To my understanding, Catholics pray to quite a few saints, and not just to any deceased laity, and all of which special saints doubtlessly are canonised. Does canonisation make a saint meritorious before God?

I prefer a perspective from those that have this tradition in their faith toward God.

2 Answers 2


Canonization does not change an individual's status in the eyes of God—nothing can change that. What it does is make a declaration about what the Church thinks of them:

By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God's grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors.

(Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 828)

In other words, what canonization does is make it official to all Catholics that the Church recognizes, by the power of the Holy Spirit that acts in her and guides her, that a certain person has lived an undeniably holy and grace-filled life; that they may be used as models for our attempt to live out a Christian life; and that we here on Earth may ask them to intercede for us with God, to ask for God's mercy and intervention on our behalf.

It is not always the case, however, that those Christians who are recognized as saints were formally canonized. The Blessed Virgin Mary, for example, has always been thought holy, but never gone through a canonization process (not that she would have an issue!) But usually, in relatively modern times, there's been some process that the Church has put candidates for such great holiness through, not for the candidate's benefit but for the Church's.

  • ''the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors ''. The idea is noble, but when it comes to making them intercessors , which is a unique office of messiah(Hebrews 7:25),past whom by prayer believers may then reach God, isn't that taking it too far? Besides no matter how good one may have been in life, another can not really tell whether they made heaven at death, or just about made it but not 'close enough' to God and so falling short of being ''intercessors''
    – Witness
    Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 20:26
  • @Witness The KISS principle version of what makes a saint is one whose will perfectly, or nearly perfectly, aligns with the will of God. I've only heard that from our deacons and priests a few hundred times. That juxtaposition, needless to say, is rare which is why there are so few saints as compared to the billions of the faithful over the life if the church (a couple of thousand years). Another point is that it's usually a hard road for those whose journey takes them to sainthood. Saints are not the Messiah. He's been and moved on; the Holy Spirit's role is to inspire the rest of us. Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 1:44
  • @Witness good points; I'll address them in an edit. Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 13:36

Canonization, beatification, etc., do not change one's merit.

Fr. John Hardon, S.J., defines "merit" in his Catholic Dictionary:

Divine reward for the practice of virtue. It is a Catholic doctrine that by his good works a person in the state of grace really acquires a claim to supernatural reward from God. "The reward given for good works is not won by reason of actions which precede grace, but grace, which is unmerited, precedes actions in order that they may be performed meritoriously" (II Council of Orange, Denzinger 388).

Fr. Hardon enumerates what can increase merit:

Factors that increase a person's supernatural reward for good works performed in the state of grace. There are four such factors:

  1. the degree of sanctifying grace in which a person does some morally good action;

  2. the intensity of will with which an act is done;

  3. the sublimity of the action performed; and

  4. the purity of love or selflessness that animates the performance.

Difficulties of themselves do not increase supernatural merit, but, provided that a difficulty is not culpable, it normally demands additional effort of will and thus indirectly adds to the merit derived from a morally good act done in the state of grace.

See St. Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica I-II q. 114 ("On Merit") for more detail.

  • Thanks for the effort. What I struggle with in this is if it isn't so, why or how is it that some of them are made to be 'devine' intercessors? Isn't it assuming too much as to their righteousness, and also adding to God's word spoken through the apostle Paul, which indicates that the office of intercession is unique to Messiah?
    – Witness
    Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 20:37
  • @Witness See the 25th session of the Council of Trent, which quotes 1 Tim. 2:5 here, or the article "Intercession (Mediation)."
    – Geremia
    Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 21:06
  • @Witness May I suggest to you some modest research on your own time regarding "the Church triumphant" which is part of a smaller triumvirate: the church militant, the church penitent, and the Church Triuumphant. That may explain to you the broader principle of intercession among the church triumphant, in which the saints figure prominently. Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 1:51
  • @KorvinStarmast I will, thanks for your recommendation.
    – Witness
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 4:43

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