Who is recognized as a saint?
A saint is someone who demonstrated holiness while on earth and whose life is worth imitating to such a degree that the church holds him/her up as an example
The church's process for declaring someone a saint is lengthy and thorough. It is a slow process because many individuals are being presented for sainthood and each case requires careful investigation. Canon lawyers, medical doctors, and theologians are involved in examining documentation at every level.
What are the steps to canonization?
STEP ONE - Venerable
The process begins with the official opening of the case by the Bishop of the diocese in which the sainthood candidate died. It is during this stage that the individual's life is evaluated. A postulator is appointed to guide and oversee the cause on the diocesan level. Once the Vatican accepts the case, a Roman canon lawyer is appointed as postulator and the local postulator becomes the vice-postulator, responsible for making the cause more familiar to the church and the world. When all the evidence reveals that the person lived a holy and virtuous life, the Pope confers on the person the title of "Venerable."
In Father Baker's case, the initial work was completed by Bishop Edward Head in 1987. OLV's Msgr. Robert Wurtz was tapped to oversee the compilation of material which was presented to members of the Vatican's Congregation of Causes of Saints in 2003. Father Baker was named "Venerable" in 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI.
STEP TWO - Beatification
To be beatified, a miracle attributed to the potential saint's intercession needs to be verified by the Vatican. This is done through an examination by a team of medical experts and theologians. The three standards for judging the authenticity of a miracle are:
- Complete, meaning a total healing of the disease,
- Instantaneous, meaning the healing occurred all at once
- Durable, meaning the person remains permanently free of the illness.
Once a miracle has been verified, the Pope issues a decree declaring it so and the candidate receives the title "Blessed."
Father Baker's cause is currently in this second step. Msgr. Paul Burkard, who took over as vice-postulator after Msgr. Wurtz's passing in 2006, most recently met with members of the
Congregation in May 2010. And, as you read this, the very complicated medical issues involved in a potential miracle are being examined and clarified by doctors from the University of Rome Hospital. Msgr. Burkard will meet with the group again in May 2016. Once he is beatified, more public devotion to Father Baker would be possible, including an annual feast day in the church calendar.
STEP THREE - Canonization
For canonization, another miracle is needed. It must be proven that this event took place through the intercession of the Blessed and after the date of his/her beatification. The methods for affirming the miracle are the same as those described above. With canonization, the Blessed acquires the title of "Saint." Canonization allows for the public veneration of the Saint by the Universal Church.
With joyful anticipation, all of us are waiting for that glorious day when Father Baker will officially be declared Saint Nelson Baker! To assist his Cause, supporters are asked to regularly say his Prayer for Canonization.