By Steve Curtis
Information contained in this article is taken from “Mother Theresa’s Sainthood Not Automatic,” written by Philip Pullella (Reuters via Internet, Sept. 6, 1997). Since the death of Mother Theresa, several things have been writ-ten and said about her sainthood. Those who loved her want to pressure the Catholic church to elevate her to sainthood immediately. However, being recognized as a saint by the Catholic church is no automatic thing.
If most people got their way, sainthood for Mother Theresa would be automatic. People already considered her to be a “living saint” and “Saint of the Gutters.” So, why not just go ahead and say she is a saint? The Catholic church will not let Mother Theresa be called a saint until she satisfies all its human doctrines and commandments. Despite the feelings and emotions of the grieving, only time (a lot of time) and the Catholic Church will tell whether Mother Theresa will be a saint.
If one ignored issues like the infallibility of the Pope, infant baptism, the doctrine of transubstantiation, etc. and just considered the issue of sainthood alone, one could easily see that the Catholic Church does not teach what the Bible teaches. Therefore, regardless of whether Mother Theresa is ever recognized as a saint or not, she will not be a saint as recognized in the word of God. Let us compare the Catholic saint with the biblical saint.
Does It Take Years and Does The Church Decide?
According to the above mentioned article, “People the world over considered Mother Theresa of Calcutta a ‘living saint’ but `years or decades may pass before the Roman Catholic Church can elevate her to sainthood.’ Where in the Bible can one read that it takes years or decades before a person can become a saint? In Ephesians 1:1, Paul ad-dressed the “saints who are in Ephesus.” What process taking years or decades did the Ephesians go through before Paul recognized them as saints?
Furthermore, where does the Bible say that in order to be a saint the Catholic Church must elevate you to that position? In the first place, the Catholic church cannot be found in the Bible. In the second place, the New Testament church never elevated anyone to sainthood. The New Testament church was made up of those who were saints (1 Cor. 1:2).
Why does the world allow such to go unchallenged? If a gospel preacher was to state that Mother Theresa is not a saint because she was not a member of the New Testament church, he would be booed and hissed. Unfortunately, some of his own brethren would be in that number. Yet, the Catholic Church can declare that sainthood is a process that takes years, at the end of which the church will decide the outcome, and people think nothing of it.
Does Death Precede Becoming A Saint?
The next statement in the article is this. “Despite a person’s reputation during his or her life, the process that leads to saint-hood cannot begin until after death.” Read
Ephesians 1:1. Paul addressed his letter to “the saints who are in Ephesus.” He did not write to “the saints buried in Ephesus.” If one accepts the Catholic doctrine of sainthood, he must necessarily accept the fact that Paul wrote to a group of dead people in Ephesus.
What would be the purpose of writing to a group of dead people instructing them in the way of the Lord? Exactly how would the dead saints at Ephesus “walk worthy of the calling” (Eph. 4:1)? In what way could the dead at Ephesus have “fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph. 5:11)? It is clear that the Bible’s concept and the Catholic Church’s concept of a saint are not the same. This is not hardheartedness or sarcasm. Friends, the obvious truth is the Catholic Church, its doctrine, and its practices, are not from God.
Miracles And Sainthood?
Now, according to the process of becoming recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church, miracles have to be attributed to the deceased. Here is the statement. “And whatever Mother Theresa did during her lifetime, two miracles after her death have to be recognized by the Church.” This is amazing! If a gospel preacher was to get up and read directly from the word of God, the very words of Jesus in Mark 16:16 without adding comment “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved,” there would be some who would get upset, angry and make all kinds of accusations against him. “He’s preaching his opinion. He believes in water salvation. He does not believe in faith and grace.” On the other hand, a religious group can decide that in order to be a saint two miracles have to be attributed to the individual after his death, which is not even hinted at in the Bible, and no one gets upset at all.
Friends, if this was God’s will, it would be in the Bible. In 2 Peter 1:3, Peter said, “as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.” Peter said we have all things, not some, not a few, not a lot, but all things. If miracles were necessary to be a saint, God would have told us. Not only can we see that the Catholic Church makes it harder for a person to be a saint than God does, but we can see that Catholicism is a man-made religion.
Earning A Reputation of Sanctity?
“If a person has earned a `reputation of sanctity’ among people, the local bishop can begin the process but he must wait at least five years after the person has died.” If the Catholic Church believes what the Bible teaches, according to them, the apostle Paul did two things before penning his epistle to the “saints at Ephesus.” He considered their previous reputation and waited five years after the death of everyone at Ephesus before he referred to them as saints.
What was the reputation of the Ephesians? The Bible says it was far from “sanctity.” Before they obeyed the gospel, they were “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). Even after obeying the gospel, “many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds” of practicing magic (Acts 19:18-19). The reputation of the Ephesians was just like my reputation, your reputation, and everyone else’s. We are all sinners (Rom. 3:10, 23). Without Christ the Ephesians, like you and I, were without hope (Eph. 2:12). How were the Ephesians elevated to sainthood? Paul said it was “in one body, through the cross” (Eph. 2:16). Why did Paul not consider the minimal five year waiting period? Why did Paul not take into account the reputation of those who were once sinners? The reason why Paul did not consider these things is there was no such thing as the Pope and the Catholic church in his day. If there had been, the inspired apostle would have condemned them for such human doctrines.
The Process Of Sainthood
After waiting five years, what does this process involve according to the Catholic Church? “A `postulator’ is appointed to help gather information from people who knew the candidate, seeking evidence of holiness.” Then, “the evidence usually amounting to many, many volumes is sent under seal to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes for Saints. A `relator’ is appointed. His job is to evaluate the evidence and make a recommendation in the form of a `positio,’ or position paper.” May the gospel preacher have a strong backbone and thick skin who would dare suggest trying to find evidence of anyone’s holiness, not to mention Mother Theresa’s. Yet, the Catholic Church can look at someone like dear, Nobel prize winning Mother Theresa and question her holiness. Before they can take an official position they have to appoint special investigators and gather volumes and volumes of material. This is not found in the Bible. It just is not there.
What happens after this investigation? The article states, “If the investigation ends positively, a papal decree recognizing the person’s heroic virtues is published and the person is granted the title of `venerable.’ One miracle is required after a candidate’s death for the cause to move on to Beatification…. The candidate can then be beatified and declared a `blessed’ of the Church. This allows a limited form of veneration . . . Another miracle is needed between Beatification and Canonization, or the conferring of sainthood.” If this is in the Bible, I simply have missed it.
What if the Catholic Church’s investigation for saint-hood ends negatively? Is dear, Nobel prize winning Mother Theresa declared unholy? Will the “living saint,” “Saint of the Gutters” be lost eternally? What if she is recognized as having “heroic virtues,” but no miracles follow? An honest heart can see two things. First, the Catholic church makes it harder to be a saint than God does. So, why not just follow God’s word? Second, one can see that the Catholic Church does not teach what the Bible teaches. Once men leave the Bible, though “they draw near to God with their mouths and honor Him with their lips,” it is nothing more than vanity (Matt. 15:7-9). The end result for those who follow such man-made religions is damnation (Matt. 15:12).
What Does The Bible Teach Concerning
Becoming A Saint?
The word “saint” or “saints” appears several times in the Scriptures. Basically, the idea behind the word saint is “set apart.” To be a saint is to be “set apart for God, to be, as it were exclusively His” (Thayer).
When the Scriptures speak about saints, it speaks of those who are set apart to God (Rom. 1:7; Phil. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:2). One is separated or set apart to God when he is called by the gospel. God calls men today through the gospel (2 Thess. 2:13-14; 2 Tim. 1:9-10). One does not become a saint through Catholicism.
In Acts 8:1, a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem. In Acts 9:13, Ananias was afraid to go to Saul because he had persecuted and done much harm to the saints in Jerusalem. Therefore, to speak of saints is to speak of the church, to speak of the church is to speak of the saints. The conclusion is whatever is necessary for one to be a member of the church is that which is necessary to be a saint. From Acts 2, we know that this is obedience to the gospel. Those who have obeyed the gospel call (hear, believe, repent, confess, and are baptized for the remission of sins) are saved and added to the church (Acts 2:38, 41, 47). Therefore, the saved are the saints, the church.
If the Catholic Church ever elevates Mother Theresa to sainthood, it would not mean that she is a saint in view of what the Bible teaches. If Mother Theresa was not a saint before her death, it is too late now. Death has robbed her of that opportunity regardless of feelings, human judgments, or the Catholic church. On the day of judgment, it will only matter if one is a saint according to the Bible definition. In view of your own mortality, have you obeyed the gospel call? Are you a saint, set apart to God?
Guardian of Truth XLI: 23 p. 7-8
December 4, 1997