Is there value in giving official recognition of sanctity to women and men in our Church?
On the plus side…
The church is Catholic – universal. We are women and men of diverse vocations and life choices. We embrace different charisms and spiritualities woven into the tapestry of our history. We come from many cultures, professions, and educational back-grounds. We need to know saintly women and men who led lives like ours, people whom we can relate to, look up to and be inspired by. We need heavenly patrons – a personal link to the powerful prayer machine called the communion of saints.
For a religious congregation or ecclesial movement, having a founder or member elevated as a Blessed (beatification) or Saint (canonization) is a source of great energy and pride. It not only affirms the person`s sanctity, it is also an affirmation for the spiritual path chosen by their followers.
On the negative side…
There`s no denying that beatification and canonization is a bureaucratic process. It is an intense and expensive venture requiring years of painstaking research and investigation before the cause can be presented to the Vatican for consideration. Many smaller communities, congregations or movements cannot afford either the time or the money.
There can also be political overtones. Elevating a person to sainthood does not automatically canonize all their thoughts and teachings. But, the appearance of ideological support is hard to ignore. For example, despite the controversy surrounding Opus Dei, John Paul II canonized their founder, Josemaria Escrivá, a mere 27 years after his death. Oscar Romero and Dorothy Day are yet to be beatified despite their active social justice works.
We need our saints, from centuries ago and from modern times. The Church`s process for beatification and canonization merely affirms that a person led a life of courageous faith and sanctity, and we believe that they have now entered eternal glory. We all know many saints who have gone before us. The hidden lives of these holy women and men, family and friends, may not receive a Vatican celebration. But they share the same glory as the great saints of history.
Whether or not our loved ones make the official list, we unite with them in prayer across time and space. We know that they will pray with us and pray for us.