Hours ago, the ancient city of Rome witnessed the historic event of Canonization of two saints. Two Popes, namely Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, were declared as saints. A historical crowd of more than 10 million people gathered in the city to enjoy the golden moments of this century.
There are many versions of criticisms regarding the fast-track approach of the Catholic Church to announce these two Popes as universal saints. Some question if sainthood is something like an Oscar Award. They blame the Catholic Church that it is continuing to plunge into irrelevancy.
Is sainthood an Award oran International Recognition of a celebrity after his/her death? What is sainthood? How can a person be recognized as a saint? Does it need such formalities and Rites of Canonization?
Who is a saint?
The title “saint” is not a degree or title given by someone or some organization. It is not equivalent to a lifetime achievement Oscar or Nobel Prize awarded by certain Academies. Neither it is awarded by the Catholic Church. It is a recognition, based on the faith of the Catholic Church which believes in the “communion of saints”. Anyone who is faithful to the love of God and loves all creatures is assured of heavenly life. When a person lives a life of sharing sincere love, looking at the image of God in every creation, he/she will be rewarded a heavenly life which is given as an inheritance - the kingdom prepared for him/her since the creation of the world.
As Peter Kreeft, a professor of philosophy at Boston College says a saint is not a freak or exception, buthe/she is the standard operating model for human beings - a model of love in practical life.
In the early periods of Christianity everyone who followed the teachings of Christ was called a saint. It has been a traditional belief of the Christians that persons who live a perfect life or who try their best to live such a holy life reach heaven after their death and they intercede for others. Their intercession has been felt and seen through miracles and changes in lives.
Saints are role models
Holy people are declared as saints to be role models for the militant church on the earth and to lead a life of love, following their exemplary life.
Saint John Paul II was leading such a holy life that the crowds of people who gathered during his funeral mass were inspired to shout slogans such as “subito sancto” (make him a saint immediately).
When Blessed Mother Teresa died in the Indian city of Kolkata in the year 1997, many people, including Hindus, said, “The Catholic Church may take time to recognize Mother Teresa as a saint but she is already a living saint in our hearts.”
Saints are the beacon light of encouragement. They provide moral support and hope to the living people through the exemplay heroic lives that enthroned them in the hearts of people.