THE book of saints is exactly what it is – a list of women and men who have been declared by the Catholic Church to be in heaven. In the past few weeks we have heard of Filipinos who are possible “candidates” to the sainthood. One is Maria Beatrice Rosario Arroyo, a nun who founded the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of the Holy Rosary in Molo, Iloilo. The other is Darwin Ramos, a teenage boy who battled Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Witnesses claim that the boy inspired many people in the he kept his faith alive in spite of his condition. And of course we also have the Venerable Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo, the foundress of the RVM Sisters.
So, how then does one get into the list? Who decides who gets into the list?
The whole process is rather complex. But let me quickly summarize the whole thing. There is an office in Rome called “Congregation for the Causes of Saints”. This office takes charge in investigating whether a particular person lived a virtuous, heroic, and holy life. The process takes years to complete and involves scientific, medical, social, personal inquiries. It is a multifaceted procedure. In other words, simply because a person is “popularly believed” to have lived a holy life does not guarantee an “automatic” inclusion in the “Book of Saints”. A candidate to the sainthood has to pass through the proverbial “eye of a needle”.
First, there is the first stage of being called “Venerable”. This is the stage when the Vatican examines whether the person has lived a life of “heroic virtue” while he/she was still alive. Once this is proven, the person is then declared as a “Venerable”. The next stage is “beatification”. Beatification is a process that declares a person “Blessed” and entitles that person to be venerated in a very limited way. The territory where public veneration is allowed for a “Blessed” is clearly defined. A verification of a miracle attributed to that person is necessary before a person is called “Blessed”. The final stage is “canonization”. Another miracle is required as proof of the person’s sanctity. Once a “candidate” is “canonized”, the person is now called a Saint. He/she is declared to be worthy of a universal veneration. This means that he/she is now included in the “canon” or “list” of those who are believed to be in heaven. He/she is now included in the “calendar of saints” or the “book of saints”. As such, they can be publicly venerated anywhere in the world.
This beautiful church ritual of declaring some individuals “Blessed” or “Saint” ultimately reminds all of us that a human person, though weak, is able to transcend his weakness and is, therefore, capable of living a virtuous, heroic, and holy life. They are not superhuman with a super power. They are ordinary Catholics whose life gave witness to an unwavering faith and selfless love.
The Holy Trinity and the Family
Last June 16th we celebrated the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.
The doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity is at the core of our Catholic faith – we believe that there are Three Persons in only One God. In this column, however, I do not intend to elaborate theological and philosophical explanation of the Doctrine of the Trinity. Rather, I will talk of the Trinity from the point of view of its relevance to the family.
When we talk about the Holy Trinity, we talk about Distinction and Unity. The Trinity is composed of three distinct persons – The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is not the Father. They have different identities and different roles. The same thing with the family. Each member of the family is unique and has specific roles and responsibilities. For a family to continue to live in a healthy environment, each member must respect the dignity as well as the unique and indispensable role of each one.
Yet, just like in the Holy Trinity, the differences in identity and roles are, in fact, the source of harmony. There is no rivalry but rather complementarity, love and respect. The Holy Trinity is a community of persons. The family is also a community of persons. The Trinity is a community love. The family must also be a community bound in a loving and selfless love for one another.
We will never fully understand the mystery that surrounds the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity. But if we promote in our families the spirit of diversity strengthened by love, respect, understanding and acceptance, then we have the Holy Trinity in our lives. It is no longer important whether we understand why 3 is 1 and 1 is 3. What is important is we allow the Triune God to indwell in our families. Then we can say “I know who God is. God is the one who makes my family one.”