Who are the saints?
A saint is a man or woman who has lived a life of holiness who is now in heaven. They have been declared by the church to be in heaven and approved for veneration. The process for someone becoming a canonized saint is very specific & thorough. The church does incredible amounts of work to make sure these men & women have actually lived lives of holiness.
The canonization process begins as the persons life is examined and the church collects information about their life-this can include things like writings. They investigate that material through a theological lens and eventually send those documents to the Vatican in Rome. At that point if the pope decides that this person's life is worth using and holding up as an example of holiness, then the person is then declared a venerable.
If the person is approved for veneration, a miracle is prayed for and then once it occurs in their name they become "blessed." For example, Blessed Carlos Acutis. The third step is become a saint after the church approves a second miracle. At that point, the person will become canonized as a saint in the Catholic church.
What does it mean to have a relationship with the saints, and how can you build a relationship with the saints?
There's a really important distinction to make here that Catholics do not worship the saints. Point blank, like, end of sentence. Catholics do not worship the saints in any exaggeration of the term. We worship God and God alone. And so when we talk about the saints, the saints are members of the body of Christ. As we are part of the family of God's family, the saints are our older brothers and sisters in Christ who have gone before us, who have been there, done that, who have made their way to heaven, who have lived a life on earth, and now we look to them as examples, and we pray that they intercede for us.
“It's really important to recognize that the saints aren't just statues. I like to say St. Francis is not a bird bath. They're not just stained glass windows. And I think a lot of that is like, we were just talking about how people have an image of the saints, and sometimes that image of the saints doesn't show the fullness of the beauty and the dynamics of the communion of saints.” -Rebecca
The first step in having a relationship with the saints is just to recognize that the saints were living, breathing people, and now they are alive in Christ in heaven. It isn’t a big formal thing… It’s as simple as asking for their intercession in your life, incorporating them into your day and/or prayer life..
There are a lot of things you could do. The first one being just learning about them. There are so many incredible resources out there–speakers, free videos on YouTube, the catechism of the Catholic Church, movies, etc. Another way you can build that relationship is by surrounding yourself with images of the saints. You could have images of saints scattered through your dorm, office, etc. You could put stickers on your laptop, water bottle, journal, etc. Simple things to surround yourself with the beauty of the saints and remind yourself of their presence. The third thing you could do is visit shrines or places where they lived or worked. They didn’t only live in Europe–they lived all over the world. For example, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Maryland; Venerable Fulton Sheen in Peoria, Illinois; Servant of God Julia Greeley in Denver, Colorado. The last thing would be incorporating them into your prayer. This is not as big or formal as it sounds. It can be as simple as “St. Joseph of Cupertino, I’m about to start a test. You are the patron saint of test takers and students, pray for me.”
Can I be a saint? If so, how?
YES! YES! YES! Anyone who's reading this can be a saint. I can be a saint. My neighbor can be a saint. Anyone can be a saint. And not only can they be a saint, not only can you be a saint, you should be a saint.
When we talk about the saints right now, or up to this point, we've only talked about saints who are canonized, which we went through that process in the beginning. They went from venerable to blessed to canonized as a saint. We also recognize a saint as anyone who is in heaven. So kind of like a lowercase ‘s’ saint. So in that sense, we are all called to be saints and to reach heaven.
What is one piece of advice that you want every Catholic young woman to know? “You are called to be a saint. And that's not a burden, it's a joy. It's so fulfilling and can be hard at times. But you are called to be a saint. You are called and created to live forever with God in heaven. Not only that, but we need you. The church needs you and your unique call and your unique mission. So please, just start embracing that. Start praying about it. Start just being open to the call if there's anything. Just a simple prayer is just, “Come Holy Spirit” or “Lord, do what you want with me.” -Rebecca