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Are there too many saints?
Q. Why are there so many saints? I think there are too many. It seems to me that the more people are made saints, the value of being a saint is lessened. Surely the title "saint" should be limited to a small band of people. Also, do you know how many canonized saints there are?
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
Taking your last question first, it is virtually impossible to count the number of canonized saints, as the process of canonization has varied so much over the centuries. Only at the beginning of the second millennium was the process of canonization centralized in Rome and the steps toward canonization clarified. Various scholars have estimated that the complete list of canonized saints — whatever the process of canonization — may be as high as 10,000.
Are there too many saints? How could there be! Every Christian — indeed, every man and woman who ever lived — is called to be a saint. Heaven is the goal for which we are all created, and to be a member of God's holy people is the essential characteristic of being a saint. In the broad sense of the term, everyone who is in heaven is a saint.
This does not mean that the Church should start canonizing everyone left and right after they die. The fact is most Christians probably die in a state of imperfection and have to go through a purgatorial purification before they enter the glory of heaven. Of course, some people think that the Church canonizes too many people already. But given the care and rigor that goes into the process of canonization, especially nowadays, I do not seen how this position can be sustained.
Is there a danger in lowering the status of the saints if too many are canonized? I do not at all think so. Becoming a saint is not like becoming a major general (you can only have so many of them) or having too many Nobel Prize winners (lowering the stature of the award). A saint is not someone who is above and beyond us, in a different and distant category, but someone whom we are called to emulate and reflect in our own lives, so that we ourselves eventually become saints like them.
May Catholics Be Cremated?
Q. Are we, as Catholics, allowed to be cremated? I always knew the answer to be no, however, I heard recently from a fellow parishioner that we are. Was there a change instituted?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
The Church’s new Code of Canon Law recommends what it calls “the pious custom” of burying the bodies of those who have died. However, it adds that the Church “does not … forbid cremation unless it has been chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching” (Canon 1176.3). A comment on the text remarks that the earlier Code of Canon Law (1917) had been far more “restrictive,” although “the Church has never been against cremation as such.”
The Church’s negative attitude toward cremation is rooted in antiquity, and strives to make as clear as possible its belief that the body, which is linked to the soul in life, will rise at the Last Judgment to share the soul’s eternal reward. The Church has opposed cremation whenever its enemies have embraced the practice as a means of flouting Christian belief in the Resurrection. As this does not seem to be a problem at present, the Church has relaxed its legislation. Nevertheless, the Church continues to insist that an individual’s cremated ashes may not be scattered. In this way the Church continues to proclaim its belief that the individual’s body enjoys an integrity that will endure until the Day of Judgment.
Q. Adam and Eve were the first human beings created by God. My questions are these. Then where did Neanderthal man and Cro-Magnon man come into the picture? Are they not considered Homo sapiens?
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
The evidence for and about these ancient creatures you speak of seems very slight, though the speculation about them seems more than abundant. Assuming there were forerunners of humanity, we may ask, as you have asked, where do Adam and Eve fit into the picture?
In “The Problem of Pain,” C.S. Lewis offers his “guess” on this subject:
“For long centuries God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of himself. … The creature may have existed for ages in this state before it became man: it may even have been clever enough to make things which a modern archaeologist would accept as proof of its humanity. But it was only an animal because all its physical and psychical processes were directed to purely material and natural ends.
“Then, in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness which could say ‘I’ and ‘me,’ which could look upon itself as an object, which knew God, which could make judgments of truth, beauty, and goodness, and which was so far above time that it could perceive time flowing past.”
This “new organism” would have been created in the image and likeness of God. In other words, Adam and Eve.
Was Jesus lost?
Q. Since I say the Rosary daily, I have wondered about the Fifth Joyful Mystery (Finding Jesus in the Temple) for a very long time. Why does the Church consider this event in Christ’s life a mystery, and why choose it before any of the Luminous Mysteries?
Why does it state that the Son of God was lost? How would I explain to a nonbeliever that God was not lost. Was Jesus of Nazareth misplaced? Does the Church think that Jesus was lost? Frankly, the Transfiguration is more of a mystery than Jesus of Nazareth being lost. Any clarification would be appreciated.
V. H, Safety Harbor, Fla.
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
Congratulations for praying the Rosary daily! I wish more people prayed it. Perhaps it would be easier to think of the “mysteries” of the Rosary as “events” in the life of Jesus and the Holy Family. While some of the mysteries are truly mysterious, such as the Resurrection or Transfiguration, others have no more mystery to them other than they happened to Jesus, such as the Fifth Joyful Mystery — Jesus lost and found in the Temple as a boy. But the very person of Jesus is a mystery, which we call the hypostatic union: one person (divine) and two natures (divine and human).
Why the Joyful Mysteries were part of the Rosary before the Luminous Mysteries, you would have to ask the Holy Spirit, or Pope John Paul II, the blessed who proposed the Luminous Mysteries for our consideration.
As for how to explain Jesus was lost in the Temple, just ask Mary and Joseph! They would tell you He was lost for three days. They did not know where He was. He was indeed lost to them. That was such a huge event from His childhood that it’s the only one recorded in the Bible. As for Jesus himself, He was not lost. He knew right where He was: in His Father’s house. And isn’t that something? The very first words of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ which have been recorded in the Bible are these: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2:49).
Ending the Lord’s Prayer?
Q. Why do Catholics not say the whole Our Father, stopping at the word “evil”?
In the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, when the Lord’s Prayer draws to its close with the words, “But deliver us from evil” (Mt. 6:13), a footnote states: “Other authorities, some ancient, add, in some form, ‘For thine is the kingdom…’”
Scholars — Protestant as well as Catholic — are unanimous in judging the additional words to be quite ancient. They are likewise unanimous in judging them not to have been part of the original scriptural text. The ecumenical Anchor Bible commentary suggests copyists who used these or similar words to end their own prayers added the doxology. “Sacra Pagina,” a Catholic commentary, links the words to the Old Testament’s First Book of Chronicles (see 1 Chr 29:11), and says the ending “seals” Jesus’ prayer. The commentary adds, “But it does not seem to have been part of the earliest version of Matthew’s Gospel and must be viewed as a later addition.”
Although Catholics do not include the doxology in their ordinary recitation of the Our Father, the Church holds the words in very high esteem, and incorporates them in the dialogue between the priest-celebrant and the congregation that follows the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer during the Mass.
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