Actually, Mother Teresa did NOT become a saint on Sunday

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Sep 05, 2016

Just for the record—to correct the thousands of inaccurate headlines you’ve already seen— the Pope did not make Mother Teresa a saint yesterday. Nor did she become a saint yesterday. She already was a saint. Pope Francis formally declared her to be a saint.

Canonization is what you might call the diagnosis of a pre-existing condition. Pope Francis did not open the pearly gates for Mother Teresa on Sunday; he confirmed that she is already in heaven. Her holiness was not in doubt (at least not among reasonable people); the Pope infallibly pronounced what we already knew to be true.

Some saints live in obscurity. Others are caught up in controversy. So the rigorous procedure by which the Church examines the lives of candidates for beatification and canonization is designed to expose truths and clear up doubts. Since even rigorous study can leave questions unresolved, the Church requires proof of miracles attributed to the candidate’s intercession: signs of Divine confirmation that our belief in someone’s sanctity is not misplaced.

In the case of Mother Teresa, however, there wasn’t much uncertainty. One can imagine some observers, reading about the Sunday ceremony, wondering why it took the Catholic Church so long to recognize what seemed so obvious. She was recognized as a saint, even by people who don’t know what it means to be a saint. Which is why it’s worthwhile to correct the headlines, to get the story right. The canonization of Mother Teresa—St. Teresa—is an opportunity to remind the secular world about the meaning of holiness.

Mother Teresa wasn’t a superhero. She was an ordinary woman, with ordinary human weaknesses, as she would be the first to admit. She did extraordinary things in spite of her limitations, by the grace of God. Her canonization is a reminder that each one of us could do extraordinary things as well.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Gil125 - Sep. 07, 2016 5:38 PM ET USA

    You're about 95% right here, Phil. The only thing I can disagree with is the first sentence in the last graf. If she wasn't a superhero, who ever was?