Question: How does a person become a canonized saint?
Answer: It is important to remember that all the saints are people, real people who lived just as we do! The first saints of the Church were martyrs or theologians known for a holy life. Over time, the Church has established a set process to investigate the causes of saints.
After a holy person’s death, the bishop of their diocese initiates the canonization process with the Vatican. Typically, they must wait five years to ensure any false enthusiasm has lessened. With Vatican approval, the process begins and the person receives the title “Servant of God.” The first phase involves collecting information about the person’s life and scrutinizing it carefully. One person has the specific role of raising doubts — this is the origin of the phrase “devil’s advocate!” When it is clear the person truly lived a heroically holy life according to Church teaching, they are declared “Venerable.”
If the person is a martyr for the faith, they will also be declared “Blessed.” If the person is not a martyr, they must be credited with a miracle. This is also closely examined for authenticity. Once the miracle is authenticated as truly a miracle performed by God through the person or through their intercession, they are beatified. An additional authenticated miracle is required before canonization, and we can call them “Saint.”
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