How Does One Become a Saint?

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Saint John Paul II

How Canonization or the Declaration of Saints Evolved

The step-by-step process that leads to declaring an individual a saint is termed as canonization.  Canonization was not known in the Church until 1234. Before that time, people who were deemed as holy or who were martyrs were declared to be saints when they died. The anniversaries of the deaths of saints at the time were commemorated on the Church calendar.

The Development of the Process

Over the years, however, the Church found it necessary to add guidelines to canonization. So, in 1234, the then pope, Pope Gregory IX, established the processes that are needed to review the lives of proposed saints and their related miracles. The process was presided over by Congregation of Rites, whose name was later changed to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. Since the time of Pope Urban VIII (1634), popes throughout time have made improvements to the process.

How Sainthood is Determined Today - The Basic Steps

Crucifix Necklace

Today, sainthood is determined as follows:

A deceased person, who has fame of  martyrdom, is investigated. The Church looks at whether a miracle or special favor was granted by way of the candidate's intercession. The Church also reviews saint candidate's writings to see whether or not they contain a purity of doctrine, or writing that is free of heretical statements and is faith-based.

All the aforementioned information is put together in the form of a transumption, then duly authenticated and sealed before being submitted for review by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.

After the Congregation has gained the documentation, a further examination is performed. If the saint candidate is considered a martyr, then the Congregation makes a determination of whether or not the individual actually sacrificed his life for Christ. In other instances, the Congregation looks at the candidate in terms of his charitable contributions and whether or not his virtues were heroic in nature. By conducting an investigation in this manner, any lingering doubts or objections can be looked over and resolved.

Once a saint candidate has been determined to have lived with heroic virtue, he can then be given the designation of being Venerable.

After the aforementioned investigatory processes, the next stage in canonization is beatification. While a martyr can be beatified because of his martyred state, other candidates must be associated with a miraculous event. Therefore, the Church reviews whether or not God performed a miracle and if it was the result of a saint candidate's intercession.

After a candidate is beatified,he or she can be venerated, but the veneration is limited to a locale, diocese, or religious family. The Pope then authorizes prayer or Divine Office in order to pay honor to the beatified individual or the Blessed.

In order to complete the canonization process, another miracle must occur so a candidate can officially be declared a saint.

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