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Any and all correspondence with the Dossier or its proprietor is presumed to be eligible for blogging and will be so used, in whole or in edited form as the proprietor may see fit, unless a request to the contrary is made in the correspondence which would otherwise be eligible for blogging. (Tell me at the time, not after you've blown up over what I did with your email). Matter eligible for blogging may be later used, altered, and re-used by the Dossier' proprietor as he may see fit.
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People Who Are Canonized:
The Great Mother of God Mary Most Holy, Joseph her most chaste spouse, Dismas, Peter, Paul, Simon de Montfort, John of God, Thomas the Apostle, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas More, Thomas Beckett, Veronica, Boniface, Maria Goretti, Luigi Quatrocchi, Alphonsus Ligouri, Theresa of Avila, Therese of the Child Jesus, Pius X, Pius V, and all the rest of them;
People Who Definitely Ought to be Canonized:
His Holiness John Paul II, Vicar of Christ, Pius IX, Pius XII, Leo XIII, Innocent III, Nicholas I, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val, John Henry Cardinal Newman, Bishop Fulton Sheen, Frank Duff, Christopher Dawson, Richard M. Weaver, Heinrich Rommen, Jaques Maritain, Deitrich von Hildebrand, Hillaire Belloc, John C. Calhoun, James Longstreet, and Robert E. Lee;
People Who Will Probably Be Canonized Someday:
Mark Shea, I. Shawn McElhinney, Gary Hoge, and E.L. Core (of course, the blanket and slavish endorsement as to these persons is valid only to the extent they're not disagreeing with me);
People Who, If Not Yet Saints, Are Definitely Being Persecuted for His Sake:
Any Christian whose orthodox theological or disciplinary views are impugned by a television network, National Public Radio, the New York Times, America or the National Catholic Reporter;
and, lastly, things which are . . .
Ontologically Incapable of Sainthood, but Still Endorsed
The P-47 Thunderbolt, the F8 Crusader, the A-10 Warthog and its 30mm gatling gun, Hecker & Koch rifles, NCAA Division III football, Countess Mara ties (with logo), MacBarren's Pipe Tobacco (especially Virginian No. 1), Samuel Gawith Pipe Tobaccos (especially Best Brown Flake), Peterson pipes, Hoyo de Monterrey cigars, Krohn Vintage Port, and my dog Auggie.
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Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Akin Kicks Butt
As people who are crazy enough to read this blog regularly know, the Catholic Answers voting guide has been the target of steady sniping from various quarters. The most recent shot's come from Newsday, which as even crazier readers will recall, is a good source for cheap-shots at the Church. Apparently Newsday's Bob Keeler has turned his 40-watt attention to the Catholic Answers voting guide.
Jimmy Akin takes him down. Go read it, it's a brilliant fisk and a great explanation of how Catholic voting works in practice. You won't be disappointed.
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 01:18 Hours [+]
Saturday, October 09, 2004
From time to time people, for some odd reason, email me with questions about Catholicism. Usually I answer by return email. But a question sent recently reminded me that the reason I started this blog was to discuss and praise the wonders of Catholicism. That's been a bit thin on the ground here, recently. I get distracted by so many things like movies, recipes, the latest installment of the USCC Follies . . . . See? I'm doing it again. So I thought I'd write a long reply. I left out the first paragraph, which has identifying information in it. My correspondent's words are in blue, my replies in black.
"I am not debating the Communion of the Saints. I do believe that there are people in heaven. My problem is that I do not understand how the Church can say for an infallible fact WHICH people are in heaven."
Perhaps I'm misunderstanding your question, but there seems to be some misconceptions lurking in your understanding of what canonization means. Canonization is generally held to be an infallible confirmation by the Church that a person who has died has died in friendship with God and gone to Heaven. That's a pretty limited idea, when you come right down to it. It's so limited that people are often tempted to pile a lot of other ideas on top of it in order to make Catholic teaching sound more dignified or (depending on their standpoint) more ridiculous. One of these wrong-headed ideas, which I suspect is a cause of confusion to you, is that canonization is a necessary part of sainthood. That's not at all true, and understanding that might help with some of your questions.
What is sainthood? Most definitions say that a saint is someone who displays "heroic virtue." Cardinal Ratzinger, writing about St. Josemaria's canonization, gives us some interesting thoughts about what "heroic" virtue does -- and does not -- mean:
Knowing a little about the history of saints, knowing that in canonization processes their "heroic" virtues are investigated, we almost inevitably slip into an erroneous concept of holiness: "It is not for me", we are inclined to think, "because I do not feel able to achieve heroic virtues: it's too exalted an ideal for me". Holiness then becomes something reserved for the "important" [people], whose images we see above the altars, worlds apart indeed from us normal sinners. However, this is an erroneous concept of holiness, a wrong perception which has been corrected—and this seems to me to be the main point—by Josemaría Escrivá.The founder of the Legionaries of Mary, Frank Duff (whose cause for canonization is presently pending), had the same insight. In a little pamphlet called, Can We Be Saints?, he wrote:
What is a Saint? The answer usually returned to this question is: one who does extraordinary penances and works miracles. Now, this is an incorrect description, for neither miracles nor great penances are essential. The man who works a miracle does not raise himself in God's eyes by it; and, while penance in some shape is necessary, still the teaching of the Saints on this difficult question is encouraging.These perspectives on sainthood make two things very clear. First, sainthood is the work of divine grace in the human person; no one but God makes saints because, well, no one but God can make saints. The second is that only a foolish Church would claim that only people who are "certified" by a human examination can be saints. And the Church is not foolish.
It has never been the Church's understanding that the canonization process will result in a complete (or even very large) list of God's saints, so that people who aren't in the canon aren't to be thought of as living among God's people in Heaven. For every saint in the canon there may well be a million saints whose names and lives are unknown to the Church Militant. In this regard I would point out that all the souls who have ever gone to purgatory are destined to be saints in Heaven; their place before God's throne is assured, and souls are departing from purgatory all the time. So there is probably a huge number of saints in Heaven and an even larger number "on the way." I don't think a canon could list them all, and a canon shouldn't be expected to list them all. The word, "canon," is used to describe any authoritative list or rule which is generally accepted as undisputable. The word itself doesn't mean a complete list of everything. There are "canons of ethics," but they don't contain all the good choices one might make in any situation. Clay Waters of National Review Online recently wrote about the "the rock-'n'-roll ‘canon': those lists of classic albums . . . considered beyond criticism." Because something -- an ethical rule, a saint, or Pet Sounds -- is included in a "canon" doesn't imply that anything not listed doesn't also qualify for the same honor. The Church knows that the names of all the saints are hidden, their complete list a divine secret that will not be revealed until the end of time. That is why she celebrates the upcoming feast of All Saints (November 1); we are commanded to venerate the saints, and yet no one thinks the process of canonization has listed all (or even most) of them. So, since God hasn't seen fit to tell us the names of all His saints, we celebrate them as a group, both known and unknown, on that day.
That's all well and good, but it may leave one wondering why God should want us to have a canon of saints at all. Obviously I can't give a complete answer, but the ones I can give may help expand something which, depending on whether I'm right to take you so literally, is a bit cramped in your understanding of the Communion of Saints. You wrote, "I am not debating the Communion of the Saints. I do believe that there are people in heaven." That's the Communion of Saints all right. But it isn't nearly all, or even most, of what Christians mean (or should mean) when they affirm it:
The communion of saints is the spiritual solidarity which binds together the faithful on earth, the souls in purgatory, and the saints in heaven in the organic unity of the same mystical body under Christ its head, and in a constant interchange of supernatural offices. The participants in that solidarity are called saints by reason of their destination and of their partaking of the fruits of the Redemption. . . . The solidarity itself implies a variety of inter-relations: within the Church Militant [i.e., the Church on earth], not only the participation in the same faith, sacraments, and government, but also a mutual exchange of examples, prayers, merits, and satisfactions; between the Church on earth on the one hand, and purgatory and heaven on the other, suffrages, invocation, intercession, veneration.Knowing about this shared life is one of those things about the faith which at first blush don't seem to be reasonably necessary but, on reflection, make every bit of necessary sense. The Trinity is an example of what I mean -- an "unnecessary" revelation that would, if subjected to the same application of Occam's razor non-Catholic Christians often allege against the canon of saints, seem an entirely superfluous invention unworthy of our serious attention. The idea of one God being three persons is very confusing, and there seems to be no reason for all the trouble since we could all be saved by believing in Jesus; Jesus is one of the Persons of the Trinity, and God would not have been lying if He described the activity of the Father and the Holy Spirit to us solely with reference to Jesus. But Walter Farrell, a great commentator on St. Thomas, explains that the Trinity is actually a blessed "secret," confided from sheer love to inspire us by letting us know in a unique way that God is knowable, loveable and more alive than any of His creatures.
When we come to things like that, it's worth remembering that Catholicism isn't about deciding who God is or what He has done. God exists, perfectly, in and of Himself. He doesn't need our "deciding" any more than He needs sunshine, penny-whistles or parakeets. God created Catholicism just like he created everything else -- out of His love, most especially His love for us. God doesn't need the Mass. Men do. God doesn't need the Bible. Men do. When God causes something to exist such as the Mass or the Bible, the point isn't that "God is such-and-so." The point is that God, who is always such-and-so whether or not anything else exists or happens, wants us to know and understand Him as much as we can through what he's given us for the purpose. In the Bible, he shares His very thoughts with us. In the Mass, He gives us His very self entire. When God tells us about the Mass or the Trinity, or sings a Psalm, it's not for His edification, but for ours. So when it's proposed that God's Church can know the names of a fraction of the saints, I think it would be a good idea to inquire about the edification that may occur if God shares such a glimpse of heavenly life with us. Like Farrell's observations about the Trinity, the canon of saints might be better appreciated if we think about the kind of Christianity we'd have if we didn't know about it.
If we admit that there can be no canon of saints, we do more than admit that the identities of the saints are secret. We confess that we do not know a single person who is, in fact, in Heaven. Perhaps John the Apostle, "the disciple whom Jesus loved . . . [who] also leaned on His breast at supper," is in Heaven. John 21:20 (KJV). But we couldn't say that as a fact. We'd have to say that John only may be in Heaven and thus admit that he may be in Hell. The blessed Virgin might be in Hell, too; if you're right then we have no way of knowing whether she is in Heaven, no way to know if her love for her divine Son (or His love for Her) was sufficient to bring about her salvation. When I talked about the Trinity and referred to Walter Farrell's work, I put in a footnote to his description of the kind of suspicions and dire thoughts ignorance of the Trinity could produce if men weren't told about that mystery. I can imagine the kind of dark muttering that would plague us if we lacked a canon of saints. Peter (not "St." Peter, since we're assuming that we can't know if he was saved), writes that Jesus Christ has "begotten unto us a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you." 1 Peter 1:3-4 (KJV). I wonder how "lively" a hope this would be, if it meant hoping to find more favor with God than the Apostle John or the blessed Virgin if, as could be the case, they have ended up in Hell.
Peter goes on to say that we should "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you . . ." 1 Peter 3:15 (KJV). What kind of reason could we give? How attractive could it be to non-Christians? For that matter, how attractive could it be to us? Think of what Christianity would look like if we had to admit that, while Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead so that we could unite our lives to His and live forever in perfect happiness, we don't know if anyone has ever gained the benefit of His sacrifice. Perhaps Jesus really isn't that loveable, if we must admit that even His own mother might not have been able to love him well enough (or allowed, by God's will, to love Him well enough) to have the joy of salvation? Jesus demands quite a bit from people who are interested in following Him. We have to give up divorce, contraception, abortion, fornication, adultery, lying, soft living, drunkenness -- we have to give up many or even all of the things that, to our hard hearts, seem to make this sorry life "bearable." Why should men do this, if God Himself will not say that the holiest example of Christian life one might name was, in fact, consummated by an eternal reward?
A certain kind of non-Catholic Christianity answers that a "perfect faith" does not need such help or confirmation. But what kind of religion would Christianity be if it demanded we either have "perfect" faith or none at all, especially if it employed a rather twisted idea of "perfection" that ignores the human condition altogether? I don't believe in the non-Catholic catachresis that makes the experience of saving faith into an individualized, "Damascene moment" of blinding revelation coinciding with an infusion of perfect faith and irresistible grace which instantly and forever banishes all human infirmities, unclarities, and limits from the believer's life. Even St. Paul didn't have that experience, though he is curiously cited as an archetype for it. We might as well say that prophecies and miracles are unnecessary as well, since a "perfect" faith would not need them to remain constant or recognize divinity. But God performs miracles all the time and called a thousand years of prophets to witness to His coming. The fall affected our minds, our wills, and our souls. We need miracles and prophecies because we're amazingly weak and dull creatures. God didn't call Isaiah to prophecy about the Messiah because He had to; he inspired the prophecy because without it, we might not be able to recognize Him had we not been told what to look for. The whole of salvation history is about God condescending to the weakness and dullness of man, not by doing away with it, but by working in and through it to bring about His will and manifest His glory. It's one proof for His omnipotence, because a lesser god would be so stymied by our limitations that he would have no choice but to make us different creatures, which are not men, just so He could work with us.
That's one of the reasons, perhaps the most convincing one to me, for having a canon of saints. God knows we need encouragement. God knows we need inspiration. God knows we'd benefit from knowing that people whose lives were as messed up or confusing as our own have been saints, even great ones. So He tells us that even though he lived his life as a criminal, St. Dismas is in Heaven. He lets us know that even though Augustine wasted his youth and deprived his only child of a sufficient home, and the child's mother of the dignity of marriage, Augustine nonetheless became a great saint. He lets us know that the crazy and disorganized life of St. John of God was a holy one of eternal meaning. God does this over and over again, revealing the blessed in all walks of life, all times, and all places. It's a magnificent and kind thing He does, giving us these examples. They're examples of overcoming and dealing with all the daily obstacles to holiness we all face, distractions which are so numerous today that they're almost overwhelming. Any experience that could tempt us to despair, or to draw away from God and His Church, is found in the lives of the saints. Adultery, poverty, illness, false accusations, heresy, schism, murder, great wealth, doubt, a promising political career, physical attractiveness, ugliness, even persecution by the Church's own hierarchy -- saints have encountered and overcome them all with charity and faith. And those saints also had the help of the saints who went before them -- St. Ignatius (or almost anyone else) had the Blessed Virgin, St. Joan had St. Catherine, and so on.
"But," people reply, "shouldn't we find our encouragement, inspiration and hope in God alone?" I don't see why, at least not the way these people mean: "Where God is, man is not." It is a major tenet of the Church's critics. If Catholics take comfort and inspiration from saints, it's supposedly because we don't take comfort and inspiration from God. If we had God, we'd not have saints but "Him alone." If Catholics have a Pope who can teach infallibly, it's supposedly because we don't have God to teach us. If we had Him, we'd have no need for Popes, being taught by "God alone." Wherever Catholics have men, it is claimed, God is absent. The corollary -- that if Catholics had God, men would be absent -- is never discussed. I've always been perplexed at this fundamental insistence on the incompatibility of man and God, especially since God seems to spend history trying to make men one with Him as He is with Himself. (Cf John, Chapter 17). I've never figured out why the Gospel means that God is "alone," especially since He seems to be continually making things that communicate His glory but which are not Himself. If a Protestant looks at a magnificent forest or sunset, and is inspired to love God by it, has he apostatized? Has he become a Druid? Shouldn't he find his inspiration in "God alone"? Why, that's ridiculous, our Protestant friends tell us. If God creates a forest or a sunset to show His glory, we would be remiss in not praising His creation and finding in it evidence of His love and glory. I agree whole-heartedly, and only ask that the principle be reasonably applied to conclude that the saint -- "man fully alive," as St. Irenaeus described God's own glory -- is also among the things which allow us to see God and seek His salvation. I return to Cardinal Ratzinger: "Heroic virtue does not actually mean that someone has done great things by himself, but that situations arise in his life independently of anything he has done: he was simply transparent and available for God's work." The saints are transparent; by knowing them we know more about the God who made them.
We know, for example, that God is not "alone." He is surrounded by multitudes of saints. Nor do the saints live with God "alone," for they are surrounded by multitudes of neighbors in a single family under His divine Fatherhood. Even before He had men, God made angels. No one in God's universe -- not even God -- is ever "alone" in the way that critics of our theology seem to think He should be. I return to the Catholic Encyclopedia: "The communion of saints is the spiritual solidarity which binds together the faithful on earth, the souls in purgatory, and the saints in heaven in the organic unity of the same mystical body under Christ its head, and in a constant interchange of supernatural offices." The communion of saints is the Church, the mystical body of Christ. Christ's body is holy, and so the saints within it are holy. Christ's body is celebrated, and so the saints within it are celebrated. Christ's body is knowable, and so the saints within it are knowable. But not entirely, not without reserve; the wedding is not complete, and time remains until He comes in glory. So we know some of the saints and the Church, sojourning on earth in quest of saints, has many people in it which are not yet saints. But the hallmark of Catholicism, from Abraham's prayer (Genesis Chapter 18) to the prayer of the Cyrophoenician woman (Mark Chapter 7), from the fifteen promises of the Rosary to the granting of indulgences, is to eagerly grasp as much of God as He may allow. He established the communion of saints, and so when we see a saint, we eagerly follow to see how he followed God. God likes it that way; it's the same reason He gives us parents, friends, and mentors -- to help us follow Him. We just don't think death has much affect on those relationships; Christ conquered death, and both the communion of saints and our canon of saints are holy testaments to His victory.
"I really don't see there is any way possible to do this. People keep telling me that it is the teaching authority of the Church. I understand that the Church has the authority to do this as they do a number of other things, but there ARE plenty of things where the Church does not lay down a teaching. Clearly the Catholic Church does not claim to know everything because they say they do not know where for sure unborn babies go. What I don't understand is why they think they can say for sure where anyone goes."
When I read this I thought "Of course the Church knows for sure where unborn babies go when they die. They go where God wills, and the place He wills them to go is full of happiness and knows no suffering." That much is certain knowledge, whether or not one inclines to the idea of limbo, a supernatural kind of baptism or, I suppose, to both. Never underestimate what the Church knows, is one of my rules. As to the saints, we might say with good accuracy that the Church doesn't know everything, let alone who "the saints" (namely all of them) are. What she does know is which saints should be in the canon when she needs to know it and not before. St. Joan of Arc died in 1431, and was canonized in 1920. Frank Duff died in 1980, his cause is still pending. Pope Leo XIII died in 1903 and I don't for the life of me understand why he doesn't seem to have a cause pending at all. St. Maria Goretti died in 1902 and was canonized in 1950. Why the delays? What significance in the dates? Perhaps men needed to know about St. Joan to fight Hitler and not before, and St. Maria Goretti to fight the flood of impurity, pornography, and sexual license unleased in the last half of the 20th Century. As I said, never underestimate what the Church knows -- even if no one in the Church knows it.
Let me ask you this -- can we know if a miracle has occurred? If a hundred thousand Jews watch the sea part before their very eyes and close back on the pursuing Egyptians, can they be fairly certain that God has performed a miracle without presuming to be God Himself? I think they can, and I think you'd agree with me on that. So, if God brings about a life which is transparent to His love and glory, can we know that life is beatified? Water being water and men being men, it's certainly a greater miracle for God to make man holy than it is for Him to shove two halves of a sea apart. I don't see any reason why God would hide the greater miracle and publicize the lesser achievement. Miracles are like saints -- they sanctify, demonstrate God's glory, confound evil, and encourage the dubious and faithful alike. God hasn't publicized all His miracles, (See John 21:25), but He has publicized a great many of them. (See John). So I think He's publicized some of His saints, but not all of them. We don't need anything like God's omniscience to know about miracles or saints. In fact, we don't have to know very much at all to know about such things -- certainly the Jews following Moses didn't know about Elijah or the Eucharist, but they still ended up knowing a good deal about miracles.
It's at this point I want to go back to an earlier subject and discuss why the canon isn't a complete list of all the saints. That's a reasonable question, I think. If the canon is a testament to the Resurrection, shouldn't the Church give the fullest possible testimony? The question seems even more reasonable if, like some people who are ignorant about Catholicism, we start confusing infallibility with omniscience. Surely, if the Pope can take the time to tell us that Maria Goretti is a saint, he can spare the time to tell me about my Aunt Carol. Without going into the silliness of that last point, I think the reason why the Church has no complete canon of saints is fairly obvious; the purpose of the canon is to testify to God's saving power and thus inspire the Church Militant with examples and gain for us recourse to heavenly friends and patrons. That purpose would be utterly destroyed if the Church were given the ability to post lists of all dead people which had check-marks under columns titled "Heaven, Prayer Authorized", "Purgatory, Heaven Pending" and "Hell, Sorry." People have enough trouble remaining faithful when God's providence deprives them of spouses or children. Would telling them that their daughter or husband is doomed to Hell and is even now being tormented by demons help them to appreciate God's love? Even Job was spared that horror, and his disasters were the work of Satan himself; why should God want the Church to inflict even worse suffering? It's interesting, and very revealing, that although she maintains an infallible canon of saints the Church absolutely refuses to say that someone has gone to Hell -- neither Hitler, Pol Pot, the professor who taught my Civil Procedure course, or Judas himself are named as denizens of the dark world. I speculate, but I wonder if we'd need the beatific vision itself and God's complete explanation of His judgments to sustain us after we learned such things about our friends, heroes, or loved ones? Perhaps that's why such knowledge is reserved for the general judgment, in which God will explain humanity completely to men who will have no more cause for fear, suffering, or tears.
"To me that is between them, God and judgement day. Unless we are present at their judgement I think it is hugely presumptuous of us to assume we know. We can guess/assume/theorize but to say that we know for a fact infallibly? That doesn't seem really plausible to me. How in the world can anyone say they know for sure what God has determined?"
If we can't say infallibly what God has determined, then we've got a lot more to worry about than canonization. The Church can recognize saints, but God makes them. Can we infallibly know that God has made something? All Christians -- Catholic and Protestant -- agree that we can. God decided to make the universe, we know that infallibly. God decided to make David King of Israel, we know that infallibly. God became man, we know that infallibly too. We can infallibly know quite a lot about what God has determined, including that he created the Church to carry on His work. (See Matthew 28:19). So, suppose the canon of saints was begun, not by men in the Church, but by God Himself?
The forty-fourth chapter of the Book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) contains a canon of saints:
Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us. The Lord hath wrought great glory by them through his great power from the beginning. Such as did bear rule in their kingdoms, men renowned for their power, giving counsel by their understanding, and declaring prophecies: Leaders of the people by their counsels, and by their knowledge of learning meet for the people, wise and eloquent are their instructions: Such as found out musical tunes, and recited verses in writing: Rich men furnished with ability, living peaceably in their habitations: All these were honoured in their generations, and were the glory of their times. There be of them, that have left a name behind them, that their praises might be reported. . . . [T]hese were merciful men, whose righteousness hath not been forgotten. With their seed shall continually remain a good inheritance, and their children are within the covenant. Their seed standeth fast, and their children for their sakes. Their seed shall remain for ever, and their glory shall not be blotted out. Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth for evermore. The people will tell of their wisdom, and the congregation will shew forth their praise.The author goes on to list his "canon," which includes Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, and Phinees (Phinehas) son of Eleazar, and Joshua. Tobit tells us about St. Raphael: "Therefore when he went to seek a man, he found Raphael that was an angel." -- Tobit 5:4 (KJV, "Apocrypha").-- Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 44:1-8, 10-15 (KJV, "Apocrypha")
Many of these names are repeated in the canon given to us in the New Testament, which includes other holy persons:
"By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." -- Hebrews 11:5 (KJV)Here we have a canon which existed before the close of revelation: St. Enoch, St. Noah, St. Abraham, St. Isaac, St. Jacob, St. Moses, St. Aaron, St. Phinees, St. Joshua, St. Elijah, the Blessed Virgin, St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael. When Pius XII added St. Maria Goretti to the canon, or when John Paul II added Mother Theresa they simply continued, as part of the Church God created to do His work, something God Himself had begun. Of course "whether" someone is a saint is, as you put it, "between them, God and judgement day." But the canon of saints isn't about that. It's about God allowing us to know, in some cases, what actually happened "between them, God and judgement day."
"To me that is no different from the Baptist Church that says they know with certainty that so and so is in heaven right this minute. The Catholic Church is doing the same thing with certain people. Yes they are basing it on things that make sense but still whatever things they base it on are still at best an educated guess."
You're telling me about a home-grown sort of canon; I'm defending the idea of a canon, so I can hardly disagree on the grounds that it's impossible to have one basic element of a canon (knowledge that someone is in Heaven) without impiety and ungodly presumption! There's nothing inherently wrong with holding a private opinion that a person is in Heaven or even, assuming sufficient deference is given to Church teaching and ecclesiastical authority, private veneration of such a person. Many of the devotions to our saints sprang up in just this fashion. Sometimes that was a good thing, as it was in the cases of the Blessed Virgin or the martyr-saint Polycarp. Sometimes it was a bad thing, as it was in the case of Simon of Trent. But the fact that it happens illustrates a deep-seated knowledge of the implications of Christianity among the baptized, whether they are Catholics in full communion with the Church or Baptists whose communion is dubious, or partial at best.
We keep saying, in our conversations with Protestants, that Catholicism has the "fullness of the faith." Most of the time I'm not sure about all that implies, but there is definitely a sense in which it's true. The theologies of Protestantism don't represent a kind of "anti-matter" to Catholicism, a complete cosmic opposite of the faith given to the Apostles. (That degree of opposition would constitute the worship of Antichrist and, whatever fantasies Protestants may entertain about the Church, our theologies don't justify such an easy and terrible dismissal). The differences between Catholicism and Protestantism -- or, if you like, the measure of the "fullness" had by the former and not the latter -- aren't like the difference between a man who has embarked on a journey and a man who refuses to go at all. Our disagreements are more like the differences between two men, both of whom are traveling to the same destination, but who have different maps. One of these men is traveling with a good map, with the land and seas drawn correctly in right measure, with roads, dangers, and way stations clearly marked. Another has a badly-drawn map. Some continents are omitted, and others are drawn as being larger or smaller than they really are. Rivers are shown running in the wrong direction, and travel-worthy roads are left off in favor of bramble-ridden goat-tracks. Both these men are on the same journey, insofar as their destinations are the same and many of the things they do to reach that end are also similar. But they are also on different journeys, insofar as one will do many unproductive and counter-productive things (like not taking any food to cross an ocean because his map told him it was a lake) which the other man will not have to suffer through because he had a good map.
So to my way of thinking one doesn't validly criticize Catholics by saying that we do or believe things which are "like" the things done or believed by Baptists, or vice versa. The similarity may be that both of us have taken a wrong direction from our maps; but on the other hand we may be similar because our directions roughly coincide, even if one of us still isn't benefitting from a map which is all it could be. So, Catholicism is "like" the Baptist church in that Catholicism recognizes the Bible as the infallible and written God-breathed rule of faith. Where our maps differ is in our understanding of Sacred Tradition, the role of the Church in vouchsafing the identity of Scripture, and other matters related to the Bible (including a complete canon). This completeness, containing ideas unknown to or rejected by Baptists, results in further differences because, as Richard Weaver said, ideas have consequences. Or, if you like, because a tenth-of-a-degree error on a thousand-mile journey ends up with a huge distance between one's ending point and one's actual destination. So, Scripture and Tradition tell us that there is a visible Church ruled by Bishops which exists throughout history and centered on the bishop of Rome, whereas those things aren't on the Baptist "map." But Baptists aren't wrong when they act "like" Catholics and claim that the Bible is God-breathed, and the Catholic Church isn't departing from orthodoxy when she agrees with them.
The "home-grown" Baptist canon and the Church's canon are a case in point. As I said, there's nothing inherently wrong with private devotions to persons thought to be saints, provided that appropriate precautions are taken in order to ensure that the devotion doesn't end up compromising the Gospel or the Church's mission in the world. What if a congregation includes a former minister among its tacit, home-grown canon, only to learn that he led a secret life of heinous sin? Would we have reason for concern if the only people included in a "canon" were so included because they had left all their property to the church and thus given the "last measure" of devotion to Jesus? The impact of this sort of thinking can have serious consequences for good or ill, and not only on an individual level. To widen the point, I refer to this celebrated piece of evangelical art:
"Praying for Peace" by Ron DiCianni
What does it mean? Does the use of the Cross indicate an equation between the United States and its Presidency and the Church of Christ? What basis do we have for concluding that Abraham Lincoln and George Washington lived lives that were simply transparent to God's holiness and so are among the blessed in Heaven, praying for us to the Father? Are they patrons of our Country, who we should invoke at public gatherings and civic events, asking them to continue praying for us and our country? Now to a certain way of thinking those questions appear to be ridiculous because DiCianni's painting is simply a wholesome representation of the vital role Christianity plays in the life of our country. Things, however, are often made "simple" by deciding not think about them. I'm sure the men and women who venerated little Simon of Trent would have told us that theirs was "simply" homage to Matthew 19:14 and a rebuke to the Satanic forces which prowl the earth seeking to hurt God's little ones. But ideas, images -- things which contribute to a "cultus" -- have a powerful impact that can endure for a long time even if it's specifics aren't being noticed: Even today, the story of Simon of Trent inspires some people to believe that hating Jews is a holy thing.
For these reasons the approval and process of approving public veneration of persons thought to be saints or blessed was rather quickly seized by bishops and then, after a number of centuries, concentrated in the papacy. It's why we have "tests," and inquiries, relators, briefs, petitions, and so forth -- not because the Church is judging the man or woman under consideration, for God has already done that. But because the Church is trying to determine whether God has given us signs of His work in a life from which it can be concluded that a man or woman's beatitude should be a matter of public celebration such as Sirach described: "Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth for evermore. The people will tell of their wisdom, and the congregation will shew forth their praise." (Sirach 44:14-15, KJV, "Apocrypha") Sainthood is miraculous, just as all the sacraments are miracles, and it is fitting that the Church which is the custodian of the sacred mysteries should investigate them and vouchsafe their authenticity for the faithful. We have rubrics for the Mass and prescribed rites for all the sacraments to ensure that the Mass is actually a Mass, that a baptism is a valid one, etc. In the same way, the Church investigates miracles claimed for visitors to Lourdes, or the Shroud of Turin, and interrogates Jacinta, Lucia and Francisco about the Lady they saw at Fatima. Sometimes the Church does this work well and quickly. In other cases, like Simon of Trent's, the Church moves too slowly and hesitantly. There are people who say this disproves the validity of the entire enterprise, but their arguments boil down to noting that canonization features the foibles and shortcomings inherent in any task entrusted to men and then proclaiming the great shibboleth: "Where God is, man is not."
Of course God Himself, working directly and without human agency, could quickly, efficiently, and perfectly enunciate a canon of saints without questions, testimonies, hesitancy, doubt, political implications, and all the rest of the things He's pleased to allow mere creatures to deal with. For that matter, God could just take direct charge of everything, dispensing with human agencies and shoving us all around like pieces on a chessboard who have no more interest in events than Bobby Fischer's pawns had in Boris Spassky. From that standpoint there's no reason why God would want to "waste" three years of His time walking around Judea, eating bad food and sleeping rough, while explaining Himself to a group of thick-headed and recalcitrant bipeds who still, by and large, couldn't get a firm grip on what He was talking about. But He did. He waited, patiently, while they wondered among themselves if He was Elijah or John the Baptist (Luke 9:19); waited, patiently, while the only one who did realize who He was tried to get him to disobey the Father (Matthew 16:23); waited, patiently, when the same disciple denied Him (Matthew 26:74-75); and waited, patiently, while the same Apostle couldn't figure out the meaning of a direct revelation and vision from God (Acts 10:17). Where God is, there are men -- men being stupid and brilliant, obtuse and quick-witted, weak and brave, silly and solemn, sinful and righteous -- He remains with us, working in and through us, as the poet said, "‘till the catharsis of the race shall be complete."
Only a God who so loved the world that He became man would do something like create the papacy as the seal and bond of Christian unity from which "flows out to all the bonds of sacred communion." Papal choices about canonization are not unlike all sorts of other choices God's servants have to make. Who chose to write the Gospel of John? Who chose to take Mary and the newborn child into Egypt? Surely John and Joseph made those decisions, and if we did not believe in a God who led them, we would say they made an "educated guess" that a book about Jesus would be helpful to Christians or that Egypt was the safest place to be if Herod wished to harm your family. Christian men, including those who have high places in the Church, may make choices that we would have to call "educated guesses," if there were no God leading them. But He does lead them, and so the choices are His as much as theirs.
"People keep telling me that these miracles show the people are in heaven but still I don't feel this is enough to say for a fact who is in heaven and who is not. Simply put I just don't think any of us can presume to know what God is going to do at judgement. I think that is one of the chief differences between Catholics and Baptists in fact. I don't get it! Help!"
As noted above, I don't have problems with the idea of Baptists believing that people, even people they know, are in Heaven. What puzzles me about the Baptist approach is that, without an acknowledged and infallible canon of saints, I don't see how a Baptist can avoid the extremes of (I) a despondent refusal to think that more than a handful of people mentioned in Scripture are in Heaven or (ii) an easy-believerism that has everyone ending up there. The only way I could see to achieve a via media that escapes both extremes is to maintain, as a sheer act of will, a sterile set of theological principles without reference to, or expectation of, corroboration by human life as it's actually lived. I think the Catholic way, our "map," is more accurate. We know for a fact that Enoch is in Heaven. We know for a fact that Moses, Elijah and Abraham are in Heaven. We know for a fact that St. Stephen is in Heaven -- and everyone knew it at the time, too, when they heard how Stephen's life had ended. St. Luke didn't "presume" to know what happened to St. Stephen any more than St. Paul "presumed" to know what happened to Enoch. If we say that those are the only saints in our canon, we're effectively saying that what God confided to the Church in the past -- the identities of some of the saints -- is no longer confided to the Church in the present. I see no more reason to accept that than I do to believe that Matthew 28:19 referred only to those then living and that Jesus never meant for baptisms to be performed after the death of the last Apostle. Jesus Christ granted St. Stephen a vision of his salvation and caused that vision to be made public, first, not by Scripture, but by Stephen's own exclamation to the crowd and the memory of those present. If, as seems to be the case, God thought the early Church would benefit from knowing that St. Stephen was in Heaven, I think it more than likely that the same reasons would apply to the 21st-century Church knowing that St. Maximilian Kolbe is in Heaven. It's a communion of saints, not an archive, and it will keep growing and manifesting itself just as the Body of Christ grows and manifests His glory.
With respect to miracles, I can't help but note that miracles were one of the reasons people identified the Apostles as, well, Apostles of God:
But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.For that matter, miracles were one of the reasons people identified God as God:-- Acts 2:40-42 (KJV)(emphasis supplied)
When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.I don't think God would work a miracle at the request of people who are in Hell; Luke 16:22-51 is pretty clear that He won't. So if one asks a person thought to be in Heaven for a miracle, and a miracle ensues, I think that's a good indication that the person enjoys God's favor in the next life. Miracles, of course, are just one part of the inquiry, but I think there's good reason for their significance in the investigation.-- John 2:9-11 (KJV) (emphasis supplied)
I'm sorry if I'm flailing around a bit, but the insistence on our not knowing what God will do, or is going to do, at judgment has me wondering if you realize there are two judgments, the particular judgment and the general judgment which is also known as "Judgement Day" or the "Day of Judgment":
Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ. The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul--a destiny which can be different for some and for others. . . . Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification or immediately, -- or immediate and everlasting damnation.If you look at our Lord's analogy of the judgment to the coming of a thief in the night (Luke Chapter 12), you see how easily it has an individual meaning and the collective meaning referred to by St. Peter (2 Peter 3:10) and St. Paul (1 Thess. 5:2). The "goodman" of the house can be any of us, or all of us, and is both. As we do not know the Day of Judgment, we do not know the day on which we will die. But we will be judged individually, and publicly, except that the last judgment shall do more than announce the decision made at our individual deaths: "In the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each man's relationship with God will be laid bare. The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life . . . We shall know the ultimate meaning of the whole work of creation and of the entire economy of salvation and understand the marvelous ways by which his Providence led everything towards its final end."
The canon of saints isn't a prediction about what God will do. It's an announcement about what God has already done, made after a serious inquiry into what God has allowed us to know about what He has done. Christians do this all the time, with just about everything relating to our faith. The canon of Scripture took centuries of argument, study, discussion, and prayer to develop. Just about everything in Christianity develops in some way, because Christianity is about finite men dealing with an eternal and infinite God; one should expect some "lag time" between the appearance of the Word and the explicit definition of a doctrine. It's a neat coincidence, given your example about limbo, but the Pope has asked theologians to attempt "a more coherent and enlightened way" to describe the fate of unbaptized infants. People say we keep "inventing" things and we do -- just like the tree keeps "inventing" leaves and couples keep "inventing" babies. The Church is always pondering the Gospel which, contrary to non-Catholic expectations, hasn't been exhausted of insights despite 2,000 years of inquiry. As I tried to say above, the canon is just one part of man's witness to Christ, a kind of never-ending story that will go on, and on, even to Judgment Day and beyond, when all the saints -- canonized or not -- will dwell in the heavenly Jerusalem.
I hope that was of some help, and I'm sorry if it hasn't been. I'll pray to St. Thomas the Apostle for you. He's one of my patron saints, and a good one to have if one's got problems accepting something that seems beyond reason.
 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, "St. Josemaria: God is Very Much in Our World Today." You can find the full text here.
 Frank Duff, Can We Be Saints?. You can read the whole text here.
 Clay Waters, "Right Here, Right Now," National Review Online, August 10, 2004. You can read the article here.
 Catholic Encyclopedia, "Communion of Saints." The full text can be found here. If the quoted description weren't true, then I don't see how we could follow the Apostle's Creed and describe our relationship with the Church Triumphant as communion. It's always struck me as odd, how our separated brothers end up affirming a "communion" of saints composed of two groups who actually have little or nothing to do with each other.
 See, Walter Farrell, O.P., My Way of Life, (1952: Brooklyn, Confraternity of the Precious Blood). I quote here pages 49 - 51:
One of the supreme confidences God has made to His human friends, a divine secret that only God could know, is the story of the impenetrable activity inside the Godhead, the story of the family life of God. He has, in His lover's eagerness to be known, told us of the mystery of the Trinity; the mystery of three divine Persons in one divine nature, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, who are yet, by their unity of nature, one God. The intense life of divinity itself is told to our trusting hearts: the Father, who is God eternally knowing, eternally generating; the Son, who is God eternally known, the Word eternally generated; the Holy Ghost, who is God eternally loved, the breath of love proceeding eternally from the perfect Knower and the perfectly Known. These are three Persons, distinct from one another, but completely identical in their divine nature. This is a lover's surrender of secrets. It is not a truth told to stagger our minds and so to impress us, though certainly the truth is much too big for more than our most timid caress. The secret has been revealed to further and deepen our happiness, a contribution of love to the happiness of us who are so loved. See, Catholic Encyclopedia, "John of God." The article can be found here.
 Space forbids a digression into the ancient exegesis which discloses the identity of the Woman as Mary, or a dispute about the status of the so-called "Apocrypha." A good beginning is Dave Armstrong's website on the subject, which you can find here.
 Cf. Catholic Encyclopedia, "Canonization & Beatification,": "It must be obvious, however, that while private moral certainty of their sanctity and possession of heavenly glory may suffice for private veneration of the saints, it cannot suffice for public and common acts of that kind. No member of a social body may, independently of its authority, perform an act proper to that body. It follows naturally that for the public veneration of the saints the ecclesiastical authority of the pastors and rulers of the Church was constantly required." You can find the full text here. One example of a licit private devotion can be found in my parish, where prior to Mass we pray for the beatification of a nun from our convent, Maria Theresia:
Loving Father, you granted countless graces to your servant, Mother Maria Theresia, choosing her to be an apostle of devotion to Your Son in the Most Holy Eucharist and a living testimony of Christian charity to poor children. Grant, dear God, that like Mother Maria Theresia we too will grow in our love for the Eucharist. Let us bring the light of Christ to those around us, especially to those in most need. If it is your will, grant the beatification of your servant Mother Maria Theresia and, through her prayers, grant us the favors we ask of you.
 See, e.g. J.B. Carroll, Ed., Mariology, Vol. III, pp. 3-5; Murphy, John F., "Origin and Nature of Marian Cult." (1961: Milwaukee, Bruce Publishing):
"Rather than positing a hypothesis, then, as to the specific where and when of the earliest manifestations of Marian cult, it would seem better to describe it as a gradual realization and growing practice from the earliest times. Simon of Trent was a little boy found murdered on Easter Sunday, 1475. Suspicion immediately fastened on Jews living in the town who were tortured and forced to "confess" that they had murdered the boy as part of an anti-Christian ritual. The trials themselves were condemned by Pope Sixtus IV. Almost immediately, a cult of veneration grew up around Simon. His cultus was confirmed by the Church in 1588; the confirmation, however, means only that the boy was holy and a saint and that it was permissible to venerate him. It is not canonization and does not necessarily require, or commit the Church to determining, historical specifics such as the identity of the persons responsible for Simon's murder. The papacy steadily refused to canonize Simon of Trent despite popular sentiment in and around Trent. If anything shows the hidden hand of God in this affair, it's the irony of Simon's having been named a patron of torture victims; certainly he could well have died in a state of grace and been in Heaven praying both for the Jews being tortured because of his murder and the souls of the Christians who tortured them. Because it was always inextricably bound up with anti-Semitism, veneration of Simon was forbidden by the Church in 1965. For an account of these events, see R. Po. Chia Hsia, Trent 1475: Stories of a Ritual Murder Trial, (1992: New Haven, Yale University Press).
 "But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 19:14 (KJV).
 The line is from Pieta by David Gascoyne:
Stark in the pasture on the skull-shaped hill, St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, 374-397 A.D., To Emperor Gratian, 381 A.D.: Your grace must be besought not to permit any disturbance of the Roman Church, the head of the whole Roman World and of the most holy faith of the Apostles, for from thence flow out to all the bonds of sacred communion." -- Winter, St. Peter and the Popes, p. 160 (Helicon, 1960), courtesy of the Cor Unum Apologetics Website.
 "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." (KJV)
 22: And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23: And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24: And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
25: But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26: And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
27: Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:
28: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29: Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30: And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31: And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. (KJV)
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