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How is someone deemed a Saint as opposed to a martyr in Catholicism? At first I was thinking the only requirement was to killed for your faith. Is this accurate?

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closed as off topic by Wikis, Caleb, El'endia Starman, wax eagle, Richard Sep 6 '11 at 20:42

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This is answerable with a quick trip to Google:… – El'endia Starman Sep 6 '11 at 20:21
Above comment is correct, easily Googleable, have to vote to close. Sorry. – Wikis Sep 6 '11 at 20:30
Off-topic seems to be the wrong reason for closing. The community should ask Stack Exchange to add the "General reference" reason for closing. You can read about it on meta.SO or just ask about it on the meta here and the SE people will respond. – hippietrail Sep 6 '11 at 20:45
The thing I don't understand and isn't eminently clear is whether or not two miracles are required for a martyr to be canonized. It would seem you need one miracle for beatification unless martyred and then one more miracle for canonization. I don't want to put additional words in your mouth but that's the question I'd ask. – Peter Turner Sep 6 '11 at 21:26
@hippietrail Typically, 'Not Constructive" would be used in this scenario. Also, most early beta sites talk about needing a "General reference" reason, but in all honesty it goes away after a few weeks. :) – corsiKa Sep 6 '11 at 23:09
up vote 1 down vote accepted

The process is called canonization. Wikipedia's article on canonization describes the process. Martyrdom is not a requirement for sainthood, although being martyred does suggest that a person may very well be a saint (think John 15:13, Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.). Mother Theresa is a great example of a non-martyred saint, canonized because of the great witness of her life of love and compassion for the poor in India.

In summary, a person is recognized by a bishop or other church person with sufficient authority as a possible candidate for sainthood, and an investigation is started. The Congregation for the Causes of the Saints investigates this information, and eventually may make a recommendation that the pope make a declaration that the Servant of God is 'heroic in virtue'. At this point, the potential saint becomes known as 'Venerable', meaning that Catholic may encourage veneration of this person, such as prayers for intercession, but the church has made no official statement on whether or not it is believed that the person is in Heaven.

The next step is where martyrdom matters. If the Pope makes a declaration of martyrdom, then the martyr can be canonized, as the Catholic church teaches that all martyrs go to Heaven, and being in Heaven is the definition of a 'capital-S' Saint.

If the person was not a martyr, then the person is considered a 'confessor', a person who bore witness to Christ (confessed Christ) through the way they lived their life. A miracle achieved through the intercession of the venerable must be documented before a confessor can be beatified, and can be called "Blessed" (but still not a saint yet!). There are strict guidelines in evaluating miracles to determine their authenticity. For a confessor to be canonized, and declared a saint, two miracles are required.

Note that this is a summary, and I am leaving details out - such as requirements for time to pass before canonization. Also, I am not an expert in Catholic canon law; while the general information is accurate, I could have details wrong. If you want to hear from an expert, you could go to Catholic Forum's Ask an Apologist subforum and send in your question.

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Since wikipedia loads of good info, I'll just answer the question.

How is someone deemed a saint (in 2011)?

The pope canonizes a dead person who has lived a life of heroic virtue and has performed a posthumous miracle in addition to the miracle required for beatification.

What about martyrdom?

Martyrdom circumvents the normal requirement of a posthumous miracle for beatification, but it not instant qualification for sainthood.

Other saintly terminology:

Someone who has been beatified is referred to as Blessed, someone who is canonized is referred to as Saint. You may also see Venerable and Servant of God, these are mile markers on the path to sainthood.

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There's a path to follow.


  1. "Servant of God"

    The local bishop recognizes that someone holy has died and starts gathering evidence that they were holy. When they have enough evidence, they give the evidence to the Roman Curia.

  2. "Declaration 'Non Cultus'"

    At some point, they dig up the body and gathers a few relics.

  3. "Venerable/Heroic in Virtue"

    When there's enough evidence that they were actually holy, the Pope (at the recommendation of the Roman Curia) declares them as Venerable.

  4. "Blessed"

    The person, at this point, is declared that they are actually, truly in heaven "looking at God". If they were a martyr, the Pope gives it the rubber stamp. Otherwise, there has to be a proven miracle tied to the person. This is called the Beatific Vision.

  5. "Saint"

    To become a saint, there has to be two proven miracles. Once there are two miracles, the Pope may proclaim that person a saint.

So, to answer your question, martyrdom is not a requirement for sainthood. Nor is it a guarantee. You have to have associated miracles to achieve Sainthood.

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