Argument about how many saints there are, between 800 to 10,000 canonized by the Catholic Church, misses the point. Saints are our way of honoring those whose holy lives live on. The process of being named a saint entails three steps:
1. It begins after the death of a Catholic whom people regard as holy,
2. Beatification, requires evidence of one miracle --the miracle must take place after the candidate's death and
3. There must be a specific petition to be named.
This past October, tens of thousands of faithful, some wearing feathered headdresses and beads, others in colorful Hawaiian shirts and leis, turned out Sunday as Pope Benedict XVI canonized seven saints, including the first American Indian one as well as a 19th-century nun who tended to patients with leprosy in Hawaii. (See Rachel Donalio, October 21, 2012)
Donalio describes the event as: “The celebrations began at dawn, with Native Americans in beaded and feathered headdresses and leather-fringed tunics singing songs to Kateri to the beat of drums as the sun rose over St. Peter's Square. Cheers rose from the crowd when the pope named Kateri Tekakwitha, known as “Lily of the Mohawks” and beloved by American Indians.”
She continues the story of “Kateri was born in Auriesville, N.Y., about 40 miles northwest of Albany, in 1656, to an Algonquin mother and a father who was Mohawk. She was baptized by French Jesuits at age 20, after losing her parents in a smallpox epidemic. After being persecuted by some of her contemporaries for her faith, she fled to an Indian settlement in what is now Canada, where she died at age 24.”
The deciding miracle to naming her saint, occurred in 2006 when “an 11-year-old American Indian boy from Washington State had been miraculously cured of flesh-eating bacteria after his parents prayed for intervention through Kateri.”
Those of us who are skeptics would challenge intervention of supernatural for healing or any other event because the evidence provided doesn’t conform to what we know about tangible cause and effects. However, skeptics should not dispute that honoring those who have lived holy lives so much so that years, sometimes hundreds of years after their death, their goodness inspires belief in miracles.
So may we have more saints, not because of some miracle performed in their names, but because of the goodness of their lives is played forward by ordinary souls.