One of my fellow WordPress bloggers,”The Majestic House” (whom I have not “met” online yet), wrote an article recently claiming to have shown several ways how the Catholic Church is part of “false Christianity.” The writer dealt with several subjects and used Scriptural passages to support his claim. As it is with remedying most misunderstandings, it is better to deal with one error per article or risk losing the attention of the audience with a thesis.
This blog article in question is “The Truth About the Catholic Church.” In one section, he (actually I do not know the gender of the author but the English language doesn’t provide for an alternative) says the above Matthew passage: (“tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.”1) indicates that there are more saints than what the Church lists. He also quoted Act 9:13 and Romans 15:26 to show how those who believe in Christ, allow their faith to change their lives and who are received into eternal life are also saintly. Consequently, he said he does not believe that we must wait for the Church’s declaration of sainthood to know that anyone is in Heaven as this would be overriding God’s authority on the matter.
The Church has always understood that such individuals are saints.2 As the early Church grew, it began to be used more often for those declared to be saints by the Church.3 The process of beatification is not to announce the entire roster of souls in heaven, but the declaration that we are certain that these individuals are experiencing eternal life with God.4
Why Have Saints?
Why is this important? Well, Jesus is a tough act to follow. While we know from the Bible that equality with God is impossible, we also understand that we are still required to live as saintly as we can. The Sacraments aid us in this mission because “The seven sacraments are the signs and instruments by which the Holy Spirit spreads the grace of Christ the head throughout the Church which is his Body.”5
However, as we are also very human, we like to look up to people who achieved any degree of greatness. In the case of holiness, knowing about “people just like us” who lived extraordinarily good lives encourages us by reminding us that such a life is possible.6 In addition, the canonization process affirms that it is appropriate to pray for their intercession because two confirmed miracles are required to complete each canonization process.
The Church is not trying to tell God who deserves to be in Heaven. Rather, the Church is listening to be told who of the Church Victorious may be honored and who may serve as an inspiration to us as we strive for holiness.
1 – “The New Catholic Answer Bible,” Fireside Catholic Publishing, Wichita, KS, 2005
2 – “The word ‘saint’ literally means ‘holy,’ and, in the New Testament, ‘saint’ referred to all who believed in Jesus Christ and followed his teachings. St. Paul often addressed his epistles to “the saints” of a particular city (see, for instance, Ephesians 1:1 and 2 Corinthians 1:1), and the Acts of the Apostles talks about St. Peter going to visit the saints in Lydda (Acts 9:2). The assumption was that those who followed Christ had been so transformed that they were now different from other men and women and, thus, should be considered holy.” (Scott P. Richert, “What is a Saint in Roman Catholicism,” www.about.com)
3 – “The word ‘saint’ thus became more narrowly applied to such people, who were venerated after their deaths as saints, usually by the members of their local church or the Christians in the region where they lived, because they were familiar with their good deeds. Eventually, the Catholic Church created a process, called ‘canonization,’ through which such venerable people could be recognized as saints by all Christians everywhere. (Scott P. Richert, Ibid.)
4 – “By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of Holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors….” (from Paragraph 828 of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” Liguori Publications, Liguori, MO, 1994)
5 – from Paragraph 774 of the “Catechism,” Ibid.
6 – We do not believe, as a pastor of a non-denominational church claimed several years ago, that saints “were given special gifts.” Rather, we believe that saints are ordinary people who lived extraordinary lives.