The Second Vatican Council brought with it a revision in the Church’s liturgical calendar.
To make room for local saints, some saints that were on the universal calendar, such as Christopher and Philomena, were taken off for a number of reasons; however, they were not demoted. First, one of the functions of a canonized saint is to represent a life worthy of imitation by the faithful. In the instances of Christopher and Philomena, there is not much that is known about their lives.
The relics of Saint Philomena, a third-century martyr, were only discovered in the Catacombs of Priscilla in Rome in 1805. The only thing that is know about her is the fact that she was a virgin and a martyr. This can be proven by two ancient Christian symbols that were used in the Catacombs—a fern for virginity and a vial which contained her blood, poured out for Christ.
Saint Christopher’s name means “Christ-bearer” since the legend goes that one day he saw a little boy who wanted to cross the river. Christopher carried the child on his shoulders and proceeded into the water. With each step, the child got heavier and heavier, until Christopher almost collapsed. When they reached the other side of the river, the boy revealed that He was Jesus and He bore the weight of the world on His shoulders, which was why He was so heavy. Though he is believed to have lived in the third century, the lack of documentation for this is what got him bumped off the calendar (but not out of heaven). He remains the patron saint of travelers because of the story of him carrying the child Jesus across the river.
Despite the lack of concrete historical documentation, they are still proclaimed saints. Canonization processes had changed in the last few centuries and have become stricter. However, because of the gift of infallibility in proclamation of saints, they can never be demoted.
With the addition of so many new saints, it is impossible to celebrate every one of them in the Universal Church. Therefore the Church allows local saints to be celebrated in an Episcopal Conference or in the particular religious community that the saint belongs to. Pope John Paul II canonized hundreds of men and women saints, and this new liturgical axiom allows them to be celebrated locally. For a saint to be on the universal calendar, the saint must have universal drawing power, must have been a well-known and strong figure, or there must be historical precedence in celebrating this person’s life universally.
The canonization process has become stricter since the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century. There are four stages:
Servant of God: formal process has been open by local ordinary
Venerable: the person has noteworthy characteristics for being considered a saint
Beatification: the person has a miracle attributed to his intercession
Canonization: the last and infallible step reserved for the pope alone
After a lengthy process involving the review of all material written by the blessed, interviewing any known survivors who were in contact with the blessed, and the validation of another miracle brought about by the saints’ intercession, the pope can proclaim sainthood in a very beautiful ceremony. However, this saint may only be observed on a local calendar, even though a votive Mass in her honor can be celebrated anywhere. For example, Saint Pio of Pietralcina, Italy, is not on the American calendar, but a votive Mass is celebrated in his honor on his feast day.