Steps to Sainthood

Susan Haarman

Mother Teresa, whose original name is Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, may now be called by the formal title “Blessed” and her relics may be venerated.

Beatification is the second step in the canonization process. It is bestowed upon a person after being seen as someone of overwhelming virtue, whose goodness has been sustained after death even after close scrutiny and who is deemed to have interceded from beyond the grave in a miracle, usually a medical cure for which there is said to be no scientific explanation. Beatification usually leads to sainthood once there is evidence of a second miracle.

In 1997, Mother Teresa died and John Paul II took steps to speed up the canonization process . A person must usually be dead for five years before they are allowed to be submitted for beatification, but this requirement was waived for Mother Teresa.

“The process has certainly been speeded up quite a bit in general,” said the Rev. Michael Fahey, theology professor. “In the past the pope has waived the required number of miracles for some other saints.”

The speed with which the process has increased might be a sign of the pope’s propensity to naming saints.

“This pope beatified more saints that any other pontiff,” said history professor Stephen Avella,. “He has been very active and firm on the idea that there be raised up for the faithful, these living images of the gospel.”

That Mother Teresa is one of these images or that the Pope would speed up the process for such a public figure is not a surprise, Avella said.

“Mother Teresa was universally claimed a saint long before she passed away,” Avella said. “Her sanctity was particularly evident while she was alive.”

Some have speculated that this was in some part also a calculated move to help repair Church relations with India and advance the cause of Catholic missions. Political Science professor Michael Fleet is more realistic.

“I think the government and a lot of the Indian people will see it as a nice gesture,” Fleet said. “But that does not begin to tear down some of the remaining barriers of difficulty between the two.”

Several of the over 470 saints Pope John Paul II has canonized have been from or served heavily in Third World countries. While the Catholic Church is experiencing a decline in attendance and membership in Europe, the majority of its growth is coming from Africa and Latin America.

Several of the saints have also been those who lived in the 20th century.

“Perhaps the pope feels people could relate more to people who were alive in their lifetime,” Fahey said.

Sarah Humlie, a junior in the College of Communication and a member of the St. Ursula House, a group of catholic Marquette women living together, agreed with the idea.

“It is wonderful to have a saint that was alive when we were,” Humlie said. “We’ll remember her as Mother Teresa, but the rest of the world will remember her as St. Teresa of Calcutta.”

Mother Teresa was born in 1910 in Skopje, now the capital of Macedonia, a former Yugoslav republic. She spent most of her life living in poverty and caring for the poor. Her order has over 50 relief projects operating in India, comprised of work among slum-dwellers, children’s homes, homes for the dying, clinics and a leper colony. The order has spread to other countries and undertakes relief work for the poorest of the poor in a number of countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.