Fr. Martin Fuchs´s sermon on 15th November 2015 in Prague, Czech republic
A mother visited the village church with her little son Peter and was answering his questions about the Gothic windows through which the sun was shining. “Mum“, he asked, “who is this?“ – “This is Ambrose, a saint“, she answered. – “And this?“ – “This is saint Elisabeth. She helped the poor and the sick persons.” – “And this?“ – “This is saint Peter, the first Pope, who is also a saint.“ And this way they were proceeding from window to window.
Several days later a teacher asked children: “What kind of man is a saint?“ Little Peter replied: “A saint is a person through whom the sun shines.“
What an excellent answer! A saint is a person through whom the divine light shines, a person who really followed Christ.
What is a notion of a saint in the Catholic Church?
A saint is a Catholic whose name is inscribed (registered) in the list of Gods friends, due to his heroic virtues and miracles which God has worked for his glorification after the saint's death. As the saint is an example and a reference to the true Church, he must be a Catholic. Protestants and Anglicans cannot be canonized.
In the Holy Bible Christians are often called saints. Saint Paul for example says in his letters: “All saints salute you“ (2 Cor 13:12) and about himself: “To me, the least of all saints...“ (Eph 3:8).
Dogmatically spoken, all Christians who are in a state of sanctifying grace are called saints. The canonization process is opened in a diocese in which a Christian died in the odour of sanctity. Once the process is opened, the deceased is called a “Servant of God“.
The saints must possess the divine as well as the moral virtues in a heroic degree. Special attention is paid to the professional virtues (whether a judge pronounced fair judgements, whether a monk was obedient, whether a bishop was loyal to the Catholic doctrine etc.).
When this examination has been successfully completed, the servant of God may be called “Venerable“.
At the present time at least two miracles must have been performed by the intercession of this saint since his death before a canonization process can be opened. The miracles which a saint performed during his lifetime will be recorded, but according to the Holy Scripture, they are not sufficient: “On that day many will say to me: Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name? And then will I profess unto them: I never knew you, depart from me, you that work iniquity.“ (Matthew 7:22).
Upon examination of the virtues and investigation of one miracle the servant of God will be beatified. Once beatified, he may be venerated in public by pictures, relics, and prayers in a limited district.
Sometime later, when a second miracle has been performed, the Pope will proceed to canonization. The servant of God may then be venerated by pictures, relics, and prayers in the whole world.
Christ called us to imitate him and the saints realized it during their lives. But there are some things in their lives which we must not imitate:
1. The saints committed sins by their own fault but they repented of them! We must not imitate these sins.
Christ reprimanded saint Peter when he declined the suffering of the Messiah.
He reprimanded saint Thomas for his unbelief as well as the brothers John and Jacob for their excessive zeal (Luc 9:55).
Saint Hieronymus reprimanded saint Paula for her obstinacy in exterior mortification.
Saint Mary Magdalena as well as saint Mary of Egypt were living as prostitutes for years before their conversion.
2. The saints were in error and sinned without guilt.
Some saints of the Old Testament were in error concerning the marriage and had several spouses at a time: Abraham two spouses, Jacob four, David two and Salomon almost numberless spouses.
Noah became intoxicated because he did not yet know the effect of wine (Gen 9:21).
David believed that he could lie when in need (1 Kg 1:21).
Saint Gregory of Nyssia was in error concerning the eternity of hell.
A priest named Hippolyte lived in Antiochia. For some time he had been mistaken by the Novatianic Schism, but enlightened by the grace of God he returned to the unity of Church and later suffered the martyrdom for his faith.
Saint Thomas of Aquinas had been mistaken as regards the Immaculate Conception.
Saint Cyprian had been mistaken concerning the validity of baptism by unbelievers. He believed that this baptism was not valid.
At the time when there were three Popes, Saint Vincent Ferrer and saint Peter of Luxembourg followed the wrong one.
The saint Cure of Ars and saint Aloysius fasted in too hard a manner, so that they suffered damage in their bodies.
The errors in doctrine, however, concerned matters which had not yet been dogmatized at the time or which had been revoked by the saints.
3. The saints had special natural talents or (human) frailties.
Saint Leopold Mandić stuttered.
Saint Philipp Neri was known for his quick-wittedness.
4. The saints were endowed with exceptional corporal and mental abilities.
Saint Don Bosco was a craftsman's genius.
Saint Thomas of Aquinas was able to dictate to three writers at a time.
5. The saints disposed of exceptional graces and charismata.
Saint Francis Xaver had the talent for languages.
Saint Francis of Assisi had stigmata.
Saint Father Pio was able to look into the hearts and had the gift of bilocation.
Saint Gregory the miracle-worker was able to transplant mountains thanks to his faith.
Also the vocations and conversions were often accompanied by unusual events. Samuel heard a voice. (1 Kg 3:1) Jonah was thrown into an ocean by a sea storm when God called him for the second time. (Jonah 1-4), Saul was thrown off his horse (Acts 9:4).
6. Occasionally the saints did something which violated (contravened) Christian duty or prudence in general, when they could not be sure to have been called by God:
Abraham wanted to sacrifice his son on the Mountain Moria.
Some saints looked for martyrdom.
Other saints withdrew from Church and sacraments by retiring to lonely places.
Saint brother Claus left his wife and his ten children and led a life of penitence in a lonely place.
Margaret of Cortona scratched her face and walked through the city wearing a rope around her neck, in order to humiliate herself.
We may only follow the example of the saints by doing things which they did as saints. The saints are a precious complement of Christ's example, he who could not live in all social standings, all professions and in every situation.
Nevertheless Jesus, by his divine and human perfection, always remains an unattainable ideal.
The Church says: “It is good and useful to implore the saints and to ask for their prayers, their assistance and their help, in order to get blessings from God, through His Son Jesus Christ, Our Lord, who is our only Redeemer and Saviour.“ DH 1821
The Church itself does this in Holy Mass, in the breviary in numerous prayers.
Let us study the legends of the saints. Let us say the prayers of the saints. Let us read their writings and sermons. Amen.