Thursday, July 25
Importance of Miracles in the Canonization Process of the Catholic Church
If a person is martyred for the faith, miracles are irrelevant and not necessary to be declared a saint. As mentioned above, the purpose of canonization is to verify that the person lived an extraordinary life through the events and circumstances of his/her life and that he/she is now in heaven, and all those who die as martyrs are believed to go straight to heaven.
For those who died naturally, however, at least one miracle is necessary to be declared Blessed (beatified) and at least two miracles are necessary to be declared a saint (canonized). These miracles must have occurred after the person’s death (to demonstrate that the person is in heaven and able to assist the living), but miracles during his or her lifetime are also taken into account as evidence of God’s favor.
When considering a reported miracle, the Church often consults with medical, scientific and theological experts to see if there might be alternative explanations. If the experts can find no explanation, they report that to the Church (they do not declare the event to be a miracle, just that they could find no natural explanation).
Other phenomena may be investigated as miracles after a would-be saint’s death include the following:
• Healings attributed to intercession of the saint or contact with relics.
• Incorruptibility – The saint’s body does not decay after a long period in the grave. Example: St. Catherine of Siena (d. 1380) still has not decayed.
• Liquefaction – The dried blood of the saint liquefies every year on the day of his or her death. Example: St. Januarius (c.275-305), patron saint of Naples, Sept. 19.
• Odor of sanctity – Body exudes a sweet aroma instead of the normal stench of decay. Example: St. Teresa of Avila (1515-82) – sweet odor from her grave for nine months after her death.
Other extraordinary events during the life of the saint are also reported and investigated:
• Levitation – The saint floats in the air. St. Joseph of Cupertino (1603-63) often levitated during prayer.
• Stigmata – The saint’s body exhibits five wounds of Christ, which usually bleed during Mass. St. Francis of Assisi and Padre Pio are examples.
• Bilocation – The saint reportedly appeared in two places at once. Padre Pio (1887-1968) is an example.