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How does the Church choose saints?


Canonization, the process the Church uses to name a saint, has only been used since the tenth century. For hundreds of years, starting with the first martyrs of the early Church, saints were chosen by public acclaim. Though this was a more democratic way to recognize saints, some saints' stories were distorted by legend and some never existed. Gradually, the bishops and finally the Vatican took over authority for approving saints.


In 1983, Pope John Paul II made sweeping changes in the canonization procedure. The process begins after the death of a Catholic whom people regard as holy. Often, the process starts many years after death in order give perspective on the candidate. The local bishop investigates the candidate's life and writings for heroic virtue (or martyrdom) and orthodoxy of doctrine. Then a panel of theologians at the Vatican evaluates the candidate. After approval by the panel and cardinals of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the pope proclaims the candidate "venerable."


The next step, beatification, requires evidence of one miracle (except in the case of martyrs). Since miracles are considered proof that the person is in heaven and can intercede for us, the miracle must take place after the candidate's death and as a result of a specific petition to the candidate. When the pope proclaims the candidate beatified or "blessed," the person can be venerated by a particular region or group of people with whom the person holds special importance.


Only after one more miracle will the pope canonize the saint (this includes martyrs as well). The title of saint tells us that the person lived a holy life, is in heaven, and is to be honored by the universal Church. Canonization does not "make" a person a saint; it recognizes what God has already done.


Though canonization is infallible and irrevocable, it takes a long time and a lot of effort. So while every person who is canonized is a saint, not every holy person has been canonized. You have probably known many "saints" in your life, and you are called by God to be one yourself.


"Whatever happened to St. Christopher? Is he still a saint?"


Before the 1969 reform of the Roman calendar, Christopher was listed as a martyr who died under Decius(~250AD). Nothing else is known about him. There are several legends about him including the one in which he was crossing a river when a child asked to carried across. When Christopher put the child on his shoulders he found the child was unbelievably heavy. The child, according to the legend, was Christ carrying the weight of the whole world. This was what made Christopher patron saint of travelers. His former feast day is July 25.


Before the formal canonization process began in the fifteenth century, many saints were proclaimed by popular approval. This was a much faster process but unfortunately many of the saints so named were based on legends, pagan mythology, or even other religions -- for example, the story of the Buddha traveled west to Europe and he was "converted" into a Catholic saint! In 1969, the Church took a long look at all the saints on its calendar to see if there was historical evidence that that saint existed and lived a life of holiness. In taking that long look, the Church discovered that there was little proof that many "saints", including some very popular ones, ever lived. Christopher was one of the names that was determined to have a basis mostly in legend. Therefore Christopher (and others) were dropped from the universal calendar.



Catholic online Saints



The Catholic FAQ

The Saints



1.When did the custom of canonizing saints start, and is it true that canonizations are infallible?


Here are excerpts from two articles on canonization of saints; they are taken from The New Catholic

Encyclopedia (1967):

The solemn act by which the pope, with definitive sentence, inscribes in the catalogue of saints a

person who has previously been beatified. By this act he declares that the person placed on the

altar now reigns in eternal glory and decrees that the universal Church show him the honor due to a

saint. The formulas indicate that the pope imposes a precept on the faithful, e.g. "We decide and

define that they are saints and inscribe them in the catalogue of saints, stating that their memory

should be kept with pious devotion by the universal Church."


The faithful of the primitive Church believed that martyrs were perfect Christians and saints since

they had shown the supreme proof of love by giving their lives for Christ; by their sufferings, they

had attained eternal life and were indefectibly united to Christ, the Head of the Mystical Body.

These reasons induced the Christians, still oppressed by persecution, to invoke the intercession of

the martyrs. They begged them to intercede before God to obtain for the faithful on earth the grace

to imitate the martyrs in the unquestioning and complete profession of faith [1 Tim. 2:1-5, Phil.

3:17] . . . .


1 Tim. 2:1-5


1I exhort therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, be made for all men; 2for

kings and all that are in high place; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and gravity. 3 This is

good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4who would have all men to be saved, and come to the

knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, [himself] man, Christ



Phil. 3:17


17Brethren, *join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.



Toward the end of the great Roman persecutions, this phenomenon of veneration, which had been

reserved to martyrs, was extended to those who, even without dying for the faith, had nonetheless

defended it and suffered for it, confessors of the faith (confessores fidei). Within a short time, this

same veneration was extended to those who had been outstanding for their exemplary Christian life,

especially in austerity and penitence, as well as to those who excelled in Catholic doctrine

(doctors), in apostolic zeal (bishops and missionaries), or in charity and the evangelical spirit . . . .


In the first centuries the popular fame or the vox populi represented in practice the only criterion

by which a person's holiness was ascertained. A new element was gradually introduced, namely,

the intervention of the ecclesiastical authority, i.e., of the competent bishop. However, the fame of

sanctity, as a result of which the faithful piously visited the person's tomb, invoked his intercession,

and proclaimed the thaumaturgic [miraculous] effects of it, remained the starting point of those

inquiries that culminated with a definite pronouncement on the part of the bishop. A biography of

the deceased person and a history of his alleged miracles were presented to the bishop. Following

a judgment of approval, the body was exhumed and transferred to an altar. Finally, a day was

assigned for the celebration of the liturgical feast within the diocese or province.


The transition from episcopal to papal canonization came about somewhat casually. The custom

was gradually introduced of having recourse to the pope in order to receive a formal approval of

canonization. This practice was prompted obviously because a canonization decreed by the pope

would necessarily have greater prestige, owing to his supreme authority. The first papal

canonization of which there are positive documents was that of St. Udalricus in 973 . . . . Through

the gradual multiplications of the Roman pontiffs, papal canonization received a more definite

structure and juridical value. Procedural norms were formulated, and such canonical processes

became the main source of investigation into the saint's life and miracles. Under Gregory IX, this

practice became the only legitimate form of inquiry (1234) . . . .


The dogma that saints are to be venerated and invoked as set forth in the profession of faith of

Trent (cf. Denz. 1867) has as its correlative the power to canonize . . . . St. Thomas Aquinas says,

"Honor we show the saints is a certain profession of faith by which we believe in their glory, and it

is to be piously believed that even in this the judgment of the Church is not able to err" (Quodl.



The pope cannot by solemn definition induce errors concerning faith and morals into the teaching of

the universal Church. Should the Church hold up for universal veneration a man's life and habits that

in reality led to [his] damnation, it would lead the faithful into error. It is now theologically certain

that the solemn canonization of a saint is an infallible and irrevocable decision of the supreme

pontiff. God speaks infallibly through his Church as it demonstrates and exemplifies its universal

teaching in a particular person or judges that person's acts to be in accord with its teaching.


May the Church ever "uncanonize" a saint? Once completed, the act of canonization is irrevocable.

In some cases a person has been popularly "canonized" without official solemnization by the Church

. . . yet any act short of solemn canonization by the Roman pontiff is not an infallible declaration of

sanctity. Should circumstances demand, the Church may limit the public cult of such a person

popularly "canonized" (vol. 3, 55-56, 59, 61).






We must first distinguish causes of martyrs from those of confessors or virgins, since the method followed is not entirely

identical in both cases.


The Beatification of Confessors


In order to secure beatification (the most important and difficult step in the process of canonization) the regular procedure is as



1.Choosing of a vice-postulator by the postulator-general of the cause, to promote all the judicial inquiries necessary in

places outside of Rome. Such inquiries are instituted by the local episcopal authority.


2.The preparation of the inquiries (processus) all of which are carried on by the ordinary episcopal authority. They are of three kinds: (a) Informative inquiries regard the reputation for sanctity and miracles of the servants of God, not only in general, but also in particular instances; there may be several such inquiries if the witnesses to be examined belong to different dioceses. (b) Processes de non cultu (Catholic doctrine of the worship, invocation, and intercession of the saints) are instituted to prove that the decrees of Urban VIII regarding the prohibition of public worship of servants of God before their beatification have been obeyed; they are generally conducted by the bishop of the place where the relics of the servant of God are preserved. (c) Other inquiries are known as Processiculi diligentiarum and have for their object the writings attributed to the person whose beatification is in question; they vary in number according to the dioceses where such writings are found, or are thought likely to be found, and may not be judicially executed before an "Instruction" is obtained from the promotor of the Faith by the postulator-general and by him sent to the bishop in question.


3.The results of all these inquiries are sent to Rome, to the Congregation of Rites, in charge of a messenger (portitor)

chosen by the judges, or by some other secure way, in case a rescript of the congregation dispenses from the obligation

of sending a messenger.


4.They are opened, translated if necessary into Italian, a public copy is made, and a cardinal is deputed by the pope as

relator or ponens of the cause, for all which steps rescripts of the congregation, confirmed by the pope, must be



5.The writings of the servant of God are next revised by theologians appointed by the cardinal relator himself, authorized to

so act by a special rescript. Meantime, the advocate and the procurator of the cause, chosen by the postulator-general,

have prepared all the documents that concern the introduction of the cause (positio super introductione causae). These

consist of (a) a summary of the informative processes, (b) an information, (c) answers to the observations or difficulties

of the promotor of the Faith sent by him to the Postulator.


6.This collection of documents (positio) is printed and distributed to the cardinals of the Congregation of Rites forty days

before the date assigned for their discussion.


7.If nothing contrary to faith and morals is found in the writings of the servant of God, a decree is published, authorizing

further action (quod in causā procedi possit ad ulteriora), i. e., the discussion of the matter (dubium) of appointment

or non-appointment of a commission for the introduction of the cause.


8.At the time fixed by the Congregation of Rites an ordinary meeting (congregatio) is held in which this appointment is

debated by the cardinals of the aforesaid congregation and its officials, but without the vote or participation of the

consultors, though this privilege is always granted them by prescript.


9.If in this meeting the cardinals favour the appointment of the aforesaid commission, a decree to that effect is promulgated,

and the pope signs it, but, according to custom, with his baptismal name, not with that of his pontificate. Thenceforward

the servant of God is judicially given the title of Venerable.


10.A petition is then presented asking remissorial letters for the bishops in partibus (outside of Rome), authorizing them to

set on foot by Apostolic authority, the inquiry (processus) with regard to the fame of sanctity and miracles in general.

This permission is granted by rescript, and such remissorial letters are prepared and sent to the bishops by the

postulator-general. In case the eye-witnesses be of advanced age, other remissorial letters are usually granted for the

purpose of opening a process known as "inchoative" concerning the particular virtues of miracles of the person in

question. This is done in order that the proofs may not be lost (ne pereant probationes), and such inchoative process

precedes that upon the miracles and virtues in general.


11.While the Apostolic process concerning the reputation of sanctity is under way outside of Rome, documents are being

prepared by the procurator of the cause for the discussion de non cultu, or absence of cultus, and at the appointed time

an ordinary meeting (congregatio) is held in which the matter is investigated; if it be found that the decree of Urban VIII

has been complied with, another decree provides that further steps may be taken.


12.When the inquiry concerning the reputation of sanctity (super famā) has arrived in Rome, it is opened (as already

described in speaking of the ordinary processes, and with the same formalities in regard to rescripts), then translated into

Italian, summarized, and declared valid. The documents super famā in general are prepared by the advocate, and at the

proper time, in an ordinary meeting of the cardinals of the Congregation of Rites, the question is discussed: whether there

is evidence of a general repute for sanctity and miracles of this servant of God. If the answer is favourable, a decree

embodying this result is published.


13.New remissorial letters are then sent to the bishops in partibus for Apostolical processes with regard to the reputation

for sanctity and miracles in particular. These processes must be finished within eighteen months and when they are

received in Rome are opened, as above described, and by virtue of an equal number of rescripts, by the cardinal prefect,

translated into Italian, and their summary authenticated by the Chancellor of the Congregation of Rites.


14.The advocate of the cause next prepares the documents (positio) which have reference to the discussion of the validity

of all the preceding processes, informative and Apostolic.


15.This discussion is held in the meeting called congregatio rotalis from the fact that it is only judges of the Rota who vote. If

the difficulties of the promotor of the Faith are satisfactorily answered, the decree establishing the validity of the inquiries

or processes is published.


16.Meanwhile all necessary preparation is made for the discussion of the question (dubium): Is there evidence that the

venerable servant of God practiced virtues both theological and cardinal, and in an heroic degree? (An constet de

virtutibus Ven. servi Dei, tam theologicis quam cardinalibus, in heroico gradu?) In the causes of confessors this

step is of primary importance. The point is discussed in three meetings or congregations called respectively,

ante-preparatory, preparatory, and general. The first of these meetings is held in the palace of the cardinal relator

(reporter) of the cause, and in it only consultors of the Congregation of Sacred Rites, and with their chairman, or

prefect, presiding, the third is also held in the Vatican, and at it the pope presides, and both cardinals and consultors

vote. For each of these congregations the advocate of the cause prepares and prints official reports (positiones), called

respectively report, new report, final report, concerning the virtues, etc., -- positio, positio nova, positio novissima,

super virtutibus. In each case, before proceeding to the subsequent meeting, a majority of the consultors must decide

that the difficulties of the promotor of the Faith have been satisfactorily solved.


17.When the Congregation of Rites in the above described general meeting has decided favourably, the pope is asked is

asked to sign the solemn decree which asserts that there exists evidence of the heroic virtues of the servant of God. This

decree is not published until after the pope, having commended the matter to God in prayer, gives a final consent and

confirms by his supreme sentence the decision of the congregation.


18.The miracles now remain to be proved, of which two of the first class are required in case the practice of virtues in the

heroic degree has been proved, in both ordinary and Apostolic inquiries or processes by eyewitnesses -- three, if the

eyewitnesses were found only in the ordinary processes; four, if the virtues were proven only by hearsay (de auditu)

witnesses. If the miracles have been sufficiently proven in the Apostolic processes (super virtutibus) already declared

valid, steps are taken at once to prepare the documents with regard to miracles (super miraculis). If in the Apostolic

processes only general mention has been made of the miracles, new Apostolic processes must be opened, and

conducted after the manner already described for proving the practice of virtues in an heroic degree.


19.The discussion of the particular miracles proceeds in exactly the same way and in the same order as that of the virtues. If

the decisions be favourable, the general meeting of the congregation is followed by a decree, confirmed by the pope, in

which it is announced that there is proof of miracles. It must be noted here that in the positio for the ante-preparatory

congregation there are required, and are printed, opinions of two physicians, one of whom has been chosen by the

postulator, the other by the Congregation of Rites. Of the three reports (positiones) above mentioned, and which are

now also required, the first is prepared in the usual way; the second consists of an exposition of the heroic virtues of the

servant of God. an information, and a reply to later observations of the promotor of the Faith; the last consists only of an

answer to his final observations.


20.When the miracles have been proved, another meeting of the Congregation of Rites is held in which it is debated once,

and only once, whether or not, given the approbation of the virtues and miracles, it is safe to proceed with the solemnities

of beatification. If a majority of the consultors be favourable, a decree to this effect is issued by the pope, and at the time

appointed by him the solemn beatification of the servant of God takes place in the Vatican Basilica, on which occasion a

pontifical Brief is issued permitting the public cultus and veneration of the beatified person now known as Blessed



The Beatification of Martyrs


1.The causes of martyrs are conducted in the same way as those of confessors as far as the informative processes and

those de non cultu and ad introductionem causae are concerned. But when once the commission of introduction has

been appointed they advance much more rapidly.


2.No remissorial letters are granted for Apostolic processes concerning the general reputation for martyrdom and miracles;

the letters sent call for an immediate investigation into the fact of martyrdom, its motive, and the particular miracles

alleged. There is no longer a discussion of the general reputation for martyrdom or miracles.


3.The miracles are not discussed, as formerly, in separate meetings, but in the same meetings that deal with the fact and the

motive of the martyrdom.


4.The miracles (signa) required are not those of the first class; those of the second class suffice, nor is their number

determined. On some occasions the decision as to miracles has been entirely dispensed with.


5.The discussion as to martyrdoms and miracles, formerly held in three meetings or congregations, viz. the

ante-preparatory, preparatory, and general, is now usually conducted, through a dispensation to be had in each instance

from the sovereign pontiff, in a single congregation known as particularis, or special. It consists of six or seven cardinals

of the Congregation of Rites and four or five prelates especially deputed by the pope. There is but one positio prepared

in the usual way; if there be an affirmative majority a decree is issued concerning the proof of martyrdom, the cause of

martyrdom, and miracles. (Constare de Martyrio, causā Martyrii et signis.)


6.The final stage is a discussion of the security (super tuto) with which advance to beatification may be made, as in the

case of confessors; the solemn beatification then follows.


This procedure is followed in all cases of formal beatification in causes of both confessors and martyrs proposed in the ordinary

way (per viam non cultus). Those proposed as coming under the definition of cases excepted (casus excepti) by Urban VIII

are treated in another way. In such cases it must be proved that an immemorial public veneration (at least for 100 years before

the promulgation, in 1640, of the decrees of Urban VIII) has been paid the servant of God, whether confessor or martyr. Such

cause is proposed under the title of "confirmation of veneration" (de confirmatione cultus); it is dealt with in an ordinary

meeting of the Congregation of Rites. When the difficulties of the promotor of the Faith have been satisfied, a pontifical decree

confirming the cultus is promulgated. Beatification of this kind is called equivalent or virtual.


The Canonization of Confessors or Martyrs


The canonization of confessors or martyrs may be taken up as soon as two miracles are reported to have been worked at their

intercession, after the pontifical permission of public veneration as described above. At this stage it is only required that the two

miracles worked after the permission awarding a public cultus be discussed in three meetings of the congregation. The

discussion proceeds in the ordinary way; if the miracles be confirmed another meeting (super tuto) is held. The pope then

issues a Bull of Canonization in which he not only permits, but commands, the public cultus, or veneration, of the saint.


It is with the utmost possible brevity that I have described the elements of a process of beatification or canonization. It may be

easily conjectured that considerable time must elapse before any cause of beatification or canonization can be conducted, from

the first steps of the information, inquiry, or process, to the issuing of the decree super tuto. According to the constitution of

this Congregation, more than one important discussion (dubia majora) cannot be proposed at the same time. It must be

remembered that the same cardinals and consultors must vote in all discussions; that there is but one promotor of the Faith and one sub-promotor, who alone have charge of all observations to be made with regard to the dubia; that these cardinals and consultors have to treat questions of ritual as well as processes of canonization and beatification.


To execute all this business there is but one weekly meeting (congressus), a kind of minor congregation in which only the

cardinal prefect and the major officials vote; in it less important and practical questions are settled regarding rites as well as

causes, and answers are given, and rescripts which the pope afterwards verbally approves. The other meetings of the

congregation (ordinary, rotal, and "upon virtues and miracles") may be as few as sixteen in the course of the year. Some other

cause must therefore be found for the slow progress of causes of beatification or canonization than a lack of good will or

activity on the part of the Congregation of Rites.


Reference: The Cathloic Encyclopedia

Mysteries Marvels Miracles by Joan Carroll Cruz


Bilocation Levitation The Order of Sanctity

The Order of Sin Mystical Hearts Miraculous transport

Money Mysteriously Provided Multiplication of Food Mystical Marriage and Heavenly Jewelry

Miraculous Protection Lights and Rays of Love Fire and Heat of Love

Prophecy Invisibility Saints Who Knew the data of their Death

The Stigmata The gift of the tongues Mystical Fasts

Mystical Knowledge


Following information is from Vatican Magazine

Jan 25, 1997 Dominican priest formally asked the Catholic Church to consider beatifying Girolamo Savonarola, the monk hanged in Florence, Italy for heresy in 1498. The move comes as Pope John Paul II begs forgiveness for past sins and erros committed in the Church’s name in order to purify the Church before the Holy year 2000. The request to begin the cause was put forward by Father Innocenzo Venchi, chief postulator for the Dominion Republic.

Feb 18, 1997 Father Innocenzo Venchi, chief postulator for the Dominion Republic will introduce a proposal for Bartholomew De Las Casas for beatification and canonization. He was a Spanish Dominican priest who was accused of heresy for his defense of the Indians in the 1500s. He was accused of heresy by Spain’s civil authority for standing against a system of work camps that exploited the Indians’ labor.

Apr 8, 1997 Pope approves a miracle attributed to her intercession of Edith Stein(final hurdle to be canonized). The miracle occured in 1987 when a two year old girl in a Boston Hospital wasn’t expected to live. Her parents prayed for intercession to Sister Teresia Benidicta. The girl lived.

May 4, 1997 Pope beatified Ceferino Jimenez Malla, killed in 1936 during the Spanish Civil war, was known for helping the poor. He was imprisoned by republican forces for defending a priest who had been detained in Barbastro. He was executed because he refused to renouce his faith.

May 22, 1997 Edith Stein approved by the Pope to be canonized.

May 22, 1997 Hedwig approved by the Pope to be canonized.

June 8, 1997 Hedwig Canonized (A 14th century Queen of Poland).

June 18, 1997 US bishops’ conference voted unanimously to support the cause of Father Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus.

Oct 2, 1997 Pope process of Mother Teresa should follow the normal corse for sainthood.

Oct 12, 1997 Beatification ceremony

-Emilie D’Oultremont, Belgian born who founded an order of nuns in 1818.

-Father Giovanni Piamarta, born in Italy who dedicated his life in 1841 to educating the children of the poor.

-Father Domenico Lentini who worked in some of the poorest parts of rural southern Italy before his death in 1828.

-Elia Del Soccorso Nieves, a priest who was killed by anti-clerical forces during the Mexican revolution early this century.

-Mother Maria Teresa Fasce, Abbess of the monastery of St. Rita in Cascia, Italy, who died in 1948.

Oct 19, 1997 St. Teresa declared doctor of the Church. Died in 1887, Beatified in 1923, Canonized in 1925. She lived a life of simplicity and piety in the Carmelite Convent at Lisieux.

Nov 9, 1997 Pope Beatified three persons.

-Vilmos Apor, Bishop of the Hungarian city of Gyor(died in 1945). He was shot by a Russian soldier when he refused to hand over 100 women who had taken refugee in his bishopric.

-Bishop Giovanni Battista Scalabrini(died in 1905) founded a order for priest and nuns to help Italian immigrants around the world.

-Maria Vincenta De Santa Dorotea Chavez Orozco(died in 1949), a Mexican nun founded an order of religious sisters to help the poor.

Nov 17, 1997 The Vatican confirmed Edith Stein will be proclaimed a saint on October 11, 1998.