Saints are very important figures in Christianity and for centuries, the Church has engaged in the practice of declaring individuals as saints after their death. Through canonization, the Roman Catholic Church has singled out a few of the faithful as saints due to their virtuous lives. This paper will discuss the history of the canonization process with a focus on the steps leading to canonization since the 1983 changes by Pope John Paul II. The paper will also provide an in-depth description of one of the Church’s Saints, Maximilian Kolbe.
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Catholic Org reports that by the year 100AD, the early Christians had already begun honoring dead Christians as saints (1). Until the Middle Ages, this process was informal in nature and the criteria for selection varied widely from region to region. The Church authorities at Rome came to assume a central role in the process during the first half of the thirteenth century. By the 10th century, the Roman Church took complete control of the process and declared that one could only become a saint with its approval (Slater 48). The first official record of canonization occurred under Pope John XV in 993AD. In 1588AD, the steps to be taken in the official recognition of a saint were codified Under Pope Sixtus V. Pope John Paul II made some dramatic changes to this process in 1983.
Steps Leading to Canonization Since 1983
The first step involves the making of a formal request for the individual to be considered for sainthood. This request usually has to wait for a minimum of five years after the death of the individual. The bishop of the diocese is the individual who receives the formal request and the reviews if there is enough evidence of the person’s dedication to God and virtuous life. If there is enough compelling evidence, a request is made by the bishop to open a cause of sainthood.
Once permission has been given a tribunal is established and individuals who knew the candidate are called to offer testimonies about his life. If a person’s virtue and devotion are unquestioned in this stage, he is given the title “Servant of God” and the bishop sends a report of the person to Rome. This report is translated into Italian and a summary presented to the Congregation for the causes of Saints.
The next step involves a review of the life of the individual who is a candidate for sainthood. Theologians engage in an objective historical investigation for proof and evidence of heroic holiness in the individual. If these theologians are satisfied with the evidence offered the candidate is designated “Venerable” and he can move on to the next stage. Miracles attributed to the Venerable are sought out and once identified; they are presented to the pope who then declares the individual a Saint.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe
Saint Maximilian Kolbe was born in Poland in 1894 to a devout Catholic couple and his original name was Raymund Kolbe. His parents relocated from Zdunska to Pabianice while Kolbe was young and they established themselves as basket weavers. Kolbe had a vision of the Virgin Mary as a child and this greatly influenced his future life. In 1907 he Joined the Conventual Franciscan minor seminary in Austria-Hungary and he was named Maximilian on admission to the novitiate in 1910 (Catholicism 1). Maximilian was devoted to the Church and in 1911 he took his vows and dedicated himself to the service of the Holy Catholic Church.
Works and Sainthood
Maximilian is credited with founding the Immaculata Movement and he helped to popularize this movement by developing a magazine called “The Knight of the Immaculata”. Kolbe served as a missionary in Japan where he served between 1930 and 1936 and founded a monastery. The Catholic Org documents that Maximilian spoke out against the atrocities of the Nazi regime through his amateur radio channel (1).
In addition to denouncing the actions of the Nazis, Maximilian sheltered thousands of refugees including Jews. His actions led to his arrest by the Nazi secret police who put him in the infamous Auschwitz death camp. In July 1941, Maximilian offered his life in place of a fellow prisoner who had been selected at random to be starved to death. He died 14 August 1941 after being given a lethal injection.
Because of his faith and service during his lifetime, Kolbe was recommended for Sainthood by his diocese. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 1982 and a feast is held in his honor on 14 August (Catholicism 1).
Maximilian is regarded as the patron saint of prisoners due to his imprisonment during the Second World War. His work as a magazine publisher and radio presenter make him the patron saint of journalists. He is also the patron saint of drug addicts because he died from a legal injected given to him by the Nazis.
Saint Maximilian can serve as a role model to me by inspiring me to speak out against injustices even if this might come at a personal cost to me. Like him, I should aspire to do the right thing even if it might lead to negative consequences for me. He also inspires me to take active action to defend what I believe in. Maximilian engaged in publishing work to defend the Christian Faith against the Freemasons. From this example, I should also take action to defend what I believe in.
Catholic Org. Saints. 2010. Web.
Catholicism. Saint Maximilian Kolbe. 2004. Web.
Slater, Candace. City steeple, city streets: saints’ tales from Granada and a changing Spain. California: University of California Press, 1990. Print.