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Do you have to be canonized to be a saint?

Today, we celebrate the glorious Feast of All Saints. Come to think of it: are we celebrating only canonized saints?

No, we aren’t!

While we can and do use the word “saint” to refer to canonized saints, the definition of a saint is actually anyone who is in Heaven, both canonized and uncanonized.

Today is a celebration of all the denizens of Heaven, including Our Lady, the angels, the canonized saints, and all those other holy men and women who have made it into their company, known and unknown. Many holy men and women have lived and died without anyone knowing they were saints, and others needed purification in Purgatory before entering Heaven. But all who become citizens of Heaven are now sanctified—they are “saints.”

Today is a celebration of the Church Triumphant.

What do we mean by that?

The Church has three states, that is, three categories into which its members fall: The Church Militant, the Church Suffering, and the Church Triumphant.

The Church Militant is us—the members of the Church who are still running the race, fighting for our souls, and working out our salvation here on earth.

The Church Suffering refers to the souls in Purgatory, who will indeed go to Heaven but must undergo purification before they can enter into the Beatific Vision.

The Church Triumphant encompasses all the saints (canonized and uncanonized) and angels in Heaven, united to God forever.

Together, all three groups constitute the Communion of Saints. Through this communion, we can exchange spiritual goods with those in other states: we can pray for each other and for the souls in Purgatory. We can pray to the saints and the saints can pray for us.

Of course, we members of the Church Militant can’t rest on saintly laurels. We aren’t saints yet, and the devil will strive till the moment of our deaths—and especially at that critical moment—to turn us away from God and drag us down to Hell.

Enlist the help of the saints so you can join them in Heaven one day with Cultivating Virtue: Self-Mastery With the Saints. Inspired by the wisdom of the saints and episodes from their lives, this approachable book helps you to hone twelve virtues—one per month. A handy guide for ironing out the faults in your life and setting yourself on the path to (canonized or uncanonized) sainthood! Available right here at The Catholic Company.

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