I was recently asked to write about how saints are made in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has a formal process for recognizing saints. Please notice that I said “recognizing saints,” not “making saints.”
Why the distinction?
Because the Church’s process does not make the person a saint. Rather, the process verifies that they are a saint. Anyone who is in Heaven is a saint whether they have been formally declared a saint or not. They are part of the great “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1).
Before continuing, one might want to ask why the saints are important to us. They serve as examples of holy life, sometimes in very difficult circumstances, like the martyrs. As they are in Heaven, we can ask for their intercession before God. We count on their prayers.
We should also understand that we do not worship the saints. As the first commandment teaches, we worship God alone. We venerate the saints, meaning we honor them for the example they have shown of holy living.
All of us who have been baptized have entered into the Communion of Saints. The Catechism of the Catholic Church writes “”The three states of the Church. “When the Lord comes in glory, and all his angels with him, death will be no more and all things will be subject to him. But at the present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating ‘in full light, God himself triune and one, exactly as he is”” (paragraph 954, original quote from Lumen Gentium, 49). We are the “pilgrims on earth.” Those in Purgatory are those “being purified” while the saints are those who “are in glory.”
We continue on our journey towards Heaven by striving to live the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. Living in relationship with Jesus calls us to see the God’s Commandments not just as rules. They are a way of life (see my presentation Are They Rules or a Way of Life?).
The process for declaring a saint comes in four steps. It begins with a waiting period of five years. The process cannot start until a minimum of five years after a person’s death. This allows us to move from wanting to honor good people at their death to see an enduring belief that they are saints. This is the only step with a set amount of time to it.
The second step happens after careful and extensive study of the person’s life to verify that they led a heroically virtuous life. When the Vatican accepts this, the person is declared “venerable.”
The third step is beautification. This happens after a miracle is attributed to their intercession. The miracle is carefully studied to know it truly is a miracle. The miracle serves as evidence that the person is able to intercede for us before God. After this, the person is referred to as “blessed.”
Then, the four step is canonization. This requires a second miracle. Once, this happens the person is declared a saint.
Once a person is declared blessed, they are assigned a feastday. It might be a feast, memorial, or optional memorial depending on public notoriety and how their lives relate to what is going on in the world. It may be publicly celebrated by the whole church across the world or only in a local region, generally where they are from or lived.
You can read more about the process of declaring a saint in article from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) at https://www.usccb.org/offices/public-affairs/saints).
You can also learn more about some of the saints in my three-part series of presentations, Our Saints and Intercessors. This series begins will an introduction to the saints in general and then speaks about the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Angels, St. Lucy, St. Patrick, St. Thomas, and St. Luke. I also did a single presentation, Three Saints to Aid Us, discussing St. Michael the Archangel, St. John Fisher, and St. Thomas More.
You might also wish to check out my past blog articles on the saints at http://blog.renewaloffaith.org/blog/?cat=55.