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What are the steps for canonization?

Saints are canonized in stages. What are these stages, and what does a saint have to “do” in order to progress?

Step I: Servant of God

After a holy man or woman dies, five years must elapse before their cause can be considered. This allows for objectivity and ensures that they have an enduring reputation for sanctity. This five-year waiting period can be waived by the pope.

When five years have lapsed, the bishop can officially open the cause, with the approval of the Holy See, and the person is declared a “Servant of God.”

Servant of God Chaplain Emil Kapaun

Step II: Venerable

The bishop then forms a diocesan tribunal to investigate the life and virtues of the potential saint—or the details of the martyrdom if he is a martyr.

The results of this investigation are sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome. Upon a favorable review of the cause, the Prefect of the Congregation presents the results to the pope, who then declares the person “Venerable.”

Fun Fact: If a saint died a martyr, he is declared Blessed rather than Venerable at this stage and gets to skip straight to Step IV!

Bulgarian martyr-bishop Eugene Bossilkov got to skip Venerable stage

Step III: Blessed

In order for a Venerable to graduate to Blessed, a miracle must be attributed to his intercession. Once this miracle has been rigorously investigated and verified, the pope beatifies the Venerable and grants him limited public veneration, usually just in the diocese or religious order to which he belonged. As mentioned above, no miracle is necessary for the beatification of a martyr.

Luigi and Maria Quattrocchi were the 1st married couple beatified together

Step IV: Saint

One more miracle is required for canonization, both for martyrs and non-martyrs. With the investigation and verification of this final miracle, the pope is able to canonize the saint, who is granted universal public veneration in the Church.

May we join the saints someday!

Of course, the very first step in becoming a saint is admitting that you can become one. In Saints at Heart, you will learn the stories of ordinary men and women who—faults and all—ascended the ladder of sanctity. You’ll also learn how you—yes, you—can follow them. Pick up your copy of Saints at Heart today!

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