Exactly how many saints are there?
How does the Church choose saints?
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
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
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.
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.
By the year 100
A.D., Christians were honoring other Christians who had died, and asking for
their intercession. Many people think that honoring saints was something the
Church set up later, but it was part of Christianity from the very beginning.
As a matter of fact, this practice came from a long-standing tradition in the
Jewish faith of honoring prophets and holy people with shrines. The first
saints were martyrs, people who had given up their lives for the Faith in the
persecution of Christians.
Look at the
pictures of your loved ones in your wallet or around your home or office. Why
do you keep these particular pictures? You might answer that you carry those
pictures to remind you of people you love, to help you feel that they're close
to you when you're not together, or to share with people you meet. But you
probably didn't say you worshipped them. Those are some of the same reasons we
have statues and pictures of saints. Seeing a statue of Saint Therese of Lisieux who lost her mother when she was a child might make
us feel less alone when we are grieving. A picture of Saint Francis of
We pray with
saints, not to them.
Have you ever asked anyone to pray for you when you were having a hard time? Why did you choose to ask that person?
You may have chosen someone you could trust, or someone who understood your problem, or someone who was close to God. Those are all reasons we ask saints to pray for us in times of trouble.
led holy lives and are close to God in heaven, we feel that their prayers are
particularly effective. Often we ask particular saints to pray for us if we
feel they have a particular interest in our problem. For example, many people
ask Saint Monica to pray for them if they have trouble with unanswered prayers,
because Monica prayed for twenty years for her son to be converted. Finally her
prayers were answered in a way she never dreamed of -- her son, Augustine,
became a canonized saint and a Doctor of the Church.
are chosen as special protectors or guardians over areas of life. These areas
can include occupations, illnesses, churches, countries, causes
-- anything that is important to us. The earliest records show that people and
churches were named after apostles and martyrs as early as the fourth century.
Recently, the popes have named patron saints but patrons can be chosen by other
individuals or groups as well. Patron saints are often chosen today because an
interest, talent, or event in their lives overlaps with the special area. For
example, Francis of Assisi loved nature and so he is patron of ecologists.
Francis de Sales was a writer and so he is patron of journalists and writers.
Clare of Assisi was named patron of television because one Christmas when she
was too ill to leave her bed she saw and heard Christmas Mass -- even though it
was taking place miles away. Angels can also be named as patron saints. A
patron saint can help us when we follow the example of that saint's life and
when we ask for that saint's intercessory prayers to God.
This article taken from Catholic Online at: http://www.catholic.org/saints/faq.php