I don’t know if you saw it or not, but the Vatican has just approved a new way to be qualified to be declared a saint. There used to be two ways to be declared a saint; either you died for your faith as a martyr, or you lived a virtuous life (of course you could do both). Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter the other week adding another way, ‘On the Offer of Life” (Maiorem hac Dilectionem). The criteria for this new manner to be declared a saint are as follows:
a) a free and voluntary offer of life and heroic acceptance propter caritatem of a certain and untimely death;
b) a nexus between the offer of life and premature death;
c) the exercise, at least as ordinarily possible, of Christian virtues before the offer of life and, then, unto death;
d) the existence of a reputation of holiness and of signs, at least after death;
e) the necessity of a miracle for beatification, occurring after the death of the Servant of God and through his or her intercession.
This category is connected to martyrdom as opposed to the category of ‘lived a virtuous life’ as it deals with the manner in which one dies and their faith that is evident in their acceptance of it, but unlike martyrdom it doesn’t mean that someone killed them for their faith.
It will be interesting to see who some of the first saints named in this manner are. We recognize that there are many people who are saints that the Church may not have officially recognized or demonstrated to be so, but having these lives held up for us as examples, and recognizing that we wish to ask for their prayers in our daily challenges will likely give a greater variety from the past. Hopefully we will see people who we can relate to in different aspects of our lives, who can inspire us, to live more holy, virtuous, faithful lives, especially at times when one may be facing death and suffering severely and may be tempted to despair. A means to show in death our value and respect for the gift of life.
Let us continue to strive to live faithful lives every day, and in a manner that encourages and inspires others to also grow in their faith.