For example, in entry (150) of her Diary, St. Faustina relates the following from a mystical conversation she had with St. Therese of Lisieux:

"Dear sweet Therese, tell me, shall I go to heaven?" And she answered, "Yes, you will go to heaven, Sister." "And will I be a saint?" To which she replied, "Yes, you will be a saint." "But, little Therese, shall I be a saint as you are, raised to the altar?" And she answered, "Yes, you will be a saint just as I am, but you must trust in the Lord Jesus."

In the Catholic Church, what exactly is meant by the term "raised to the altar"? Does it mean canonization by the Pope? Are those declared Blessed (also) raised to the altar?

1 Answer 1


What is the meaning of a Catholic Saint being "Raised to the Altar"?

"Raised to the honour of the altars" is an old expression which has a very deep historical tradition.

In the Early Church, the mass was often celebrated in the catacombs, where priests often say mass next to or over the tombs of the martyrs.

For the first three centuries the Eucharist celebrated in houses, in homes and in secret.

For the first three centuries the Eucharist was celebrated in the houses and homes of Christians. In times of persecution these celebrations would have been in secret, in catacombs and other hidden spots. At other times Christians gathered together openly in each others’ homes or in ‘house churches’ for the Eucharist though Mass was not celebrated publicly as it is in our own time. - The Early Church

When the Church gained the freedom to worship openly, she started to build churches which contained stone altars. These altars eventually contained a portion of the body of a Martyr, known as as relic.

The Mass is the apex of our faith while here on earth and the Catholic tradition that exists now (over the long centuries), is that only the relics of canonized saints may be placed in consecrated altars in Catholic churches. Thus the saints are actually raised to the honour of the altars.

The tradition of placing relics in altars goes back to the persecution of Christians in Rome. As early as 125 A.D., Christians crept into the catacombs below the city of Rome to celebrate Mass. Early priests chose the tombs of Christian martyrs as altars.

This tradition continues today in most of the altars in Catholic churches around the world. Our altar contains a recess in the mensa (or tabletop) that contains five relics. The relics are sealed under an altar stone.

All but one of our relics are first class relics, meaning that they come from the saint’s body and are usually a small piece of bone or hair. The second class relic is taken from one of the belongings of that saint, often a piece of fabric from the clothing worn by that saint. - The Five Relics in the Altar

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .