All thernfaithful in heaven are saints, the Catholic Church teaches. But some have beenrnofficially recognized as worthy of emulation and veneration through the formalrnprocess of canonization.
“Thern[saints] surrender to God’s love was so generous an approach to the totalrnsurrender of Jesus that the Church recognizes them as heroes and heroinesrnworthy to be held up for our inspiration. They remind us that the Church isrnholy, can never stop being holy and is called to show the holiness of God byrnliving the life of Christ,” states the book “Saint of the Day,” edited byrnFather Leonard Foley, OFM.
Saintsrnaren’t made by the Church, but recognized for what God has already done.rnEstimates of the number of saints range from less than 3,000 to 10,000 deceasedrnindividuals. But there is no definitive head count, because not all saints havernbeen officially recognized.
A few daysrnafter “All Saints’ Day,” Angelus News sat down with four students —rnseventh-grader Azzyria De Cascas and eighth-graders Viviana Harvin, BryanrnVelasquez and Alberto Hernandez — at All Saints School in El Sereno. We wantedrnto get their take on sainthood today compared to the 10th century. That’s whenrnPope John XV became the first pontiff to officially proclaim a saint: BishoprnUlrich of Augsburg.
Don’t havernto be perfect
“What dornyou think makes a saint?” the students at the table in the school’s libraryrnwere asked.
“The wayrnthey act,” said Azzyria. “What they have done for other people. Their stories.rnTheir religion. Like, how they found God.”
“Do theyrnhave to be perfect?”
Thernseventh-grader was shaking her head. “They can be flawed. Their story can bernlike they were bad people and then they found God. And they turned into arndifferent person afterwards.”
“I thinkrnwhat makes a saint is they have to have done miracles for people,” saidrnViviana, sitting next to her. “And they have to have feelings for other people,rnand do good things. They have to be respectful to other people. But everyonernmakes mistakes. If they had a bad life, at the end of their life they couldrnhave been a great person.”
Therneighth-grade boys were leaning a little back in their chairs, nonchalantlyrnglancing sideways at the girls.
Bryanrnagreed about a saint is someone who ends up being really good. “Because Godrncalls people in many different ways and at different times,” he remarked. “Sornif they’re about to die, or if they’re just starting life, God can call them.rnHe knows that he wants them in heaven with him.”
“I thinkrnwhatever makes a saint is also how they act in their life, and how they, like,rntry to be Jesus in their lifetime,” Alberto said. “And I think God doesn’trnreally look at the bad stuff they do because he’s a good father. But he looksrnat the good stuff and how they act with people during their whole life.”
The libraryrncouldn’t have been better decorated for this discussion. The walls were coveredrnwith big sheets of paper with the title “All About My Favorite Saint.” In thernmiddle were crayon drawings or pictures of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Martin dernPorres, St. Michael, St. Anne, St. Juan Diego, St. Joan of Arc, St. Patrick,rnSt. Jude, St. Rose of Lima and many others. And the yellow octopuses,rnbrown-and-green turtles and pinkish-blue whale swimming in a blue sea above thernposters seemed to be paying particular attention to the goings-on below.
“Do yournthink there could be saints today,” the students were asked.
Azzyriarnpointed out Mother Teresa being recently named a saint for her work with therndying in India. Viviana said how just being close to your family and helpingrnothers you don’t know could make you a contemporary saint.
“Back inrnthe day, it was really hard for people to be Catholic or actually continuerntheir faith because of the Roman soldiers, and many were martyred,” said Bryan.rn“But now we have the option to really follow God without being stopped. Somernpeople don’t take advantage of it. It is harder ‘cause there’s more temptationrnthan there was. Because now we have drugs and stuff. And to be a saint, yournhave to give your whole life to God.”
Alberto wasrnnodding. “Like what he said, there’s drugs, more temptation and all therntechnology. It’s just going to be harder. But to be a saint today I thinkrnyou’ve just got to help other people, and move away from bad friends.”
Viviana hadrna cousin who would go up to homeless people and just start talking to them.rnShe’d ask if they needed anything. “And her mom would always get really mad:rn‘You don’t know that person!’ ” said the eighth-grader with a half-grin.rnAzzyria thought her grandma could be a saint because she helped her family sornmuch.
Bryan’s nominee was an old lady she often sawrnstrolling around L.A.’s El Soreno community, even though something was wrongrnwith her legs. She also approached the homeless without fear, bringing themrnfood. “I’ve seen her,” he said. “She’s always walking by, going to church,rnhelping anybody in need. And she prays for people. She’s prayed for my motherrnand father.”
“Well, Irnknow many people who could be a saint,” declared Alberto. “I think, like, thisrnwhole school. We give stuff to the poor at Thanksgiving and around Christmas.rnWe do ‘pajama drives’ for little kids who are poor. And we raise money with ourrn‘Jeans for Jesus’ and mission free-dress days.”
Azzyria’srnfavorite saint was St. Francis of Assisi. Why? Because he started off a badrnperson who only thought of himself, but answered God’s call and received thernstigmata. “And he liked animals,” she said, looking at Viviana. “Would hernreally talk to animals?”
“He wouldrnhave a conversation, sort of.”
“Yeah,rnanimals liked him, and he liked animals,” said Azzyria, remarking, “I likernanimals, too.”
That brokernup both girls. The boys, however, remained semistoic.
“I admirernthe same saint that Azzyria does,” Viviana said. “What I love about him is herndidn’t care that people thought he was crazy.”
Padre Piornwas Bryan’s pick. “He got the stigmata like St. Francis of Assisi,” he pointedrnout.
Albertornsaid, “My favorite saint is St. Jose’ Sanchez del Rio. He was a martyr in thernpersecution of Catholics by the Mexican government. They wanted him to switchrnsides, but he wouldn’t. So they tortured and killed him. And it just touches myrnheart because he was just 14 years old. You don’t see many saints who are thatrnyoung. He was a martyr and he just fought for Christ.”
And therernwas someone right at All Saints they thought might qualify, too — theirrnprincipal, Ms. Maria Palermo.
“She’s veryrncaring,” reported Viviana.
Bryan said,rn“She helps people.”
“And shernlikes animals,” pointed out Viviana.
Thernstudents talked about how she cared for a stray mangy dog with bite marks andrnfleas who showed up at the elementary school. And they laughed about how sherneven gave him a bath.
Thernconsensus was a resounding “no!” But the students also agreed that the personrnhad to do more than just help people like the homeless — no matter how goodrnthat was.
“Well, yournhave to pray to God and, like, just devote your life to God,” explainedrnAlberto. “I think it’s very hard to become a saint today because there’s allrnthese factors about not becoming one. But I think there’s also some good factors.rnLike there’s charities and foundations where you could help. But it’s reallyrnpraying to God.”
Bryan wasrnnodding. “You have to make sure what you do helps people in life. And it willrnplease God one day.”
“I justrnthink saints are really good people and they got recognized for what they did,”rnsaid Azzyria. “There still could be saints now. But it’s a long process thatrnthey have to go through in order to become a saint.
“Yeah, it’srnhard to become one,” Viviana chimed in. “I think it’s amazing how they wouldrnhelp people in the world. And it’s not obligatory that they have to. But theyrnchoose to because they feel like they want to do what God wants.”
Bryanrnleaned forward. “The way to become a saint is to really pray a lot and do somernreally kind stuff to people. So just follow God’s corporal works of mercy andrnjust follow what Jesus did and God wants you to do.”
Alberto hadrnthe last word. “They’re just putting their life to help another life,” he said.rn“And I think that’s very generous of them. And like Bryan said, they follow therncorporal works of mercy and just pray for other people.”