Asked in Saints
What are the steps to becoming a saint?
Protestant Answer According to scripture, anyone who is a disciple of Christ, has faith that He is the Christ, has been baptized, are clean and pure before the Lord and received the gift of the Holy Ghost, is called a saint. All worthy men and women who follow Christ, obey His commandments are saints. All who take upon themselves His name are saints.
All churches who canonized men and women for their good works, are done so by the works of men and not of God. and have no authority to do so. The scriptures say that "by their works ye shall know them". This applies to all worthy men and women and not to a selected few.
Catholic Answer To become a canonized Catholic Saint is a long arduous process. There are stringent rules that must be observed and the subject of canonization undergoes severe scrutiny. While it is true more people get to heaven than are canonized by the Church, the Church is seeking only to recognize those heroic souls that led such exemplary lives of Faith and virtue that their salvation is not only sure, but that they are currently in heaven and not in Purgatory. In this manner, the Church holds up the Saints not only for imitation and inspiration but that they might be proclaimed and invoked by the faithful as intercessors for us to God. The following is the canonization process for a candidate presented for sainthood (these are the modern rules as of January 25, 1983):
1. At least five years must elapse since the death of the candidate. This is to allow greater objectivity in evaluating the case and to let the emotions of the moment dissipate. 2. The bishop of the diocese in which the deceased lived must begin an investigation. The promoter group ('Actor Causae'): diocese, parish, religious congregation, association, requests the cause to the bishop through the postulator. The bishop, once the 'nulla osta' of the Holy See is obtained, forms a diocesan tribunal for this purpose. Witnesses are called before the tribunal to recount verifiable facts on the exercise of Christian virtues considered heroic, that is, the theological virtues: faith, hope and charity, and the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude, and others specific to his/her state in life. In addition, all possible information regarding the candidate must be gathered. At this point the candidate is honored with the title of "Servant of God".
3. Once the diocesan investigation is finished, the acts and documentation are passed on to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The public copy used for further work is here compiled. The postulator, resident in Rome, follows the preparation of the 'Positio', or summary of the documentation that proves the heroic exercise of virtue, under the direction of a relator of the Congregation. The 'Positio' undergoes an examination by nine theologians who give their vote. If the majority of the theologians are in favor, the cause is passed on for scrutiny by cardinals and bishops who are members of the congregation. They hold meetings twice a month. If their judgment is favorable, the prefect of the congregation presents the results to the Holy Father, who gives his approval and authorizes the congregation to draft the relative decree. The public reading and promulgation of the decree then follows. The candidate is declared "Venerable".
4. For the beatification of a confessor, a miracle attributed to the Servant of God, verified after his death, is necessary. The required miracle must be proven through the appropriate canonical investigation, following a procedure analogous to that for heroic virtues. This one too is concluded with the relative decree. Once the two decrees are promulgated (regarding the heroic virtues and the miracle) the Holy Father decides on beatification, which is the concession of public worship, limited to a particular sphere. With beatification the candidate receives the title of Blessed. 5. For canonization another miracle is needed, attributed to the intercession of the Blessed and having occurred after his beatification. The methods for ascertainment of the affirmed miracle are the same as those followed for beatification. Canonization is understood as the concession of public worship in the Universal Church. Pontifical infallibility is involved. With canonization, the Blessed acquires the title of Saint.
The canonization process was first started in 1234 AD by the Church when it became difficult to verify some of the local cults and claims that sprung up in Christendom. Over the years the rules became more precise. In 1983 John Paul II relaxed the rules, making the process much shorter and less demanding. Some Catholic groups refuse to accept saints declared after 1983 believing the new process allows unworthy or unremarkable candidates to slip through to canonization in mere years when some saints took decades if not centuries before being recognized.
How does the Catholic Church decide who becomes a saint?
The process of saint making takes a very long time, sometimes it takes centuries. First of all, the person in question must have lived a life totally devoted to God and the Christian ways of life. In other words the person must be an honest and pure servant of God and they must also have set an example for others to follow in life.
The first step to becoming a Saint is to be declared venerable. This process takes place when the person in question has proved that they have performed a miracle. Usually the candidate has passed away and performed the miracle through the belief and prayer of those still alive. Once the candidate has been declared venerable, the next step is to be declared beatified.
Beatification is a process that takes place when the cardinals of the church decide that the candidate has performed a true divine miracle. This is when the Pope proclaims that the servant of God is to be venerated as a blessed. When the candidate has been declared a blessed, it takes some time for the process of Sainthood to occur. The local Diocese performs a special prayer to the blessed and a mass in his or her honor are performed by the holy see. At this point the candidate has passed the hardest part of the process, and is just in waiting to become the next Saint.
The next step to becoming a Saint is called canonization. From this point on, the church must await the next miracles to occur, that God has worked a miracle through the intercession of the candidate. When the last required miracle has taken place and it has been declared real and accepted, the Pope sends out a bull of canonization stating that the candidate must be venerated as a Saint throuhgout the Universal Church. The Pope does the ceremony himself at St.Peter's Basilica, signifying that the Sainthood has full authority to take place with the papacy behind it. The Pope then sums up the Saint's life and explains what the Saint has done to be declared a Saint, how they performed heroic virtue by example and by message to the Church.
This is the process by which a candidate becomes a Saint.
First, you have to die. Once you have been dead at least 5 years
for sainthood can be opened. The local bishop or other religious leader
will assign someone to collect all sorts of documents and conduct
interviews about the life of the candidate. Once they have all the
information, the file will be sent to the Sacred Congregation for the
causes of Saints in Rome. They will study the file and, if it seems the
person exhibited some form of heroic virtue, that person will be declared
a Servant of God and an official Cause for Sainthood will be opened.
More investigations and interviews will be conducted and if the person
passes all favorably, they will be named as Venerable.
Next, more investigations and at least one miracle must be confirmed and
verified due to the intercession of the candidate. If all goes well, the
candidate will then be Beatified by the Pope and receive the title of
Blessed. Mother Teresa of Calcutta is at this stage right now.
In the final stage, more investigations and at least one more miracle must
be verified. Once all that has been done, the file is turned over to the
pope who will make the final decision. It will be up to the pope to
declare a person a saint and then arrangements are made for the official
This process can take many years, even centuries.
Of course, the person became a saint the moment they entered heaven. The
Church just needs to investigate to make sure the candidate is worthy of
emulation and makes a good role model for future generations.