The Road to Canonization and Sainthood

MT_canonization_logoToday, September 4, 2016, Mother Teresa or Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, will officially be recognized as a Saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

Note that we didn’t say she would ‘become’ a Saint. This is because, according to the Catholic Church, these individuals have already been made Saints in heaven and this fact has now been verified via the process of Canonization. Canonization does not make a saint; it only recognizes what God has already done.

The road to the canonization of a Saint is an often long, intricate process consisting of several required steps, including two miracles¹ which must be attributed to the intercession of the individual. Let’s take a look at this process.

Servant of God

At least five years after a person’s death—unless a special exception is made by the pope (as in the case of both Pope John Paul II² and Mother Teresa³)— the diocese, religious order, association or lay persons petitioning for the cause asks the diocesan bishop to open an investigation into the martyrdom or life of the person. The bishop investigates if the person lived a heroic virtuous life, exemplifying the virtues of faith, hope and love through the calling of witnesses and the theological examination of the candidates’ writings. If the cause is based on martyrdom, the diocesan bishop investigates the circumstances surrounding the alleged martyrdom, which is also done through the calling of witnesses to the martyrdom and the examination of the candidates’ life. At this stage, the candidate receives the title “Servant of God.”

Venerable Servant of God

Once the diocesan investigation is complete, the documentation that has been collected is sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. If the congregation’s theologians find the documentation convincing, it is sent for review by the cardinal and bishop members of the congregation. If they also find the documentation favorable, it is sent to the pope. Once a candidate has been determined to be virtuous and heroic in his or her faith, he or she is declared “Venerable.”


The next step in the process is beatification. For beatification, a miracle must be attributed to the Venerable. The miracle is verified through an examination by a team of medical experts and theologians. The three traditional standards for judging the authenticity of a miracle are: complete—meaning a total healing of the disease, it is not enough for the person to “just” feel better; instantaneous—meaning the healing occurred all at once and not over the course of several days or months; and durable—meaning the person remains permanently free from the illness that afflicted them. If the miracle is verified, the candidate is then presented to the pope. So begins the process of beatification in which the pope determines if the candidate is worthy of the title “Blessed.” Mother Teresa was beatified in October 2003, making her Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta


A second miracle must be attributed to the Blessed in order for him or her to be canonized a saint. The verification of the second miracle follows the same procedure as the first. Once verified, the person is declared a Saint, and he or she is worthy of universal veneration by the Church.



¹The Miracles that Made Mother Teresa a Saint, National Catholic Register

²In May 2005, Pope Benedict XVI began the beatification process for Pope John Paul II who had died just one month earlier. “Exceptional circumstances” were cited as reason for waiving the five-year waiting period.

³Pope John Paul II waived more than three years of the waiting period for Mother Teresa, opening the cause for her beatification and sainthood in 1999, less than two years after her death.

Reaching for the Moon: A Giant Leap for Mankind

Do you remember?

s69-39961At 9:32 a.m. EDT on July 16, 1969, with the world watching, Apollo 11 took off from Kennedy Space Center with astronauts Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. After traveling 240,000 miles in 76 hours, Apollo 11 entered lunar orbit. It was July 19.

The next day, at 1:46 p.m., just over 100 hours into the mission, the lunar module Eagle, manned by Armstrong and Aldrin, separated from the command module, where Michael Collins remained. The Eagle began its descent to the lunar surface two hours later, and at 4:18 p.m., it touched down on the Sea of Tranquility. Armstrong radioed to Mission Control, “The Eagle has landed.”

AS11-40-5867HRAt 10:39 p.m., Armstrong opened the hatch and made his way down the lunar module’s ladder as an estimated 530 million people on Earth watched in great anticipation. At 10:56 p.m., Armstrong spoke his famous quote (which he later said was slightly garbled by his microphone) “that’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” He planted his left foot on the surface, took a cautious step forward, and walked on the moon.

“Buzz” Aldrin joined Armstrong on the moon’s surface at 11:11 p.m., and together they took photographs of the terrain, planted a U.S. flag, ran a few scientific tests, and spoke with President Richard M. Nixon via Houston. By 1:11 a.m. on July 21, both astronauts were back in the lunar module and the two men slept that night on the surface of the moon.

spacestore_2058_58085639After spending nearly a day on the moon, at 1:54 p.m. the Eagle began its ascent back to the command module. Among the items left on the surface of the moon was a plaque that read: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon—July 1969 A.D—We came in peace for all mankind.”

At 12:56 a.m. on July 22 Apollo 11 began its journey home, safely splashing down in the Pacific Ocean at 12:51 p.m. on July 24.

Did You Know? Interesting Moon Landing Facts

apollo11_0The astronauts were surprised by the strong odor of the lunar dust which they were only able to smell when they got back inside the Lunar Module. While conducting experiments on the surface of the Moon the astronauts’ spacesuits gathered the moon dust in its creases. After coming into contact with oxygen for the first time inside the Lunar Module, the four billion years old moon dust produced a pungent smell. Neil Armstrong described the scent as similar to wet ashes in a fireplace.

lunar chaliceAfter landing safely on the moon, Buzz Aldrin radioed to Earth asking anyone who was listening to reflect on that moment in history. Aldrin gave thanks for the opportunity and produced a small chalice and a piece of bread which he then consumed whilst reading from the Gospel of John. So Buzz Aldrin became the first and only person to participate in the Christian ritual of Communion on the Moon.

Armstrong with flagThe U.S. flag was later knocked over when Armstrong and Aldrin launched the Lunar Module back into lunar orbit. After Aldrin hit the button to begin the launch he looked out the window and watched as the flag was blasted away with the rest of the material left behind on the lunar surface.

As the Apollo 11 team arrived safely on the Earth, the crew was brought to Hawaii. Despite being the three most famous men at the time, having just traveled to the moon and back, they were still asked to fill out a customs and declarations form at security. In the section asking “Departure From:” the Apollo 11 crew had to write “The Moon.”