Sunday after All Saints'

November 4, 2018

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. AMEN.

This past week, we celebrated All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.  We have transferred the celebration of All Saints’ Day to today.  We also had our annual All Souls’ Requiem on Friday evening.

How does someone become a recognized saint?  How does someone get their name on the calendar of the Church?  I did a little research and thought that it might be interesting to share the process as found in the Roman Catholic and Episcopal Church. 

I begin with the Roman Catholic Church because many of the saints who are recognized on our Episcopal Calendar were ones we inherited from the Roman Catholic Calendar when the Church of England was formed by Henry VIII.

The process in the Roman Catholic Church is a five step process.  I will be quoting from an article which explained this process:

First, the person’s local bishop investigates their life by gathering information from witnesses of their life and any writings they may have written. If the bishop finds them to be worthy of being a saint, then he submits the information that he gathered to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Second, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints can choose to reject the application or accept it and begin their own investigation of the person’s life. If the application is accepted, the person may be called Servant of God.

Third, if the Congregation for the Causes of Saints approves of the candidate, they can choose to declare that the person lived a life heroically virtuous life. This isn’t a declaration that the person is in heaven, but that they pursued holiness while here on earth. If this is indeed found to be the case, the person may be called Venerable.

Fourth, to be recognized as someone in heaven requires that a miracle has taken place through the intercession of that person. The miracle is usually a healing. The healing has to be instantaneous, permanent, and complete while also being scientifically unexplainable. Miracles have to be first verified as scientifically unexplainable by a group of independent doctors, then the person is approved by a panel of theologians, and then the final approval lies with the pope. If this is the case, a person is declared a blessed. 

Fifth, a second miracle is needed in order to declare someone a saint. The confirmation of a second miracle goes through the same scrutiny as the first.

As you might guess, the process in the Episcopal Church is not quite so complicated, but involves the same beginning.  Let me share what I found in an article which talks about the calendar as found in the Book of Common Prayer and how additions are made:

In responding to the diversity of theology of sainthood in The Episcopal Church, it seems best to identify two calendars: a core calendar of commemorations around which there is general consensus and a long tradition of observation, and a broader calendar of commemorations that represents a wider family history that people and congregations will engage.

The process of additions to the Calendar has been a piece of the broader development of the Book of Common Prayer. Additions to the Calendar typically begin with recommendations from individuals and dioceses, reflective of local commemoration practices, made to General Convention, which then asks the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to review the proposals and make a recommendation to the next convention.

This process of proposal based on local commemorations and affirmation by General Convention represents the baptismal ecclesiology of the Book of Common Prayer, in which constituent members of the Church contribute to the wider vitality and mission of the Church.

What I found interesting is that in both processes, they always begin on the local level.  Local Christians find that someone has lived a saintly life, and then they recommend this person (after their death) to be added to the calendar.  Although one process is very delineated, and the other is more broad based, the point is that saints are among us, and we need to be on the look out for them.  As the hymn says:

They lived not only in ages past; there are hundreds of thousands still; the world is bright with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus’ will. You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea, in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea; for the saints of God are just folk like me, and I mean to be one too.  AMEN.