Catholic saints are considered spiritual role models and this past week newly canonized saints were celebrated in Vatican City. On October 21st, during a special ceremony, Pope Benedict XVI named seven new saints including two Americans: St. Marianne Cope and St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint. They join 3,000 other Catholic saints (not all of them are canonized so the exact number is unknown) of which only 10 are American. Here are some of the steps to sainthood.
What are the some of the steps to Sainthood?
Sainthood honors a person who possesses virtues like faith, charity, and justice. In the past sainthood was awarded based on public opinion. But, since Pope John Paul II redesigned the official canonization system in 1983, it has become a rather detailed process.
It all begins five years after a person’s death. A bishop exhaustively investigates their life, gathering their writings and talking to experts/witnesses. Then the evidence is sent to a special congregation and the Pope to review. If approved the person is given the honorable title: Venerable. They can become Blessed after a verified miracle has occurred through their intercession. And after a second miracle, they’re considered for sainthood.
Kateri Tekakwitha’s journey to sainthood began in New York during the mid-1600s. As a child, her village was stricken with smallpox and her brother and parents died. Though she was badly scarred, Kateri miraculously survived. She later moved to Canada to become a nun. In 1680, as she was dying at 24-years-old, it’s said she was made beautiful again, a sign of God’s love.
Kateri was canonized by Jake Finkbonner’s miracle. In 2006, five-year-old Jake fell while playing, cutting his lip. His cut became infected with a flesh-eating bug, spreading throughout his body. It was thought that he wouldn’t survive. The family’s priest advised they pray to Kateri, because she shared Jake’s heritage and scarring disease. The infection stopped and 12-year-old Jake was invited to the saints’ ceremony.
Another honored saint is the German-born, Mother Marianne Cope who was raised in New York. She’s known for her devotion to health care. In the 1860s, she founded and operated St. Elizabeth Hospital in Utica, New York and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse, New York. She later aided a banished leper colony on a remote Hawaiian island, Molokai.
The other canonized saints include Jacques Berthieu (of France), Pedro Calungsod (of the Philippines), Giovanni Battista Piamarta (of Italy), Maria Carmen Salles y Barangueras (of Spain) and Anna Schaffer (of Germany).