Pope John Paul II has canonized more saints than all his predecessors. But the formal process is lengthy--and you have to be Catholic to be in the running. Here is a list of American men and women, Catholic and Protestants, who are best known for their dedicated commitment to spiritual values and social and political action. Cast your vote for the person you'd like to see canonized.
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Cesar Chavez spent his youth as a migrant worker. From 1952 until his death in 1993, he worked for various social and political causes. But he was best known for using nonviolent tactics as leader of the United Farm Workers. Agribusiness sometimes resorted to violence. Even the Teamsters tried to sabotage what gains the union made. In spite of the odds, he made the plight of migrants known to the rest of the nation, giving a voice to those who had been forgotten.

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Dorothy Day co-founded the Catholic Worker movement. She and her companions lived the Beatitudes, embracing voluntary poverty. Because her deep faith was rooted firmly in the sacramental life and traditions of the church, she was not only a faithful follower of the Gospel but was perhaps this century's most powerful witness. "Don't call me a saint!" she once said. "I don't want to be dismissed so easily."
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This icon depicts Martin Luther King, Jr., an ordained Baptist minister. From 1955 until his assassination in 1968, he led a campaign of nonviolent resistance against racial oppression and injustice in the United States. The prison bars behind him represent the occasions he was placed in jail, and also the oppression and slavery of Afro-Americans in the United States. The Greek inscription by his head reads, "Holy Martin."

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For over 25 years, Thomas Merton wrote prophetically from monastic seclusion. He spoke on subjects as varied as prayer, racial relations, nonviolence, and art. While never ceasing to be a Christian monk, he was entirely at home in Asian traditions. He practiced Zen because he felt it enabled Western people to go beyond their tendency to analyze God. He saw the heart of Catholicism as a "living experience of unity in Christ, which far transcends all conceptual formulations."
Who decides who's a saint?
Compare sainthood among religions.
Denied the formal higher education she desired because of her sex, Elizabeth worked tirelessly, frequently with her friend Susan B. Anthony, to expand the rights of women. While living in Seneca Falls, N. Y., she helped organize the world's first convention to discuss the rights of women. After the publication of the Revised Version of the Bible in 1881, Elizabeth, outraged that no women were numbered among the translators, started to work on her own commentary. She was uncompromising in her criticism of the church's exclusion of women from full participation and insistent that such could not be the will of a loving God.


Who decides who's a saint?
Compare sainthood among religions.
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