Saint Brigid Religious Education
you ever wondered why Catholic Saints are such an important part
of the Roman Catholic faith? What is a saint? How many saints
are there? How does somebody get to be a saint?
By the year 100 A.D. people in the infant churches had started identifying individuals who were regarded as stellar examples of what it means to live a life of faith. These individuals were give special recognition after their deaths, and were pointed to as heroes and examples of faithful living. During the time of the Roman persecution of the church in the second century AD many of the martyrs were given the status of saints.
A saint is a person who has been identified as being a heroic example of what it means to live the life of Christian faith. Over ten thousand believers have been named as saints by the Roman Catholic Church. Various historical sources give different lists of saints and different counts for the total number of saints, so it is impossible to give a firm number for how many saints there actually are.
The first requirement for becoming a saint is that one has to die. Sainthood is bestowed upon believers after their death. In the early centuries of the Christian Church saints were recognized by popular acclaim. Believers recognized certain individuals as outstanding examples of what it means to be a Christian, and they were generally regarded as saints.
In the tenth century AD the Roman Catholic Church developed the process of canonization. Under this process, the church leaders - the bishops and the pope - took control of how a person gets to be recognized as a saint. The process of canonization consists of a series of very clear steps.
The first step is veneration. In this step, a person who was regarded as a very holy, devout, exemplary Christian is nominated or proposed as a possible candidate for recognition as a saint. Under Roman Catholic canon law this cannot happen for at least five years after the person's death. A local bishop investigates the candidate's life and writings to find out if the candidate lived an exemplary life that was consistent with church practice and doctrine, and that demonstrated evidence of saintly virtue. The bishop then compiles a report that is submitted to the Vatican to be reviewed by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, a panel of cardinals and theologians. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints studies the report from the bishop and evaluates the candidate's life. If their evaluation of the candidate is favorable, the candidate is recommended to the Pope who proclaims the candidate to be venerable.
The second step is beatification. In order for a venerated candidate for sainthood to be beatified there must be convincing evidence that the candidate has produced a posthumous miracle. If the fact can be established that the candidate, after his/her death, is responsible for a miracle, and the Pope approves the verification, then the candidate is beatified.
The third step is canonization. When there is evidence that the beatified candidate has produced a second miracle, and the Pope approves that evidence, then the candidate is canonized and declared to be a saint. The act of canonization is regarded by the Roman Catholic Church to be infallible and irrevocable. Once a person has been declared to be a saint, that title cannot be removed by any future evidence or process. It should be noted that the process of canonization followed by the Roman Catholic Church does not "make" someone a saint. Canonization is a recognition of what God has already done in a person's life.