21 October 2012

St. Pedro Calungsod and the Sainthood Process

All Catholics grow up being taught about holy men and women who devoted their lives in service of God and came to be known and revered as saints. Images of them adorn churches as well as Catholic households; and the faithful not only venerate them but also pray to them to intercede on their behalf so that God may grant their requests.

The canonisation today, the 21st of October, of Saint Pedro Calungsod offers all of us the perfect opportunity to understand sainthood and the process that is undertaken by the Church for a person to be declared a saint.

First of all, the Catholic Church states that it does not create saints. Instead, it recognises their having lived holy and virtuous lives and believes that they are, therefore, in Heaven.

In the strictest technical sense, thus, all the souls that are in Heaven are saints. It is just that it is logistically impossible for the Church to investigate the case of every person who dies and officially declare that he or she is in Heaven.


Another miracle is required for a “Blessed” to be declared a saint in a ritual called canonisation, through which the Church formally declares that the saint is in Heaven and presents him or her to the faithful for universal veneration.
As per rules of the Catholic Church, at least five years must elapse from the time a person dies before the process for sainthood may begin. The Holy Father may intervene to shorten this, such as for the case of former Pope John Paul II who was beatified in 2011.

Only two years had elapsed after the former Pope died when the process for his sainthood started.

The formal process begins when the local bishop puts forth a “cause” for sainthood, which pertains to the investigative process to examine a candidate for sainthood’s life. A “postulator” is appointed who will conduct this exhaustive investigation even to the point of playing the role of the devil’s advocate.

The process can take years or even centuries.

In the case of Saint Pedro Calungsod, who was martyred in the Mariana Islands in the 17th century, his cause was started in 1980 only after old manuscripts were discovered during the investigation of the life of Father Diego Luis de San Vitores, the Jesuit priest who Calungsod gave his life for to protect.

All documents and proofs of the holiness of a person’s life are forwarded for the consideration of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, a body within the Church that handles the complex process leading to sainthood. In particular, the congregation investigates the veracity of miracles attributed to the intercession of the candidate for sainthood.

It has to be clarified that the Church’s official stand is that miracles are performed by God and not the saints, who merely intercede on behalf of the faithful who pray to them.

If a miracle is verified, the candidate is beatified and given the title of “Blessed.” Although one miracle is required for beatification, this was not necessary in the case of Saint Pedro Calungsod because he died a martyr.

Another miracle is required for a “Blessed” to be declared a saint in a ritual called canonisation, through which the Church formally declares that the saint is in Heaven and presents him or her to the faithful for universal veneration.

In the case of Saint Pedro Calungsod, the miracle attributed to his intercession was attested to by a doctor whose comatose patient awoke after he prayed to the saint for his intercession.

Saint Pedro Calungsod is the second Filipino saint after Saint Lorenzo Ruiz.

Acknowledgements:
Beatification
Canonization
Factbox: Roman Catholic Church's saint-making process
Pedro Calungsod
Saint

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