Teresa’s “Miracle” En Route to “Sainthood”
According to recent news reports, the Roman Catholic nun, who was affectionately known as “Mother” Teresa (cf. Mt. 23:9), is being given the “rush” status en route to her expected “sainthood.” The highly acclaimed lady, so applauded for her work in poverty-stricken India, died in 1997.
Normally at least five years must pass before the process leading to “sainthood” is initiated. However, John Paul II, the current pontiff, has been accelerating Teresa’s passage.
In the Catholic system, becoming a “saint” is reserved for one whose holiness of life and heroic feats were exceptional. The prospective “saint” must be confirmed, however, and then recognized by the Church’s official processes of beatification and canonization.
Beatification involves an investigation into the supposed sanctity of a deceased Catholic. An enquiry probes the past of the candidate, looking at his or her deeds, writings, alleged miracles, etc. Usually, this phase lasts for several years. The pope makes the final decision as to the beatification confirmation. Once beatified, the candidate is acknowledged as “Blessed.”
Canonization is the subsequent procedure in which a public and official declaration of the virtue of the proposed “saint” is made. It must be established that two miracles have been effected at the behest of the candidate, subsequent to the beatification process. In Teresa’s case, a woman who prayed to the deceased “sister,” allegedly was cured of her cancer. Apparently this episode will constitute the nun’s first miracle.
This alleged “miracle” is discussed in a recent article in Time magazine (October 21, 2002). It involved a woman in India who was diagnosed with an abdominal tumor within a year after Teresa’s death. She was, in fact, undergoing medical treatment, and making improvement, according to her doctors. They even insist that she did not have a “full-grown tumor.” Nonetheless, supposedly, she applied a sacred medallion to her “tummy,” and was cured.
Her doctors have not authenticated the miracle (in spite of the fact that the Church has been pressuring them for a declaration of that nature), and the woman’s husband flatly denies that anything supernatural happened. He dubs the episode as “a hoax.” The medical records have mysteriously disappeared (having been taken by a nun associated with the Missionaries of Charity —the order to which Teresa belonged). Catholic officials have “clammed up” about the matter.
Of course another “miracle” is needed still, and doubtless it will be forthcoming eventually. The desire sometimes begets the happening!
How is it that Catholics, Mormons, Christian Scientists, Pentecostals, etc., all claim that “miraculous signs” are confirming their teachings, when they are so egregiously in conflict with one another —light years apart in theology?
In the event that Teresa passes all the test criteria, the pope will finalize the event in a ceremony in St. Peter’s Cathedral, and a Mass will be sung in honor of the new “saint.”
The conscientious Bible student will recognize nothing in this ceremonial phenomenon that even remotely resembles the scriptural teaching regarding the topic of “saints.”
In the New Testament, the term “saint” is derived from the Greek word hagios meaning “separated.” Consider these biblical facts relating to this expression.
- The term refers to an ordinary member of Christ’s church; one who has previously submitted to the conditions of gospel obedience. Paul addressed some of his letters to the “saints” in various places. These were living Christians, not corpses (see: Phil. 1:1; 4:21; 2 Thes. 1:10).
- A “saint” is one who has gone through the process of sanctification (hagiasmos). This noun denotes that which has been “set apart” for a special purpose in the service of God. Gold in the temple was said to be “sanctified” (Mt. 23:17). When a person becomes a Christian, he is set apart from the world for divine service (cf. 2 Cor. 6:17); moreover, the child of God enjoys a special relationship with the Lord (Acts 20:32; Rom. 15:16).
- The process involved in becoming a “saint” includes the following simple steps in the plan of redemption. First, one must believe in Christ as Lord and Savior (Jn. 8:24; Mk. 16:16). Second, he must repent of all past sins (Acts 2:38; 17:30-31). Third, he must consummate these initial acts of obedience by the “washing of water” (Eph. 5:26; 1 Cor. 6:11 – Note the use of “sanctified” in these latter two passages.) The “water” is an allusion to baptism (a burial in water — Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12).
All Christians, therefore, who walk worthily of their calling (Eph. 4:1), are “saints.” The Roman Catholic concept of “sainthood” is foreign to the New Testament. No process implemented upon this earth (religious or secular) can alter the status of those who have died already. Superstition must be laid aside, and replaced with Scripture, if one is to please the Creator.
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.