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Steven Shaw wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • What is the process for declaring a person a saint?

I need this information for an RCIA class.

Thank you,


  { What is the process for declaring a person a saint? }

Eric replied:

Hi, Steven —

I assume you're teaching an RCIA class. Thank you for committing yourself to teaching the faith to inquirers! Briefly, the process goes as follows.

First, you need a cause. This is when a group of the faithful decided they want to advocate the canonization of a holy individual who has died. They ask the local bishop; if he approves, the person is called "Servant of God So-and So".

Information about the persons writing, works, and life is collected. This is forwarded to the Congregation of the Causes of the Saints, and the next step of canonization is sought: "Venerable So-and-So".

Once a saint is venerable, people start seeking his or her intercession, because for non-martyrs a miracle is required for the next step, beatification ("Blessed So-and-So"). The miracle must be a medical miracle, it must be wrought only through that saint's intercession, it must be immediate, and it must rule out any natural cause or explanation. A panel of doctors, both Catholic and non-Catholic, and theologians is consulted, who cross-examine the recipient of the miracle. Meanwhile the person's life and works continue to be examined.

If everything continues to check out with no obstacles, and if there is a second miracle (only one miracle is required for martyrs), the person is canonized. A canonization is a declaration (customarily regarded as infallible, although this has never been formally defined) that the person is in heaven. Note that a canonization doesn't put someone in heaven; it merely recognizes that they are already there. Canonizations have followed this process only since around the twelfth century.

It's worth noting that "saint" simply means "holy" or "holy one" and all those in God's friendship are saints. The Catechism of the Catholic Church points this out (paragraph 823). What we're talking about here are "Saints" with a capital-S. It's like the difference between father and Father; married men who conceive children are fathers, but priests are Fathers. There are many presidents, but only one President.

For more details see <>. Also worth reading is what the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia has to say on it.


John replied:

Technically, holy means separated or set apart.

It is the Greek word hagia.


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