What Does It Mean To Be a Saint?

An Enlightening Conversation on Questions You Always Wanted to Ask about the Saints

Bro. Didoy Lubaton: Father, what does it really mean to be a saint?

Fr. Michael Laguardia: We are all meant for Heaven. Let us remember that. So, our final home is what God has prepared for us in Heaven. Among us here on Earth, there were those who lived an exemplary life, who lived heroically the Christian values and virtues and they are in the List called Canon—when The Catholic Church canonizes some persons, they are presented to us as an example of exemplary Christian living. That’s how a person officially becomes a Saint. Not all saints, however are canonized or officially declared as Saints.

Bro. Didoy: What does it mean when we are praying to the Saints? Why do we look at “idols?”

Fr. Mike: Before I go to that, let me point out that there is a process for canonization. A person is not immediately declared as Saint by The Church. The candidate goes through three levels:

First as Venerable. When a person is presented as a candidate for canonization, The Church goes through a series of studies looking into the life
of this person – from birth to death– to see if this person had lived in an exemplary way the Christian life. If this person proved to be heroic, he is presented to us for veneration. We call him Venerable.

Second as Blessed. If praying for the intercession of the Venerable person results in a miracle, he is raised to a higher level. We call this the beatification process. And he is called Blessed.

Note that a miracle is something extraordinary, cannot be explained in a natural human way. For example, if the person who asked for healing is healed
through the intercession of the candidate, this passes as an extraordinary case of healing.

Note too that it’s not the Saint who heals. It’s God Who heals. Before Pope John Paul II became a Saint, he was first Venerable, and then Blessed, and then Saint.

Lorenzo Ruiz went through the same process. Pope John Paul II was in Manila for the beatification of Lorenzo Ruiz in 1981.

Third as Saint. One more miracle through the intercession of the Blessed that passes the standards of The Church qualifies him to be canonized as Saint.

Bro. Didoy: Father, I also got from you that there are many, unnamed, not part of the List of the canonized, but they are also called saints.

Fr. Mike: Our relatives who passed on to the next Life, and you know them to be saintly, they are called saints because they are already in Heaven. But they are not in the List—we don’t address them the way we address the Saints who are in the Litany. They are not in the official List but we know they are in Heaven so, all the same, they are saints.

Bro. Didoy: My Dad passed away 10 years ago, and sometimes, I say, “Papa, pakibulong mo ito (my concern) kay Jesus. Can you whisper this to Jesus?

Our Catholic Faith is rich—we have Venerable, Blessed, and Saint. We can look up to them and they bring us closer to Jesus.Fr. Mike: And I’d like to believe your father is also acquainted with my father in Heaven. This brings us to your earlier question about idols. There are three ways we look up to the Saints.

First, for Inspiration. They are given to us to inspire us, to give us examples—we need examples, we need templates, we need models to follow and
so there are Saints offered for mothers, for fathers, for doctors, for priests…

Second, for Instruction. There are Saints who left us a legacy—teachingsor guidelines to follow. They teach us how to live to the full our Christian life.

The last one is Intercession. We pray to God directly but we can also pray to God through Mother Mary. It’s God who gives the graces we ask for…

Why do we have to go to the Saints? We don’t have to. But they are not just examples. They are pray-ers. They are already there in Heaven–they are close to God, so we can ask for their help.

Bro. Didoy: What I am getting from you, Father, is I don’t have to follow God on my own. I can follow God with my family in Heaven as well as my family here on Earth. I think that’s so beautiful. That’s the richness of the Catholic Faith.

Fr. Mike, it’s now November 1, we can’t go to the churches, cemeteries or crypts. Also, there’s a typhoon going on. What would you recommend that we can do at home to celebrate All Saints Day properly? Fr. Mike: That’s a very good question. At the cemetery, there are just the remains of the departed. Not the soul. The soul is no longer there. We believe all our dear departed are already in Heaven—their final destination.

And so, what these Pandemic and the typhoon have done to us? We cannot go to the cemetery; we cannot offer flowers. But at home we can pray. We can gather as family and pray. That’s what’s important. We can still light candles and then pray for the eternal repose for those who have gone ahead of us, or talk to them, ask them to intercede for us. They are in Heaven so, they are in constant dialogue with God and they could pray for us.

Bro. Didoy: Can you give me the Saint you have a devotion to?

Fr. Mike: On top of my list is St. John of Don Bosco—that’s a given because I am Salesian. I want to speak about another Saint who I’ve always invoked when I say Mass since I became a priest in 1994. He is Pope John Paul II. He came to the Philippines on January 10-15, 1995, on the occasion of World Youth Day.

I was a month-old priest then. I was ordained December 8, 1994. And I was there at the Luneta Grandstand—just a few meters away from Pope John Paul, and I was so Pope-struck. I knew I had to focus on the Lord Jesus, but I could not help fixing my gaze on the Pope—and little did I know I was already looking at a Saint! That’s so dear to me because I was able to see– in flesh and bones– a Saint right before me.

Bro. Didoy: How can The Church verify the authenticity of miracles attributed to the intercession of a Saint?

Fr. Mike: It goes through a verification process—tedious… That would include medical records, medical studies to verify miraculous healing through the intercession of the Saint. There’s a Congregation for the canonization of Saints. That’s their specialization. It may not have the infallibility that the Pope has but just the same, we know The Church is guided by the Holy Spirit.

Bro. Didoy: Who can recommend someone to be a candidate for sainthood?

Fr. Mike: Recommendation is part of the process. For example, so many were recommending Mother Teresa of Calcutta when she was still alive. Many considered her as a Living Saint.

Of course, the more authoritative the person who is making the recommendation, the better for the candidate. It cannot be just anyone. But all these come into place and when the members of the Congregation for Canonization gather, all these records would be studied.

All of us are saints. We don’t have to be canonized. It’s really all about personal relationship between the Lord and us.

Bro. Audee: Amen. Father, to cap our conversation, kindly lead us to prayer

Fr. Mike: Okay. In the name of the Father, and the Sone, and the Holy Spirit:

Dearest Lord, thank You for the call to be your children. You further called us to be exemplary children of Yours, models for each one of us to follow.

Thank You for giving us exemplary Christians we call Saints to guide us in our Christian Living.

We pray for the intercession of these Saints, for the deliverance of our country from the typhoon and that we don’t suffer more than we are already going through because of the Coronavirus Pandemic. If this is meant for us to come closer to you, then let it be.

Lord Jesus, we ask for your mercy. We ask for your protection and providence through the intercession of our Saints. Help us to come closer to You. Help us to discover all the more that we are meant to be with You in our final home in Heaven. We make this prayer, Lord, in Your name. Amen.


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