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September 28, 2006



If the canonization process guarantees sainthood, what's the deal with Saint Christopher?


I'm pretty sure he was from before the current formal canonization process, Eric.

And guessing-- possibly wrongly-- but since you didn't put an email, you probably knew that....


St. Christopher is still a saint, he's simply not on the universal calendar. He was declared to be a saint before the formal canonization process began in the fifteenth century, when many saints were proclaimed by popular approval.

Some saints were considered so legendary that their cult was completely repressed. Christopher's cult was not suppressed but it is confined to local calendars (those for a diocese, country, or so forth).

Thomas A. Gill

Many people who we consider saints were never officially canonized. They may have lived before the process was created or there hasn't been sufficient info. available to canonize them. They are really saints by tradition. However, that does not mean that they aren't truly saints. Therefore, I think veneration and intercession would still be appropriate.

Great post, Jimmy. Small nit -- Josemaria Escriva joined the names Jose and Maria together because Joseph and Mary are inseperable.


My you never have to experience Purgatory's charms!


The whole temporal aspect is confusing to me. When a person whose holiness is well-known dies, do we pray for the repose of his soul (as he might be in Purgatory) AND seek his intercession to further the cause of his sainthood AT THE SAME TIME? As I understand it, if he were in Purgatory, we could not seek his intercession on our behalf. So, what gives?


The saints in purgatory can pray for us, and we for them, but they can't pray for themselves, which is why we need to be ever mindful to offer up our sufferings for their release.


franksta, As far as I know, there's no reason why people in Purgatory can't pray for us, so why can't we seek their intercession? Indeed, their interceding for us may help in their process or purification.

process of purification...

Tim Powers

And I don't think Purgatory is necessarily duration -- like, "He was probably in Purgatory in '82, right after he died, but I'm sure he's out by now."

I think this all takes place outside of our local, sequential time. Prayers for a deceased friend will always be of assistance in his getting out of Purgatory, even if he's "already out" when you're praying -- and I bet he's a saint in Heaven "at the same time" that he's in Purgatory. That is, I don't think people pop into Heaven or Purgatory (or Hell) on certain days in a celestial calendar -- "Wow, a whole crowd just this minute arrived in Purgatory, there must have been a bomb or a plane crash on Earth somewhere."

This is wildly speculative -- but it might be that saints in Heaven have "always" been in Heaven, and so you could theoretically even ask your own eternally saved soul to pray for you in your time-bound interval on Earth. That seems intrinsically goofy, kind of a short circuit, but I don't right now see a reason you couldn't do it!


But the saints who were martyred...
They are believed to directly to heaven...right?

That is like a 'get out of pergatory' card...right?
Go directly to heaven, do not pass go...


That particular explanation sure *sounds like* works-righteousness to my ears. I don't think that is what you meant to say, but maybe I'm wrong?

perhaps a Calendar (Celestial)by analogy not literally, as you say sequential time as we know it


Yes, i have always understood that martyrs go directly into heaven. Their martyrdom is their purgatory. I was taught this in RCIA; I suppose it could be wrong or speculative or a traditional teaching (with a little t), so please feel free to "enlighten" me (haha).


About the infallibility of saints; does that extend to Blesseds as well?

And does infallibility extend to miracles? I hope not, because Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta's reported "miracle" was almost certainly not a miracle at all:


The "cured" woman was receiving aggressive chemo at the same time. I point that out as the consequence of streamlining and rushing the canonization process and the harmful effect it has (something like 477 saints during Pope John Paul's pontificate, more than many previous popes combined).

If St. Joan of Arc can wait hundreds of years, why can't modern saints? Why the hurry? Oh, wait. As always, it's ecumenism:


That'll do it. Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and other schismatics, idolaters, and heretics will look at the Church, see its explosion of saintliness in the last 26 years, and think, "Aha! That's it. I'm going to become Catholic, cuz you guys have lots of saints!"

J.R. Stoodley


It is my understanding that neither beatifications nor approval of miricals are infallible. I still don't understand how canonizations are infallible but they are.


As someone who has gone through RCIA, I would respectfully suggest that you do not teach uncertain things like that to the catechumens. They genterally do not have the knowledge to tell what is formal church teaching and what is a legend or personal opinion. For instance I only found out only recently that something I had been taught about the status of the Jewish people after Christ was only one theologial position not the formal teaching of the Catholic Church. If you do want to teach such things, make clear that this is a popular belief or personal opinion rather than Catholic doctrine.


Miracles were waived in the case of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher, because of their undoubted martyrdom. This, however, did not stop them having to wait a whole 500 years to be raised to the altar.

J.R. Stoodley

Perhaps the fact that life in the modern world is quite different than it has ever been helps account for the speedy canonizations. One of the reasons the Church canonizes saints is to give us examples to emulate, but anyone from before the 20th or all the more the 19th century lived such a different life than most of us that they can seem quite distant. Previous generations did not have this problem. At least not nearly as much.

Also there are parts of the world where a large Catholic population has emerged but there are still few or no canonized saints. The desire for such regions (including the US to some degree) and cultures (African cultures for instance) to have examples they could emulate, not just distant European saints, could be another reason.


Papal canonizations are infallible because they bind the entire Church to a "dogmatic fact"; Aquinas argues that canonizations have to fall under the aegis of infallibility because the Church cannot teach error. Beatifications do not bind/involve the whole Church, and is more of a permission given by the Church to a local Church to venerate someone, whereas canonization binds the Church to recognize someone as a saint.


St. Thomas also posited that papal canonizations should be held to be inerran by "pious submission." That's a bit different than infallibility.

I agree that, barring the exercise of infallibility, canonizations make little sense.

But J.R., your statement is interesting:

The desire for such regions (including the US to some degree) and cultures (African cultures for instance) to have examples they could emulate, not just distant European saints, could be another reason.

That does not seem quite right. The Holy Father does not seem permitted to go and look for African saints simply because Africans "need someone to emulate." The Holy Spirit will confirm a person's sanctity in His time, not based on the opinion that some country is "overdue" for having one of its own canonized. I live in Washington DC; I'm not aware of anyone from the Dictrict having ever been canonized, but I've no problem venerating the Irish St. Patrick, the Spanish St. Teresa, the French St. Louis de Montfort, the Ugandan St. Charles Lwanga, or the Korean St. Andrew Kim Taegon.

I think you pointed out the problem with these many canonizations; there hasn't been some explosion of holiness in the last 26 years. Why did previous popes canonize only a half dozen saints during decade pontificates? Because sainthood is not something to be handed out as a freebie, and, with due respect, waiving five-year waiting periods, eliminating Devil's Advocates, waiving miracle requirements, or approving as "miracles" cures which are clearly and almost indisputably scientifically explicable (and hence, not miracles) seems a poor way to establish a candidate's sanctity. All those measures have the purpose of stemming the emotionalistic tide of fervor which naturally follows the passing of someone popular (trying to give Pope John Paul the same appendice as Sts. Leo, Gregory, and Albert, for instance).

I can't see any reason to do away with them and maintain the rigorous integrity of canonization without reducing it to a joke--can you?

BTW, St. Albertus Magnus is not really "the Great"... Magnus is actually the Latin translation of his family name "de Groot" (Low German/Dutch/Flemish for "the Great"--probably meaning "tall" originally, similar to the common High German name "Gross")


So, it is St. Fat Albert? ;-) ;-) (no disrespect intended, just jolity over words)

Some Day

I think it was saint Theresa or some other saint that made a genuflection in Purgatory and left.
Saints can go to Purgatory. Why? Because althought they may have the confirmation in grace, they still are human and were subject to "the just sins 7 times daily". But of course, very little "time". So their defects, which I wish I could have the defects of a saint, might cause them to spend some instances. And then there is the opposite. Some Spanish soldiers, I forgot in what time and war, were captured upon leaving a house of prostitution, and were told to renounce th Faith. They were in mortal sin, yet they refused to give up the Faith, and were martyred. Straight to Heaven.

And D.C. will never have a saint unless its a marytr...

A Simple Sinner

That'll do it. Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and other schismatics, idolaters, and heretics will look at the Church, see its explosion of saintliness in the last 26 years, and think, "Aha! That's it. I'm going to become Catholic, cuz you guys have lots of saints!"

What utter pedantic nonsense. To those that say the Vatican in the past 30 years has canonized too many, I say "Pah! Too FEW!"

There are more saints in Heaven that we have the first idea about. And when you look at the numbers of of martyrs suffered by communities such as the Greek Catholics of Eastern Europe and other Eastern Catholics of the Middle East, well surely there are far fewer Maronites on the calendar than there ought to be.

When JP2 visted Ukraine and canonized 30 Greek Catholic martyrs I couldn't help but think "It's a start!" Fact of the matter is Ukraine suffered enough martyrs for 10 saints every single day of the calendar year. That is just one small group. Never mind China. Never mind the martyrs of the Ottoman Empire. Never mind the martyrs of Korea, Japan, Vietnam. Never mind the martyrs in Africa.

Holiness is out there. Don't be fooled. There could be a saint quietly sitting next to you at Mass, parked next to you at the traffic light, or posting on this very blog.

That is what Christ calls us to be. Is it that unbelievable that so many DO hear the call and say "Yes" to Our Lord?

Fr M Kirby

The thing that annoys me so much about the complaints over JPII's large number of canonisations is the refusal to take into account both simple mathematics and modern history.

First, the exponential increase in population over the last couple of centuries, including the Christian population, means that even if the % of capital "S" Saints was as low as ever, the absolute number of candidates for canonisation would have increased enormously in the modern world. Second, only some parts of the Church have been in the wealthy West and tempted by Laodicean laxness. Many others were under communist or other antiChristian oppressions for years, with many Martyrs produced. Indeed, the combination of these factors may mean that more Christians died for their faith in the Twentieth Century than in the first nineteen.

Another Catholic Mama

How sad I am at coming to know that it is no longer taken as a matter of fact that the Saints of the Church have all accepted the sufferings of life to such an heroic extreme that it sufficed to completely purge them of their imperfections and thereby rendered them worthy of entering Heaven immediately upon leaving this world--and of making them worthy of canonization on this earth. It is also sad that this idea is nowadays considered as merely that of pious lay devotions, regarded as rubbish to be discarded.

This popular belief once helped to foster virtue and self sacrifice among Christians. It is no wonder that now that it is discarded that these virtues are all but completely lost in this poor world. It seems it would be much more prudent to encourage this pious popular belief again, as it would encourage spiritual growth and foster virtue and self sacrifice among the laity for the love of God and our fellow man.

J.R. Stoodley

Another Catholic Mama,

We Catholics need to be loyal to the truth. If the truth is that this belief is not Catholic Tradition it should be recognized for what it is.

I sympathise with your pius attitude and your desire to see people strive for heroic virtue, but twisting the truth to serve a good purpose is not right.

In fact, I think this kind of legend obscures the meaning of canonization and makes the saints more distant, their sanctity unattainable by "everyday people".

Only the truth will set you free. We should attempt to foster holiness through saying how Purgatory is not in fact neccessary, how we can be sanctified in this life, how the spiritual life can grow and blossom until the person achieves a near perfect union with God even before death. These truths should be more valuable in reigniting the fervor you desire than encouraging faith in a very questionable idea that all canonized saints go straight to heaven.

Another Catholic Mama

J. R. Stoodley,

I understand what you are saying, but frankly, I do not see what is the POINT of canonizing people whose lives did not attain a perfection and holiness in this life that gave them immediate entrance into Heaven at the moment of their deaths. Striving for this perfection and holiness is the very aim of the devout life. The worldly have only a vague understanding of this, and sadly, apparently too many contemporary Catholics as well, who perhaps never learned the finer points of the devout life.

By your standards, what is to keep the Church from canonizing Gandhi or Ali (Mohammad's son in law)? They were also good men who led exemplary lives, but the Church could ever presume that they by-passed Heaven for the simple fact that they were not Christian. But since that is no longer a requisite, then why not canonize them?

Another Catholic Mama

oops, correction... in the last paragraph of my post above I meant to say:

the Church could never presume that they by-passed Purgatory for the simple fact that they were not Christian (if indeed they did or will reach Heaven at all)...


"I do not see what is the POINT of canonizing people whose lives did not attain a perfection and holiness in this life that gave them immediate entrance into heaven at the moment of their deaths."

If God has inspired the Church to canonize someone who did go to Purgatory(which may or may not have ever happened--we'll probably never know in this life), then it is because He sees the point of doing so.


"I do not see what is the POINT of canonizing people whose lives did not attain a perfection and holiness in this life that gave them immediate entrance into heaven at the moment of their deaths."

Well, if your aim is to emulate such a person's imperfection, that's not going to be an option. But:
1.) As a sinner almost to the end, they can inspire you to have hope, and
2.) inspire awe in God's mercy.
3.) They are now perfected and
4.) totally aligned with God's will now, which means
5.) They want the best for you and will pray for you.

I will honor them because God made them honorable, and be grateful for any intercession from such a saint.

Some Day

I noticed that some of you got the concept of what it is to be a Saint.
It doesn't require extraordinarly huge miracles or knowledge. All people are called to be saints.
So if you got a garbageman (please don't take offense) who is a saint, you can't expect him to right the Summa part II. Or to levitate. He will be a pious man to a very high degree. His life will be an example. Most of us here aren't going to be great theologans or cure people or see Our Lady appear to us. None of us is going to become Pope or recapture the Holy Lands. I don't say most of us will not be saints because I surely hope and pray that we'll meet in Heaven some day.
The deadline to be a saint is death.

Eric Trujillo

I would like to begin the process of canonization of New Orleans native Thomy Lafon, who lived an extraordinary life. Google him. How do I start this process?

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