What are Saints? Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta?

I received a text from my little sister, Christina, this morning asking “What is Mother Teresa the Saint of?”. I answered pretty well, at least as well as might be possible in texts. But, since I have more space and am able to give something more definitive here, I thought I would take a stab at the answer here. Thank you, Christina, for the question! This is something that is near and Dear to Christians, past and present.

So, to start, the Catholic Church does not “Make” saints, God does. The Church takes the signs that God provides and discerns if a person is in Heaven by following those signs or miracles. Over the centuries, many have noticed that some Saints interceed on the behalf of many in professions or walks of life, or the Church holds up a certain person as a special patron of those walks of life. The Cure de Ars, for example, who spent many many hours in the Confessional and hundreds of thousands from all France and Europe came to him for his guidance and wisdom in the Confessional, is the Patron of the Parish Priest. Others, such as founders of Religious Orders, are the patrons of their Orders. I’m sure that St. Mother Teresa is the “Patroness” of the Sisters of Charity, which she founded.

What is a “Saint”? In this context, a Saint is someone who has died with the mark of faith and is in Heaven with with Christ. There are many more Saints than we know about, God has chosen to make known the relatively few that we know about by giving us signs, or miracles. We ask, pray, for the Saints to pray for us. In the Early Church, we have graffiti from graves of early martyrs that are asking for their prayers. These date all the way back to the Apostles’ graves. The graves of of St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Polycarp, St. Cecilia, and the list goes on. The earliest Christians asked their Triumphant brothers and sisters to carry their petitions to the feet of Christ and the Father. Just as we do now, with our living friends and, even strangers (just look at any Facebook feed and you will see someone asking for prayers), the Christian faithful have asked their resurrected brothers and sisters to pray for them too.

From these prayers, God has seen fit to strengthen his people by showing them signs that the Resurrection is, indeed, real. By the miracles gained from the Saints’ intercessions, we see that Christ’s promise of “Today you will be with me in Paradise” is not just empty words, but a Promise!

Sainthood is not a “Reward” of the Church, there are many deserving men and women who are probably in Heaven, but their intercessions have not brought about the miracles necessary for recognition. That is God’s choice, not the Church’s. The Church merely follows the signs that God provides and raises them up for recognition. Gifts of saints that lived while we lived, show us in no uncertain terms, that Christ is alive and well and has Dominion over this world today, just as He always has! Saint Mother Teresa, and her contemporary, Pope Saint John Paul II, show us that the “modern world” has not overtaken God and made Him obsolete, but that men and women walk our streets today, struggle through life, and are on the path to Heaven as these two were.

We are not alone! We have two parts of the Church, the “Church Militant” (which is the Church here on Earth and struggling to get to Heaven) and the “Church Triumphant” (which is the Church that has triumphed and is with Christ). We are not separate, we are bound together by Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. We can, and should, ask for their prayers to help us to achieve the triumph they have achieved. We pray for Grace, we pray for signs, we pray for our friends and family that have gone before us (because we don’t know, but we still beg for mercy for their sins.).

So, Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Pray for us!

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