January 23, 2011
How to Become a Saint, A Five Step Guide
Becoming a saint is a very long and difficult task that can only be accomplished with a lot of religious support at various levels after you die. Here’s a basic rundown of the necessary steps in the process.
Step One: Traditionally, death followed by a five year period, at a minimum. This waiting period can be waived by the Pope. In recent time, this requirement has been waived for the beloved Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. Consequently, the process for initiating sainthood began immediately following each of their deaths.
Step Two: Recognition of Heroic Virtue - This step must be initiated by the bishop of the local diocese. The life and writings of the individual are examined to determine whether theological virtues of faith, hope and charity were evident. It must also be determined that the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude were observed to the highest degree. If investigation concludes favorably the canonization process is officially launched and the candidate is declared “Venerable.”
Step Three: Beatification and the First Miracle. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican resumes the investigation at this point. A lead investigator is selected by the Congregation to congregation to look into miracles attributed to the candidate. Miracles are expected to be instantaneous, complete and unexpected. Influence over extraordinary events that cannot readily be explained by science are also accepted.
For example, in the case of Mother Teresa, a miracle was officially attributed to the holy woman in 2002. It was reported that a tumor in the abdomen of an Indian woman healed after a locket containing Mother Teresa's picture was placed on it.
Following completion of the investigation, the Congregation determines whether to recommend beatification of the candidate. The pope then chooses whether or not to declare the candidate “Blessed.”
Step Four: Investigation resumes to await a second miracle. Two documented miracles must be associated with the candidate in order to be considered for sainthood. The first must occur during the individual’s lifetime - the second following beatification.
Step Five: Canonization. The new saint is given a feast day in the Church’s Universal Calender.
References: The Big Book of Woman Saints by Sarah Gallick and Making Saints by Kenneth Woodward