Mark Hart

What Makes a Saint?

A statue, a holy card, some stained glass, and a heck of a lot of “Hail Marys.”

Okay, that was stupid.

While earthly titles and personal resumes may matter to employers, they do not matter to God. In fact, the only “title” God cares about for us is that we are His son or daughter. Beyond that, the only earthly “title” that would leave heaven applauding would be that of a “saint.”

To be clear, the Church doesn’t “make someone” a saint. The Church recognizes the holiness of certain individuals and honors some with the title of “saint.” If you make it to heaven, you are a saint – whether or not the Church recognizes you as one publicly.

The title of saint is conferred on someone after what is called the canonization process. The process was most formalized by Pope Alexander III in the 12th century. He restricted the prerogative of canonization to the Holy See (Vatican authority), meaning that the Church was the body that would officially declare someone a “saint,” and not just their local community or country. Canonization means “being raised to the full honors of the altar.” You can read more about this in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (828).

So nowadays, for instance, say that you had someone you wanted to suggest for sainthood. Here are the “steps” that would need to occur for that person to receive the “title”:

• You and a group would send a report to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints (a Vatican group).

• That Congregation would research the candidate’s virtues and life to see if the person should be recommended or not.

• The aforementioned report is then reviewed by the Holy Father. If the pope accepts the report from the Congregation, the person in question is titled Venerable. Venerable means “accorded great respect due to heroic character.”

• Once venerable, there are several more steps in the process in which the person’s life is exhaustively researched and examined. If alive, witnesses are contacted who knew the deceased. Various people can come forward to raise objections. Debates can ensue and long discussions can be had.

• Also, at least one miracle must occur and be directly attributed to that saint’s intercession to God. Once that happens (if and when it does), the person is “beatified” in a ceremony by the pope at St. Peter’s in Rome and declared Blessed.

• After a period of time and another two miracles the “Blessed” will be recommended for canonization and named a saint at a ceremony in Rome (although there have been some canonization ceremonies that took place outside of the Vatican – like in Korea in 1984).

Whether your life is ever investigated or a statue ever chiseled, the good news is that God has given us every opportunity to become saints in our everyday life. He’s given us the Sacraments to ensure we become holy and the saints to offer a model of life and example of prayer. The only thing missing is your consent to allow the Holy Spirit to make you a saint.

Your sainthood doesn’t begin when a council starts investigating your life. Your invitation to sainthood began at your Baptism. Your life – right now – is your RSVP. Just live today and every day for heaven and let your resume take care of itself.

Suggested Reading:
CCC 828, 946-62, 2030
Fr. Robert Barron, Catholicism
Alan Schreck, The Compact History of the Catholic Church
The Staff of Catholic Answers, The Essential Catholic Survival Guide
Life Teen, Holier Than Thou

Editor’s Note: This blog is an excerpt from “Truth be Told,” available on the Life Teen Store.

Mark Hart

About the Author

My childhood plan was to be a jedi. My teenage plan was to be on Saturday Night Live. God's plan was to have me in ministry. God won - and I'm glad He did.