Allegheny Valley Church Of God
How To Become A Saint
Oh when those saints go marching in,
When those saints go marching in,
Oh, I want to be in that number,
When those saints go marching in.
We're all familiar with that old song. How many New Year's revelries have been closed with it? How often does it's familiar melody waft through the bistros and cabarets of New Orleans? Why, they even named their football team after it. But what exactly does it mean to be a "saint"? The Greek word translated "saint" (hagios) is related to the word translated "holy". It refers to someone who has been set apart for the purposes of God, one who has been "sanctified" (another form of the word).
With the recent resignation of Pope Benedict XVI there has been a renewed interest in the workings of the Roman Catholic church. It can be reasonable assumed that Cardinal Ratzinger will not be elegible for canonization, as is his predecessor Pope John Paul II. His beatification is almost assured.
How is a person made into a saint? The Roman Catholic church has it all figured out. The most recent saint was Saint Pedro Calungsod of Cebu. He was a Filipino who suffered martyrdom back in the 1600's. In another fairly recent canonization, (July of 2002) Pope John Paul II bestowed sainthood on a person named Juan Diego. Back in 1531, just ten years after the Spanish conquest of Mexico, he had a vision of a dark skinned woman, purported to be an apparition of the Virgin Mary, who instructed him to tell the local bishop that there was to be be a church built upon the spot of the visitation. It just so happens that that was the spot where Mexican Indians would worship Tonantzin, an Aztec goddess. The church was built, and the woman was dubbed "Our Lady of Guadalupe."(As startling as it may seem, it is not uncommon for Roman Catholicism to recognize the local deities and idols of superstitious people and adopting them into it's own pantheon of "saints".)
So, over 400 years after the event, Juan makes it into the books as a bonafide saint of God. Why did it take so long? Since he is considered a national hero amongst the Catholics in Mexico, why didn't this honor come sooner? Well, if you examine what it takes to become a saint, you might understand.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia under "BEATIFICATION AND CANONIZATION", this practice, "is a decree regarding the public ecclesiastical veneration of an individual." If a person is deemed worthy of only local worship, he is beatified, if considered more worthy of recognition throughout the whole church, said individual may obtain sainthood (canonization). Needless to say, beatification must precede sainthood. (Like playing triple A before getting into the big leagues.)
What are the steps to becoming a saint according to Roman Catholic tradition? The first thing is to be beatified. This is considered the hard part. There are many steps (20 to be exact) listed in the aforementioned article. I will list just a few here.
First, someone has to take up the cause. Someone has to say, "Hey, this guy (or girl) deserves to have his own statue and a church named after him." This person initiates inquiries into the person's manner of life and any miracles that might have been performed. Then they have to find out if he was a good Catholic by investigating his writings and associations.
All the evidence gathered then has to be sent to Rome and, if necessary, translated into Italian. It is distributed to the Cardinals (the guys with the red hats) for examination. If they determine that the candidate hasn't said or written anything contrary to the teachings of the Church, then they form a commission.
If the commission gives it's ok, then the Pope signs off (not in his papal name, but in his given name) and all the bishops vote on whether or not to have an open investigation into the possibility of beatification. If that happens, it goes back to Rome, then back to the bishops, then back to Rome again.
Finally, after a whole lot more red tape, the final act is to prove the miracles. If the cardinals are satisfied that the candidate really did participate in the miraculous, then they send the thing to the Pope who does the honors at the Vatican. From that time on, the individual is called "blessed" and can be venerated.
After a person is pronounced "blessed" and his pulic veneration is permitted, there must be at least two verifiable miracles which occur as the result of his verneration. Once that takes place, the road to sainthood can continue. After recognition of these miracles, the cardinals recommend canonization to the Pope, then he commands public worship of the saint.
Pretty envolved, you say? Not only that, but pretty expensive, too. According to the aforementioned article, it could cost in excess of $20,000 to obtain beatification, another $30,000 dollars to reach sainthood. (That includes all the images and pictures and plastic dashboard statues which are so popular.) The article did not really say who pays for all this, but, as an ex-Catholic, I have a feeling that adds up to a lot of bingo games.
Now, what does the Bible say about saints. The word itself is used over 60 times in the New Testament (not counting the various forms translated "holy" or "sanctified" etc.). It is always used in reference to believers, those who have put their trust in Jesus Christ. In most of his letters, Paul addresses the "saints" in the particular city to which the letter is addressed.
I guess the Pope and cardinals must have been pretty busy back then, to have so many saints. In reality, there was no pope, there were no cardinals, there was no Vatican. No, in Paul's greeting to the Corinthians in his first letter to them he writes:
"Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 1:1-3)
"With all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord..." What makes one a saint? Is it the sanction of an idolatrous and superstitious religion which claims to have the right to "beatify" or "canonize" individuals, some of questionable character and history? No, a saint is created when a sinner calls upon the name of Jesus Christ and is saved for all eternity. Then that person becomes a holy vessel, set apart for God's special purposes. There is no monetary expense, only the cost of an old sinful life, exchanged for the new life to be found in Christ.
Was it necessary for the early Bible saints to produce a miracle? No, because the greatest miracle is a renewed life, a changed person. Any outward miracles in the Bible days or any other day can only be attributed to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, not the mother, or some other individual who supposedly obtained "sainthood" through the process of beatification and canonization. Miracles that occur without the glorification of God are demonic and need to be exposed as such. Visitations and apparitions and visions which do not exalt Christ and him alone are evil and are to be rejected.
If you are reading this article, and you are Catholic, please don't think that I don't like you. I love you enough to tell you the truth. As an ex-Catholic, I often use humor in talking about such things. But this is serious. Take your statues and your idols and your images and burn them. Renounce your veneration of the false Mary and saints, and call upon the true and living God, the Holy One who died for your sins, the great I Am. He's the only one who can give you eternal life. Then you can truly consider yourself a saint, just like the believer in the New Testament.
If you are a believer, please pray for our Catholic friends. Some of them have such a zeal, but too often it is not according to knowledge. Always tell the truth in love. And always lift up the name of Jesus, because he said that if he were lifted up, he would draw all men.