Mr. Michael Antrim’s most recent letter, “Let us speak where the Bible speaks,” published in the Effingham Daily News 8 March 2008 demonstrates a tremendous lack of understanding in Catholic belief. Why the EDN continues to publish such libelous letters is beyond me. Let us clarify a few things for those who are confused.
What Beatification and Canonization Really Mean
The word “saint” is derived from the Latin sanctus, meaning “holy;” the word in Greek is hagios. We speak, then, for example, of “holy” Anthony of Padua.
Saint Paul addresses himself “to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy,” making the distinction that not all of the beloved of God are saints yet (Romans 1:7). Simply because we are called to be holy does not mean that each of us lives a holy life. To call a member of the baptized who does not faithfully follow the Gospel a “saint,” that is, “holy,” would be false. Nevertheless, such a person is still called to be a saint.
This distinction is neglected in the letter. Consider someone who believes in and confesses Christ, repents of his sins, is baptized, but does not always walk in the newness of life, but returns to his sins. Though such a person could once have been called holy, can one still be called holy if living in deep sin?
To help inspire us to live holy lives, the Church holds up the example of men and women whom she has canonized and officially declared “Saints,” having found them to have lived holy lives. The lives of these men and women from every way of life show us the many ways that the Gospel can be lived in fidelity; they show us that living the Gospel is possible, even for us.
The word “canonization” comes from the Greek kanon, meaning, “measuring rod.” When the Church proposes a member of the faithful for beatification or canonization, their life is measured against that of Christ. If the person is found to have a lived a holy life then they progress through the various stages of beatification and canonization to be officially declared a Saint and held up as a model for all, following the words of Saint Paul, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1).
Certainly there are countless men and women who have lived holy lives but have not been officially canonized, measured by the Church against the life of Christ. For this reason the Church celebrates All Saints Day. Nevertheless, the Church recognizes the need for examples of faith and so she proposes certain members of the faithful as true and authentic guides to the Christian life and faith.
The official process of beatification has been tightened, so to speak, to ensure that the men and women who are proposed for beatification did indeed live holy lives and are worthy of imitation. Canonization does not say that the Church makes a saint out of a person who was not already a saint at death. The Church requires a person be dead before the inquiry into their sanctity precisely so the person does not lapse into sin after the process has begun. This is a simple matter of caution.
The letter claims that the Church’s “foundation is Christ (and not Peter and those who follow the teachings of Judaism).” Here is displayed an ignorance of the Catholic Church and a sheer unwillingness to listen to another person, for we have been through this with him before.
The Church was founded by Christ upon Peter; this cannot be refuted (Matthew 16:18).
It ought to be considered that the Church with two thousand years of consistent teaching might know more than one individual. The author of the letter would do well to learn the authentic teachings of the Catholic Church, not what others claim the Church teaches.
If the Bible does not contain the process for canonization as the letter asserts, then the author should follow his own advice and be silent.