The steps to Sainthood…
Most devout Christians want to be saints – to be bestowed with the greatest honour in the Church after a life lived in communion with Christ and the community.
And the church says it is not a difficult thing to achieve. Sainthood, as one writer put it, “is found in the grind of everyday life and being willing in the midst of that grind, to continually submit everything to God – even the smallest small things”.
But the process of being pronounced a saint is not as easy, it can take as little as 30 years or as many as 100 years or more. Here’s why!
To begin with, the process cannot begin until five years after a person’s death. This is to give enough time for the community to acknowledge and testify to the heroic life of virtue of the person.
If after five years the church community still believes that this soul deserves special recognition by the church, then the local bishop can petition the Vatican to begin the course of canonization (sainthood).
If there is no objection, the permission, or Nihil Obstat (nothing stands in the way) is communicated to the bishop and the process is officially started.
1. It is at this point the person is referred to as “Servant of God”. For instance, Servant of God Morris Michael Otunga.
In this first phase, the team established by the diocese or religious institute to promote the cause must collect testimony about the life of the candidate.
This phase can take many years and concludes with a judgement by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints at the Vatican, which selects a team to further investigate the findings and later hands over their recommendation of a Decree of Heroic Virtues to the Holy Father, whose judgment is final.
2. Once the Pope recognizes the person’s heroic virtues, the person is henceforth called “Venerable”. For example Venerable Servant of God Irene Stefani!
To move from this stage, at least one miracle, which is evidence of the intercessory power of the Venerable Servant of God, must be approved both by scientists and theologians.
The scientists must verify that there is no natural explanation for the proposed miracle while theologians must determine that no other explanation outside God can be found for the miracle – for instance a cure.
If the results are affirmative, they are handed to the Holy Father. Once he approves the miracle, the person can then be beatified.
3. With the beatification rite, conducted on the authority of the Pope, the Venerable Servant of God is declared “Blessed”.
On Saturday, Venerable Servant of God Irene Steffani will be beatified in Nyeri town. She will henceforth be known as Blessed Irene Steffani.
It should be noted here that even with this major step, the person is not yet declared saint and the veneration accorded saints is only done privately since the Pope can still decide against the Cause.
But if the process is to move to the next step, a second miracle must be approved. The process is the same as in the approval of a first miracle.
The alleged miracle is studied by scientific and theological commissions in the diocese in which it is alleged to have occurred.
Once the miracle is affirmed, the consent of the Holy Father to the decision is sought, and once he approves, the person is ready for the final stage – canonization, and the person is henceforth called “Saint”.
Canonization is a declaration by the Pope, that the person is with God and is an example worthy of imitation. From this point, public veneration of the saint is permitted.