Saintly Youth


Convivium, 6 July 2018

Although young saints are usually martyrs, two admirable teenagers, each marked by a struggle with cancer, advanced a step closer to sainthood yesterday. Saints come in all ages and conditions of life and circumstances, Father Raymond J. de Souza tells us. Let us learn from their venerable examples for it is never too early to become holy. 

It’s never too early to become holy. Yesterday, two admirable teenagers advanced a step closer to sainthood. One of them gives us an answer to a perennial problem of our human condition; the other offers a rather new one.

Saint-making in the Catholic Church is not really saint-making, per say. Only God makes saints; the Church, through her canonization process, recognizes some of that number of saints (beyond counting) and proposes them for the inspiration of the faithful. This process can be defended apologetically. Yet more fundamentally, this practice is part of the Catholic imagination or intuition about how things should be. Just as we prefer to live, our Christian lives in the company of fellow disciples who strengthen us along the way, so too do Catholics (and Orthodox and some streams of Protestantism) prefer to follow Christ with the active friendship of those already blessed in heaven.

From time to time the Vatican announces updates on various “causes” or candidates for sainthood. When a particular cause is accepted and a preliminary examination of the biographical record submitted along with evidence of a reputation for holiness, the candidate is given the title “Servant of God.”
An exhaustive investigation ensues, often taking years or decades, with witnesses – both for and against – convening until a multi-volume summary of the life is prepared. A judgment is then made about whether the candidate lived the “virtues to a heroic degree,” something that is only possible with divine grace. A positive judgement means that the candidate can be styled “venerable.”

Once the human judgement being is complete, before a candidate can be declared a saint, evidence of miracles worked through the intercession of the candidate – another exhaustive process – is required.

Yesterday the Vatican announced several causes that had been advanced to stage of heroic virtue. Most of the time candidates are somewhat obscure, not known beyond their local place. Even then the memory of them might have faded. Yet two of the candidates declared “venerable” yesterday are from our time and, more unusually, were very young. 

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