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Who is recognized as a saint?

A saint is an individual who pursued holiness while on earth and whose life is worth imitating to such a degree that the church holds him/her up as an example.

The church's process for declaring someone a saint is lengthy and thorough. It is known as a slow process because many individuals are being presented for sainthood and each case requires careful investigation. Canon lawyers, medical doctors, and theologians are involved in examining documentation at every level.


What are the steps to canonization? 

STEP ONE - Venerable

The process begins with the official opening of the case by the Bishop of the diocese in which the sainthood candidate died.  It is during this stage that the individual's life is evaluated. A postulator is appointed to guide and oversee the cause on the diocesan level. Once the Vatican accepts the case, a Roman canon lawyer is appointed as postulator and the local postulator becomes the vice-postulator, responsible for making the cause more familiar to the church and the world.  When all the evidence reveals that the person lived a holy and virtuous life, the Pope confers on the person the title of "Venerable." 

In Father Baker's case, the initial work was completed by Bishop Edward Head in 1987. OLV's Msgr. Robert Wurtz was tapped to oversee the compilation of material which was presented to members of the Vatican's Congregation of Causes of Saints in 2003. Father Baker was named "Venerable" in 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI.


STEP TWO - Beatification

To be beatified, a miracle attributed to the potential saint's intercession needs to be verified. This is done through an examination by a team of medical experts and theologians. The three standards for judging the authenticity of a miracle are:

  • Complete, meaning a total healing of the disease
  • Instantaneous, meaning the healing occurred all at once

  • Durable, meaning the person remains permanently free of the illness

Once a miracle has been verified, the Pope issues a decree declaring it so and the candidate receives the title "Blessed." 
Father Baker's cause is currently in this second step.  Msgr. Paul Burkard, who took over as vice-postulator after Msgr. Wurtz's passing in 2006, meets regularly with officials in Rome, providing updates on the Cause and discussing miracle cases if any are being investigated. 
Once he is beatified, more public devotion to Father Baker would be possible, including an annual feast day in the church calendar.

STEP THREE - Canonization

For canonization, another miracle is needed. It must be proven that this event took place through the intercession of the Blessed and after the date of his/her beatification.  The methods for affirming the miracle are the same as those described above.  With canonization, the Blessed acquires the title of "Saint." Canonization allows for the public veneration of the Saint by the Universal Church.

With joyful anticipation, all of us are waiting for that glorious day when Father Baker will officially be declared Saint Nelson Baker!  To assist his Cause, supporters are asked to regularly say his Prayer for Canonization.