What is the Relationship Between the Church and Her Saints?

Recently on The Patrick Madrid Show, a listener called in to ask what the relationship was between saints and the Catholic Church and if saints were only made so through the Catholic canonization process.

Patrick replied by first taking a step back to define what a saint was. “Everybody who goes to heaven is a saint by definition because they are made perfect in righteousness, they see God face to face. They’re maxed out in terms of holiness.” Whether they’re canonized or not, if someone’s soul is in heaven, they are a saint.

Canonized saint versus uncanonized saint does not signify some difference in status or rank. The declared saints aren’t on a higher level than the undeclared. No determination process that the earthly Church carries out affects the eternal status of a soul. When the Church beatifies or canonizes somebody, it is simply the determination that, based on the miracles and life evidence put forth on behalf of the deceased, we know that they are in heaven.

Additionally, when we are certain that one’s soul has passed from this life to eternity with God, we can ask that person to pray for us and for their intercession. “So, the canonization of saints is for us, it helps us. It doesn’t change anything for the saint in heaven. But, by virtue of being in heaven, everybody who is there is a saint, whether or not they’ve been canonized.”

The listener went on to ask that if that was the case, why are Lutheran and Protestant churches sometimes called saint names like St. Andrew Lutheran Church, for example? The reason why, Patrick responded, is because Protestant groups use the saint title in a customary way. Even though the apostle Andrew was canonized in the Catholic Church, Lutherans address him as a saint in recognition of his close adherence to and following of Christ. In other words, it’s more of a colloquial identification of a historical follower of Christ than it is a validation of the canonization process and the Catholic Church.

“They’re using the term ‘saint’ by way of recognizing that person as a saint, but they’re not really editorializing on the Catholic Church or the process of canonization. It’s just a custom. They’re using it in a customary way, as opposed to trying to make some theological point,” said Patrick.

Listen to the full question and answer below:

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John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.