What Happens on the Way to Becoming a Saint
Gone are the days when you could become a saint just by performing some badass miracles and subsequently being adored and considered holy by your peers. These days, one has to go through a pretty arduous vetting process before one can be canonized.
Step 1: Die Virtuous (Preferably in a Gruesome Manner)
According to EWTN, you can’t be considered for canonization until 5 years after your death. This is to demonstrate that you have “an enduring reputation of sanctity.” However, the Pope can make some exceptions. For example, Pope John Paul II allowed the beatification process of Mother Teresa to begin just two years after she died, and Pope Benedict XVI waived the entire 5-year waiting period for Pope John Paul II. Dying as a martyr helps, since if you do that, you can skip Step 3 below.
Step 2: Leave Receipts of Your Holiness
First, the bishop of the diocese where you died petitions the Holy See for permission to begin the Cause for Beatification and Canonization. If the Pope gives him the go signal, you get your first cool title: Servant of God.
The bishop then investigates your life by collecting testimonies and examining practically everything you’ve written, whether published or unpublished. If he and the diocesan tribunal judge your life to be sufficiently admirable and holy, they submit the results of their investigation to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.
We weren’t kidding when we said you’ll need tons of receipts. For example, in Mother Teresa’s case, “76 documents, totalling 35,000 pages, which were based on interviews with 113 witnesses who were asked to answer 263 questions” were submitted during the process of her beatification.
The Congregation checks that all your papers are in order then decides by vote whether you are worthy of being beatified. After that, they recommend your case to the Pope. If the Pope likes what he sees, he issues a Decree of Heroic Virtues, and you get your second title: Venerable Servant of God.
Step 3: Cure Cancer (Or Perform Any Other Miracle)
Before you can be beatified, you need to perform a miracle to prove that you’re with God in heaven. Medical miracles are preferred, since these are the easiest ones to prove or disprove. Basically, a person with an incurable disease has to ask for intercession from you and you alone—if they’ve been praying to rockstar saints like Padre Pio or St. Jude, it’s harder to prove that you’re the one who asked God for healing. And nobody likes someone who takes credit for other people’s work (or in this case, intercessions).
The diocese where the miracle occurred must form two different commissions—one scientific and one theological—to prove the miracle’s authenticity. The scientific commission has to establish that there is no natural explanation for the disease being cured. The theological commission has to prove that the person you cured hasn’t been praying to any other saints or to Mother Mary.
Both commissions forward their findings to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, who conduct their own scientific and theological investigations. They then submit their results to the Pope. If he decides that you are fit for beatification, you get your third title: Blessed.
Of course like we mentioned, you can skip this whole step if you just die for your faith.
Step 4: Repeat
After being beatified, all you need is one more miracle to your name. The diocese where the miracle happened and the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints goes through the same investigative process as in Step 3, and passes their findings to the Pope. If he decides to give a Decree of a Miracle, then you can finally be canonized.