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Sainthood of Mary: Canonization

Sainthood of Mary: Canonization

– Anwered by Father Johann Roten, S.M.

Q: Is Mary a Saint? Was she ever canonized?

A: When speaking of saints we think of a sometimes long process of canonization in the course of which close scrutiny of the future saint is conducted by Roman authorities, and at the end of which the pope officially proclaims sainthood. The two decisive criteria for the proclamation of sainthood are heroic practice of virtues (or martyrdom) and miracles. The first papal canonization of which there are positive documents was that of Saint Udalricus in 973. It is only after a long period of time, from Pope Gregory IX (1234), Sixtus V (1588), Urban VIII (1642) to Benedict XIV (1738) that all rules and guidelines on how to "make a saint" were promulgated. But this is not to say that there were no saints before 973. Canonization or not, a saint has always been defined as a close follower of Christ, the closer, the better.

Following Christ means doing as he does, and as much as possible being as he is. Early Christians believed that martyrs were perfect followers of Christ and saints because they had shown the supreme proof of love by giving their lives for Christ. Later on this was extended to people who defended the faith and excelled in Christian faith (doctrine, charity, virtue, austere life, etc.). In all of this the likeness, proximity, intimacy with and the following of Christ remains of paramount importance. Here is the real reason why Mary is a Saint.

Mary has been the first and faithful disciple of her son as his mother, educator, follower to the foot of the cross, and steward of his legacy and mission among the first Christians. Mary's cooperation for the sake of the world at the side of her son continues even now and until the end of times. All of this was and is possible because of God's special love and help, promised to her by the angel at the Annunciation and reiterated by Elizabeth during Mary's visit. To be blessed or full of grace means to have the Spirit of God, which is also the Spirit of Christ. We all receive this Spirit that Mary had received in a special way. It helps us to make our lives ever more like that of Christ, in other words, to become Saints. It is in this sense that the Church recognizes in Mary the greatest of all Saints.

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