Catholics commonly assume that in order to become a canonized saint one has to be a priest or a member of a religious congregation. As regards saints who were martyrs for the faith, this has never been the case. In fact, the great majority of them have been lay people, both in the early church and right down to modern times. Among the saints who were not martyrs there is a small number of outstanding lay members with some coming from the ruling classes such as, St. Stephen (975-1038) the King of Hungary; St. Margaret (1046-1093) the Queen of Scotland; St Louis (1214-1270) King of France. There were also ordinary members of the church such as, St. Monica (331-387) the mother of St. Augustine; St. Juan Diego (1474-1548) to whom Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared; St. Benedict Joseph Labre (1748-1783) the patron saint of the homeless.
This situation has begun to change with more lay people being beatified and canonized especially since Vatican 11 Council (1963-1965). In its “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church” the Council devotes a whole chapter to the call to holiness of life for every member of the church. Every baptized person is called to be a saint and with the help of God’s grace this is possible. This is not an option but an obligation as the Council clearly states, “Therefore all the faithful are invited and obliged to holiness and the perfection of their own state of life. Accordingly let all of them see that they direct their affections rightly” with the reminder that “’…the form of his world is passing away’ (1 Cor. 7:31)” (42). This is obviously very important for the future of the church, because in the words of the Catechism, “The Church increases, grows and develops through the holiness of her faithful” (CCC 2045).