1. To describe something of the saints personal life journey
2. To give some sense, usually by anecdote, of what it would have been like to know the saint as a person
3. To identify the particular charism of the saint, the particular gift that they represent to the Church and for the world.It will always be the case that a saint, in this broad sense, lives at a particular time and in a particular place and so their charism has roots in a particular time and a particular place - and, indeed, perhaps in a particular activity in that time and place. A particular dimension that occurs when the Church officially recognises such a saint in the processes of beatification and canonisation is the recognition of a universal significance to that charism from a particular time and particular place. At this point, it is perhaps my second and third points that are most in play, though they cannot be completely separated from the first.
The teaching of the Second Vatican Council's constitution Lumen Gentium (n.50) on the communion of saints is instructive in this regard (my emphasis added):
When we look at the lives of those who have faithfully followed Christ, we are inspired with a new reason for seeking the City that is to come and at the same time we are shown a most safe path by which among the vicissitudes of this world, in keeping with the state in life and condition proper to each of us, we will be able to arrive at perfect union with Christ, that is, perfect holiness. In the lives of those who, sharing in our humanity, are however more perfectly transformed into the image of Christ, God vividly manifests His presence and His face to men. He speaks to us in them, and gives us a sign of His Kingdom, to which we are strongly drawn, having so great a cloud of witnesses over us and such a witness to the truth of the Gospel.The next section of this paragraph, however, goes on to suggest that our regard for the saints is at the service of the communion of the Church (my emphasis added):
Nor is it by the title of example only that we cherish the memory of those in heaven, but still more in order that the union of the whole Church may be strengthened in the Spirit by the practice of fraternal charity. For just as Christian communion among wayfarers brings us closer to Christ, so our companionship with the saints joins us to Christ, from Whom as from its Fountain and Head issues every grace and the very life of the people of God. It is supremely fitting, therefore, that we love those friends and coheirs of Jesus Christ, who are also our brothers and extraordinary benefactors, that we render due thanks to God for them and "suppliantly invoke them and have recourse to their prayers, their power and help in obtaining benefits from God through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is our Redeemer and Saviour." For every genuine testimony of love shown by us to those in heaven, by its very nature tends toward and terminates in Christ who is the "crown of all saints," and through Him, in God Who is wonderful in his saints and is magnified in them.I reflect on this because of the reaction on Catholic blogs to the recent canonisations of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II (and what is probably about to ensue with regard to the beatification of Pope Paul VI). Whilst it is a truism that canonisation does not canonise each and every action of the saint, it does nevertheless "canonise" the charity and charism of the saint indicating that this charity and charism are of permanent and universal value for the life of the Church. It recognises the second and third points made above.
I have found it somewhat disingenuous - and decidedly not at the service of communion - to see blog comment that criticises the canonisations because this or that policy of the one Pope or the other does not meet with approval. That is to avoid the real question that exists for a canonisation, namely, the recognition of the charity and charism of the person canonised, and of their universal significance for the Church. If we are completely honest, can we not recognise in much of that criticism an underlying antagonism towards the Second Vatican Council?
If blogging has the same purpose for a Catholic as has regard for the saints - namely, growth in communion - what has been the point of Catholic blogging in this regard? And should not that blogging examine its conscience a little more critically than it appears inclined so to do?