But what about those criteria? Reading the comments on my posts, I noticed that there is some uncertainty about how the canonization procedure works, specifically concerning the miracles that must be validated. Broadly speaking, a candidate must have at least two miracles attributed to him or her before the Vatican authorizes canonization. The first miracle elevates the candidate to "Blessed" status (where Junípero Serra stands right now), and the second lifts him/her to sainthood.
That part is well understood. The misconception lies with the miracles themselves. Most people believe that the Church must uncover evidence that the holy person performed miracles during his or her lifetime, but that's not true. More often the miracles "verified" by the Vatican are recent cases of illness being cured through appeals to the prospective saint. Let's say I come down with cancer and the doctor says it's terminal. If my family and I begin praying to Junípero Serra, and I go into remission, then we have a case for a miracle. The evidence would then be presented to a special Vatican court by a priest known as a postulator, and the court would decide whether it qualifies as a miracle. Unfortunately--and this is sad news for New Yorker cartoonists as well as defenders of ecclesiastical due process--the position of "Devil's advocate" (actually known as the Promoter of the Faith) was eliminated in 1983 by Pope John Paul II.
So two miracles, and they could have happened yesterday, just by praying to Junípero Serra? Correct, but that's not what happened here. In Serra's case, Pope Francis has waived the two-miracle requirement and decided to perform what's known as an equipollent, or equivalent, canonization, a type of executive order that bestows sainthood on a person who has long been worshipped locally as a saint or is widely believed to be worthy of sainthood. Francis used the same process to canonize Peter Faber (1506-1546), the co-founder of the Jesuits, in 2013, and José de Anchieta, the "Apostle to Brazil" (1534-1597) in 2014. Before him, Pope Benedict XVI gave equipollent canonization to the mystic nun Hildegard von Bingen (1090-1179).
Panel from an illuminated manuscript of Liber Scivias, one of Hildegard von Bingen's accounts of her mystical visions.