Question: Who constitutes a saint in the Catholic Church?
Answer: Saints, in a strict sense, those officially recognized (canonized) by the Church as persons who have lived a holy life, who now share in the Beatific Vision (i.e., face-to-face experience of the presence of God), and who may be publicly venerated by the faithful. To be sure, there are countless more saints than those who have been formally offered for public veneration. Anyone who may reasonably be believed to have lived a good life and who, therefore, may be presumed to be enjoying eternal life with God can be considered a saint. Devotion to the saints is an expression of the doctrine of the communion of saints, a belief that even death does not break the bonds that tie Christians together. Holiness of life and heroic virtue mark a saint; miracles and wonders worked are not necessarily signs of saintliness.
Saints do not witness to one model of sanctity. The list of canonized saints provides a wide variety of models of holiness. Saints come from all walks of life and provide creative instances of living a Christian life in different times and in response to different challenges. The faithful are encouraged to follow the example of the virtuous lives of the saints according to the lights of their own day.
copyright © 1999-2006, Spirituality for Today