OceanSide church of Christ
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Victor M. Eskew
The Catholic Church is very proud of her saints. Presently, there are more than 10,000 saints on their list of saints. The saints of Catholicism are dead men and women. They became saints when the met certain criteria and were ordained as saints by a pope. These “holy ones” are said to be in the very presence of God. It is also believed that they can intercede for the people of God on earth. Let’s dig a little deeper into this aspect of Catholicism in this article.
The first canonized saint was a man named Ulrich, the bishop of Augsburg. He died in 973. He was canonized by Pope John XV at the Lateran Council of 993. It should strike all students of sainthood that it was almost 1,000 years after the church came into existence until a saint was made by the Catholic Church. Although Ulrich was the first canonize saint, canonization did not become law until Gregory IX (1227-1241).
Canonization is four-step process according to an article at www.catholicdoors.com. Here is how the article outlines the process:
“First Step: When the subject arises that a person should be considered for Sainthood, A Bishop is placed in charge of the initial investigation of the person’s life. If it is determined that the candidate is deemed worthy of further consideration, the Vatican grants ‘Nihil Obstat.’ This is a Latin phrase that means ‘nothing hindered.’ Henceforth the candidate is called a ‘Servant of God.’
“Second Step: The Church Official, A Postulator, who coordinates the process and serves as an advocate, must prove the candidate lived heroic virtues. This is achieved (sic) through the collection of documents and testimonies that are collected and presented to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome. When a candidate is approved, he/she bears the title of ‘Venerable.’
“Third Step: To be beatified and recognized as a ‘Blessed,” one miracle acquired through the candidate’s intercession is required in addition to recognition of heroic virtue (or martyrdom in the case of a martyr).
“Fourth Step: Canonization requires a second miracle after beatification, though the Pope may wave these requirements. (A miracle is not required prior to a martyr’s beatification, but one is required before his/her canonization. Once this second miracle has been received through the candidate’s intercession, the Pope declares the person a ‘Saint.’”
We also want to set before our readers two other points of interest about the canonization process. First, there used to be a “Devil’s Advocate” position in the process. This individual tried to find reasons why the individual should not be a saint. This position has been done away. Second, the pope can forego the canonization process entirely if he chooses. He can declare a person to be a saint by means of the “equipollent canonization.”
Saints serve two primary functions within Catholicism. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reveals that saints serve as examples. “By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models…” (p. ) On page 707 of the Catechism, we read that they also function as intercessors for God’s people. “Their intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world.” On page 271, they note: “…So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.” There are some saints that are called patron saints. These saints are supposed to serve particular persons, groups of persons, occupations, or counties. Since they serve in a special capacity, Catholics pray to them for their specific needs in that area.
Sainthood is comforting, but it is not Scriptural. The Catholic idea of saints is nowhere found in the New Testament of Jesus Christ. Remember, the first saint was not canonized until 900 years after the New Testament was penned. There are many reasons to oppose sainthood. First, the Bible teaches that all Christians are called saints. When Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, he addressed them as saints. “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints…” (Rom. 1:7). He also referred to the Christians in Corinth as saints. “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints…” In the Greek text, the words “to be” are not found. The text could read: “…to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints…” Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi also refers to the readers as saints. “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus…” (Phil. 1:1). The word “saint” is from the Greek word “hagios” which means “holy.” Christians have been called unto holiness (I Thess. 4:7). When they are washed in the blood of Christ, they become holy ones or saints. There is no position of sainthood taught within the New Covenant.
Second, in order to become a saint, an individual had to perform at least two miracles. But, since the end of the first century the age of miracles has come to an end. In I Corinthians 13, Paul discussed the time when spiritual gifts would cease. In verse 10, he reveals that when which that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. “That which is perfect” is the complete revelation from God to man. “That which is in part” is spiritual gifts. The full revelation from God was given by the end of the first century. Thus, miraculous gifts ended at that time. It has been impossible for men to do miracles since that time. If there are no miracles, then there can be no Catholic saints.
Third, when individuals die, they enter into the unseen realm of the dead. There are two compartments in that place, paradise (Luke 23:43) and torments (Luke 16:22-23). Men are kept in that place until the day of final judgment. Catholicism teaches that saints are beatified. This means that they are placed in the presence of God. It is before God that they are able to carry out intercession on behalf of living Catholics. How were they released from the hadean realm? Where they judged by God before their release? Will they have to appear in the judgment? If so, why? If they are already in heaven, there is no need for them to be judged. It is interesting that the pope is the one who declares one to be a saint. Thus, it is up to his discretion whether a person can be one of the “holy ones” who enters into the presence of God.
Fourth, the Bible is clear that there is only one mediator between God and men. That one mediator is Jesus Christ. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:5). God has not authorized special positions in heaven given to men who have been exalted to sainthood to intercede on behalf of men. This is a man-made doctrine. It is a vain and empty practice.
My friend, you can be a saint if you desire to be a saint. The Lord calls men through the gospel (II Thess. 2:14). He calls them to a life of holiness (I Thess. 4:7). Those who answer the call through obedience to the faith (Rom. 1:5) are the called out ones. They are also God’s holy ones, that is, saints. Saints are not created by a process set forth by the Catholic Church. Saints are created by being cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.