Saturday, Oct. 18, 2008

Beatification and Canonization

While parenting, not unlike sainthood, often requires patience, sacrifice, and the performing of miracles, until now the Catholic Church has not typically recognized raising a child as sufficient grounds for canonization. Yet, this Sunday the Church will beatify Louis and Marie-Azelie Guerin Martin, putting the late 19th century French couple one miracle away from sainthood — largely because they happened to have been the parents of one of the Church's most popular saints, Therese of Lisieux, "the little flower of Jesus," a paragon of sweetness and charity who became one of the very few women to be tapped as "doctors of the church".

One reason for the Martins' beatification may be a desire on the part of the Church to canonize more married couples as inspirational examples for today's faithful. Even then, the Martins make a peculiar role model: They lived, by agreement, as "brother and sister" until their confessor convinced them to procreate. They then produced five nuns. Louis was hospitalized for three years late in life after suffering a mental collapse.

Although Pope Benedict XVI has slowed the veritable torrent of saints "made" by his predecessor, John Paul II, down to a manageable stream, he is still capable of canonizing four saints at a stroke, as he did last Sunday. The Martins' beatification and the Pope's recent boost for the cause of controversial wartime pontiff Pius XII remind us that the Vatican's logic in establishing a candidate's "heroic virtue" — which, along with two posthumous miracles, are requirements for sainthood — is not always transparent. What follows is a list of eight other figures likely to be canonized in the next few years; and four more whom it arguably should make saints, but won't.