. Again, this is usually miraculous cure. This is fulfilled “Beatific Vision” and would be investigated and validated. Saints have Feast Days anywhere Catholicism is practiced. Parish churches may be built in their honor and their feasts will be celebrated without any restrictions.
To all these – Spouses Louis and Zelie Martin, parents of St. Therese of the Child Jesus had passed and will then be canonized in October, 2015. In addition, the steps towards this process are now underway for St. Therese’s sister, Leonie. (A page in this blog will be dedicated to Sps Louis and Zelie Martin and another page to Leonie.)