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The Rundown: The Steps Taken Before Sainthood

Four steps need to be undertaken by an individual before becoming a saint.

A few weeks ago, Pope Francis authorized the Dicastery to grant the Decree declaring three individuals as Venerable Servants of God, making them one step closer to sainthood. Enrichetta Beltrame Quattrocchi, Fra Placido Cortese, and Maria Cristina Cella Mocellin have been recognized for their heroic virtues which the Catholic Church has deemed saintly, hence the title.

And Pope John Paul I, whose papacy only lasted 33 days, is also a step closer to becoming a saint. This comes after the miraculous healing of an Argentinian girl has been attributed to the late pope. His beatification is said to possible be this coming fall, once he passes the last stages of the beatification process. (Read: Pope John Paul I May Be Beatified In The Fall– Reports)

But how exactly do people become saints? And how long does it take for one to be called and recognized as a saint of the Catholic Church? My Pope gives you a rundown of the process towards sainthood so we can all learn about it! Read on.

Step 1: Wait at least five years

Nuns gather around the body of Mother Teresa. (Photo from India Today Group/Getty Images)

Five is the magic number when it comes to starting a cause towards sainthood. “This is to allow greater balance and objectivity in evaluating the case and to let the emotions of the moment dissipate,” said the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) about the five-year wait. However, there are “extraordinary circumstances” where the sitting pope can waive the waiting period.

It was less than two years after she died when Mother Teresa’s cause was approved by Saint Pope John Paul II, and the investigation started. The same went for Saint Pope John Paul II himself. His successor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, forewent the five-year period and began JPII’s journey towards sainthood just a little over a month after his death. (Read: Pope John Paul II’s Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Step 2: Become a Servant of God

Photos from Servant of God Darwin Ramos: Cause for Canonization Facebook, (book) ST PAULS Catholic Online Bookstore, and (background) Josh Sorenson from Pexels

Concerned committees and a handful of theologian will then carefully examine the life the candidate lived. They will look into their lives, writings, and teachings to see if they demonstrate ‘heroic virtue’. Once verified, individuals can now be called a Venerable. “Venerable is the title given to a deceased person recognized formally by the pope as having lived a heroically virtuous life or offered their life,” the USCCB explained.

The late Pope Pius XII is a Venerable, alongside Princess Louise of France (Therese of Saint Augustine), among others.

Step 3: Have a verified miracle attributed to you

Mikey Schachle, whose life was saved by an officially recognized miracle through the intercession of Fr. Michael McGivney. (Photo courtesy of the Schachle Family / National Catholic Register). (Right) Father Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus and a native of Waterbury, Conn., is pictured in an undated photo. (Photo from CNS / Our Sunday Visitor)

After being proclaimed a Venerable, an individual must then have a miracle attributed to them after their death, and be investigated and verified by the appropriate committees for their beatification cause to open. Investigations of miracles can take anywhere from a few months to a few years, as it requires evidence before being accepted as a miracle.

Individuals who have had verified miracles will be then beatified and given the title “Blessed”. They are entitled to limited public veneration–usually “only in the diocese, eparchy, region, or religious community in which the Blessed lived.” (Read: ‘I Had a Miracle Baby – and a Second Chance at Life!’)

For martyrs, no miracles are needed for them to become a Blessed–once the sitting pope approves the document that the candidate was martyred for their faith, he can use the title at once.

Beatification causes for Saint Pope John Paul II’s parents, Karol Wojtyła Sr. and Emilia Kaczorowska, have been approved by the Holy See in May 2020.

Step 4: Be canonized by the Pope

Pope Francis declared Mother Teresa a saint on Sunday, September 4, 2016 before a crowd of more than 100,000 in St. Peter’s Square. Hundreds of people came to offer prayers at the Missionaries of Charity’s headquarters in Kolkata, India. (Photo from Getty Images)

Before becoming a saint, a Blessed must have another miracle attributed to them–a miracle which should happen after their beatification. And just like before, the miracle would have to be investigated and confirmed before the cause for canonization is sent to the pope. After all necessary processes and investigations are done, and the miracle is verified, the Blessed can now be canonized.

However, there are also some circumstances where a second miracle could be waived–just like Pope John XXIII who was canonized at the same time as JPII, without needing a second miracle. According to Pope Francis, he waived the second miracle because of John XXIII’s “merits for the Second Vatican Council.” (Read: Archbishop Urges Prayers for Cause to Sainthood of Ilocos Bishop)

For Blessed martyrs, only one miracle is required for them to be canonized. Canonized individuals earn the title “saint” and are eligible for universal public veneration.

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