Since 2000, Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais has expressed his opinion on a variety of faith topics. These texts were initially published in the "Ask the Religion Experts" column which appears every Saturday in The Ottawa Citizen. As of June 2005, Msgr. Patrick Powers, Vicar General, will be taking on the responsibility of the weekly articles.

Does your faith have saints?

Yes. Quite early in the history of the church, the word saint referred to one who was in heaven with the Lord, who could intercede for the needs of the earthly church and who merited earthly honour. The present-day canonization process while being a rigorously bureaucratic one, still recognizes those principles. It also examines candidates to determine if they lived lives of heroic virtue or died as martyrs and if there is evidence of miraculous intervention through their intercession. It normally begins after fifty years or more after the death of the individual.

The notion of sanctity is closely linked to Catholic doctrine. Both the Second Vatican Councils Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (L.G. 50) and the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (S.C. 8) discuss saints in terms of their eschatological significance. In recalling their memory and evoking their assistance, we affirm our own belief in the salvific plan of Christ and simultaneously state our conviction that the church is not merely an earthly aggregation but part of the larger reality traditionally referred to as the Communion of the Saints.

The lives of the saints manifest the inherent values of the gospel. At all times, the saints have shown that in times of decadence, confusion or doubt, the gospel can be enfleshed in an extraordinary manner. Saints always witness to Christ. They transform the theoretical expressions of preaching, teaching and theology into lived realities. In our age, it is important to remember a significant lesson from the tradition of the saints: often they were subject to official diffidence or popular suspicion as they tried to articulate with their lives new forms of living the truth of the gospel. Moreover, their example calls us to a deep and abiding holiness which challenges each of us to do with our lives what they did in theirs!