Steps on the Road to Sainthood

There are a number of steps on this journey but two of them are of special importance. These are beatification and canonization.


Before beatification a very special favour – a miracle in fact – is required. This comes from God since only God can perform a miracle. We believe that he sometimes does so in answer to the prayers of very holy persons. And so people pray to the holy person to intercede with God for such a great favour. In the case of Pope John Paul II the miracle concerned a French nun in her early forties, who was confined to bed with Parkinson’s disease. After members of her community prayed for her healing through the intercession of Pope John Paul II, she experienced a complete and lasting cure. She was able to return to her work in a maternity hospital run by her religious congregation.

As regards the requirement of a miracle for beatification, an exception is allowed in the case of a martyr. Here a miracle is not needed. The martyrdom takes the place of a miracle. It is regarded as a kind of miracle in itself, that a person would be so committed to the Christian faith that he or she would be prepared to die for it. The person doesn’t seek death but accepts it as a consequence of witnessing to the faith. Since Blessed Benedict Daswa was a martyr for the faith there was no need for a miracle before his beatification.

When is a favour recognized as a miracle? To begin with, it has to be something quite extraordinary for which no natural or scientific cause can be found. It is normally a cure from a death-causing illness such as terminal cancer. It has to be very carefully investigated. If there is any doubt whatsoever it cannot be accepted as a miracle. The investigation is done by panel of medical experts and a panel of top theologians. After their acceptance, it needs the approval of a committee of cardinals and bishops, and finally that of the Pope himself.

Then the way is cleared for the beatification to take place, which is normally done by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. At this ceremony, the person is given the official title of “Blessed” and is also allotted a feast-day to be celebrated with special prayers and special readings that come mainly from the bible. This person is then a saint for the local church. In order to become a saint for the universal church the person must also be canonized.