Saint Theodora said that we don’t need to do anything special to become saints as long as we do everything for the love of the Lord. Pope Francis noted this in a similar way in his latest apostolic letter.
Until recently, the causes for sainthood in the Catholic Church included: 1. martyrdom, 2. having lived an exceptionally virtuous Christian life, and 3. having a reputation of holiness for many years after death. On July 11, 2017, Pope Francis added a fourth path—the free and voluntary offering of one’s life.
The last cause was written in the apostolic letter, Lettera Apostolicae Motu Proprio Datae De Oblatione Vitae, which means, “Greater Love Than This, On the Offering of life.” Pope Francis wrote, “Those Christians are worthy of special consideration and honor who, following in the footsteps and teaching of Jesus, have offered their life voluntarily and freely for others and have persevered in this to death.”
The cause requires essential criteria including:
- “The free and voluntary offering of life and the heroic acceptance out of charity of certain death in a short term. Moreover, there must be a link between the offering of life and the premature death.”
- “The practice of the Christian virtues, at least to an ordinary degree, before the offering of [one’s] life, and then until death.”
- “The existence of the fame of sanctity and of signs [of holiness], at least after death.”
- “The need for a miracle for beatification, that happens after the death of the Servant of God and through his/her intercession.”
Saint Theodora may also have qualified for sainthood under this new cause as she offered herself to God on her First Holy Communion Day and renewed that vow daily throughout her life. Her health was severely compromised when she entered the religious community. It became a life challenge as she ventured across the ocean and US to found the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana and the school that became known as Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
Our Christian obligation is to strive to sainthood. Perhaps this new cause will inspire us to set ourselves on that path. We may not have led perfect lives to this point, but today is a new day. If we keep focused on the Lord we will stay on track right through to the other side.
(Read more about Saint Theodora and how we can imitate her in Seven Principles of Sainthood Following Saint Mother Theodore Geurin. The book is available from ACTA Publications, Amazon.com, and my website.)