The making of a saint

by Marlon De La Torre

North Texas Catholic

10/15/2019

How is one called to be a saint? It is a question that can simultaneously inject joy and fear in anyone because it involves embracing a life of holiness in Christ and renouncing all near occasions of sin.

The Catechism defines a saint as one “who leads a life in union with God through the grace of Christ and receives the reward of eternal life.” As witnessed by the multitude of examples in the lives of the saints, a life of holiness is one immersed in prayer, sacrifice, suffering both physical and spiritual, fidelity to Church teaching, and if called, martyrdom. 

As faithful members of the body of Christ we are part of the communion of saints by our faithful witness of the Gospel and desire to seek an intimate union with Christ. Our identity as part of the communion of saints is tied to everything that is holy. The culmination of our identity as part of the communion of saints is the reception of the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

Hence, the grace-filled lives of the saints owe and direct their identity to Christ, and we participate in this communion by our active participation in the holy sacrifice of the Mass. May all the saints pray for us!    

Jesus and the Twelve ApostlesJesus and the Twelve Apostles

 

Who is a saint? 

When we look at the examples of the Apostles, or the early Church fathers, or somebody as famous as St. Francis of Assisi, we see a common thread or bond amongst all of them. They desired Christ above all things and were willing to sacrifice for that love of Christ and to serve in His name. 

Another key distinction of a saint is someone who desires grace over sin, someone who desires virtue over the calamities that lead you away from Christ. So, we look at the saints as really wonderful people who led extraordinary lives from ordinary means and really brought Christ to the forefront in everyday living.

How do we know that God wants us to communicate with the saints?

God wants us to communicate with the saints through Christ Himself because it is Christ who really has the order, and the structure, and the governance over all saints in the Church. Christ exists — and He exists continuously in the holy sacrifice of the Mass and the choirs of angels and the saints are always there. This is how God wants to communicate with us entirely and wholly: through His choir of angels and saints because they’re all directed to Christ Himself. And what a beautiful way to have this symphony of faith.

What is the process for the Vatican to declare that a person is a saint?

A group of people, typically from a diocese, will open up a cause for the person and that cause will involve a lot of historical evidence analyzing the life of the person. Were they actually heroic or virtuous in their actions in the Church? Were they Christ-like? What was their faith like? What was their devotion to the Church?

So, all that is investigated over a long period of time. If it’s found that this person led a heroic life, was virtuous, was really holy, and that there were people around this person that were touched by his or her model of holiness, then the cause would move forward to recognize a person as a “venerable” — a title indicating that they lived a life of virtue and sanctity. From that point, that person would be under a continuing investigation to determine if indeed he or she could be declared a saint.

The next step would be a “blessed.” At that point you would need to attribute a miraculous event to the person through intercessory prayer.

Typically, there is either an unexplained healing or other  phenomenon that can only be attributed to the venerable’s intercession. So, that’s where a higher status for that individual from venerable to a blessed would occur.

Then, to be canonized a saint — a second miracle would need to be deemed credible by the Vatican to elevate this person to the communion of saints.

Now all this has to be done via an investigation. You have doctors, professionals, and theologians who are objective and not directly tied to the individual that would investigate all these phenomena. If it’s affirmed to be true, then the Vatican, through its Congregation for the Causes of Saints, would declare sainthood for this particular person.

In general, that’s how the process develops in terms of determining who would be considered a venerable, a blessed, and a saint. 

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Marlon De La Torre, is the Director of Catechesis for the Diocese of Fort Worth and writes articles on catechesis, evangelization, and Christian spirtuality at KnowingIsDoing.org.

Jesus and His Twelve Apostles

How is one called to be a saint? It is a question that can simultaneously inject joy and fear in anyone because it involves embracing a life of holiness in Christ and renouncing all near occasions of sin.

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