On the Desire for Canonization

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Perhaps one of the more disturbing threads of conversation I heard at the Carmelite Congress was one dealing with canonization. After an excellent presentation focused on Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, one person asked whether his cause had been advanced. The reply came that , no, not enough was really known of him for this to be a viable cause. A little later the same question arose. And yet a third time the presenter was asked about canonization.

The matter of canonization is not about getting as many of "your Saints" in heaven as possible. The teaching of Brother Lawrence is no less efficacious for him not being raised to the honors of the altar. What he has to say about living your life is no less meaningful because the Church has not canonized him. And yet there is this nearly obsessive bent many people have with making and recognizing Saints.

There are innumberable saints the Church has not recognized. Most of the saints whom we implore to intercede for us have no names on Church calendars. They are our ancestors, our departed loved ones, our friends, and a huge nameless mass that raises our concerns to God each day. We may ask a certain intercessor to advance our cause to the Most High, but for each one we ask, thousands more implore--all those who have given their heaven over to us in prayer. I imagine sometimes that all of my forbears who entered heaven raise their voices as one when there is a need. Our needs are known and the Saints and the saints intercede for us constantly at God's table. The clamor of our most minor need raises a noise of joy so great that we would be unable to bear it if we could hear it. The chorus of imploring, rejoicing, honoring, praising voices raised constantly in our behalf is part of the great joy of heaven.

So, let's not be troubled by who is and who is not recognized as a great saint worthy of veneration. By all means, let us pray for those to whom we have a special attachment--in my case Louis and Zélie Martin, parents of St. Thérèse. But let us all recognize that there is a great deal to be gained from the works that lesser saints have left us and from the prayers of all the saints in heaven. Think of it this way--just as we pray for all the poor souls in purgatory, raising our voices to God in their favor, so the saints in heaven, while praying also for the poor souls in purgatory, also pray for us still on Earth that we might avoid prolonged time in purgation and make our way speedily to the embrace of the Father.

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Peace, Steven.

Sadly, though, appearances suggest it is indeed about getting as many of "my/our" saints into the club. On one hand, when my friend Fr Jeff promotes his respect and devotion for Gasparian saints, especially the new ones, I can read and appreciate the honor he feels for his way of life.

On the other hand, like nearly all lay people, I have no resources or the inclination to lobby the curia, make extensive pilgrimages to Rome, or otherwise devote extensive research to married couples (who did not parent saints or priests or engage in optional celibacy) who could be held up as examples of the Christian life.

Once the canonization process is better refined with substantially more local input, I could get excited about John Paul II's blizzard of saints. I have no doubt these people are all worthy, but canonization isn't the Catholic Hall of Fame, it's about holding up examples of the Christian life for the living.

Dear Todd,

Perhaps I did not make clear that what you express in the last couple of sentences is precisely what I intend. For example, my grandmother is an example in my life of a great saint whose prayers I know I can rely upon because her heart was full of love and completely devoted to Christ. She was a Baptist. I rather doubt that she's going to be canonized anytime soon.

I don't need more canonized Saints (not that I'm rejecting them) but the Calendar is stuffed full of them already and I could never intimately know all the saints whom we might presently revere. But I've been touched in my life by real sanctity--saving grace from the hands of others. If it were not for this grandmother, I don't know that I would even be Christian, let alone Catholic.

The politics of sainthood concern me less than the understanding that there are a great many people perhaps deserving of this honor who will never be so honored. It little matters--their crown is in heaven, their glory with God, and their voices are heard as are those of the greatest recognized saint.



I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Zelie Martin too Steve. I have her biography linked on my blog and I think she is a wonderful role model for women trying to live their Christian lives as wives and mothers.

Peace, Steven.

Didn't intend to come off as a duffer on your original post. I was just sounding off in the general direction you were going. I did catch your drift and I agree with you, though I cannot express it with the same grace you always manage.

I think that the saints are being presented as a healthy alternative to the adulation given to rock stars etc.
My personal cause for canonization is Blessed Gianna, married, non-celibate, who will be canonized later this year. We need her kind of witness against the culture of death.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on February 4, 2004 7:58 AM.

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