Last weekend, local and distant Catholics celebrated the canonization of Brother André, the man who initiated the building of one of Montreal’s great landmarks, St. Joseph’s Oratory. Brother André is now a Saint in the Catholic church, the result of a posthumous process that took more than 30 years to be realized. However, while Brother André was probably a pious man and deserving of some recognition, canonization of individuals in the Catholic Church often overlooks the contributions of one very important person: Jesus Christ. In the thousands of words written on 3 separate web pages devoted to Brother André (two on the Oratory website itself, the other a Wikipedia page), the names “Jesus” or “Christ” never showed up more than once on each page. Yikes.
Unfortunately, sainthood in Catholicism is a perversion of the reality that is in Christ. Biblically, the process for sainthood really takes no longer than it does to be united with Christ in baptism. Also, the word “saint” in the New Testament is synonymous with a word like “believer,” so there is no indication that sainthood is an elevated status within the Christian faith as it is in Catholicism. Additionally, Catholic canonization “titles” certain individuals by virtue of merit – that is, sainthood is largely earned. However, Biblically, sainthood is bestowed upon those who believe in Jesus Christ, which is truly an admission that we can do nothing to earn our holiness. While God both bestows holiness and calls us to be holy, it is entirely through the work of Christ that we are able to attain any state of holiness.
All of us who believe are saints – but only because we have one to believe in: Jesus Christ. All glory, honour, praise and celebration belongs to him!