The Ten Step Procedure to Canonization
- Before starting a cause for the canonization of an Oblate, his reputation for holiness has to be proven and his writings have to be examined. The primary condition for a cause is that there is spontaneous and widespread public devotion to the Oblate candidate for sainthood (fama sanctitatis). This is determined by the number of people who look on the candidate as a model and who rely on his intercession. A valid criterion for determining the amount of devotion to this Oblate can be the level of involvement of the local people in all aspects of the promotion of the cause.
- The Superior General of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate has to be consulted. He decides as to whether or not to permit a cause to be undertaken.
- Usually the diocesan bishop of the place where the Oblate candidate for sainthood died gives permission to open an investigation, responding to a request by members of the faithful. This investigation usually opens no sooner than five years after the death of the possible saint.
- On the diocesan level of an Oblate Cause, the local bishop has to approve the appointment of the person, nominated by the local Superior of the Oblates Unit (Province, Delegation or Mission) and appointed by the Oblate Postulator General, to run the cause in all its aspects until the diocesan phase has been completed. This person, usually known as the “Vice-Postulator”, will work closely with the Postulator General in Rome. The local Oblate Unit functions normally as “actor causae”.
- The “Vice-Postulator” promotes the cause of the candidate, who is then called “Servant of God“. He organizes the review of the candidate’s publications (writings, speeches and sermons) undertaken by a diocesan commission, arranges for a detailed biography to be written, and gathers the accounts of witnesses. Prayer cards and other materials may be printed to encourage the faithful to pray for a favour wrought by his or her intercession, a sign of God’s will that the person be canonized. In the meantime, permission can be granted for the body of the Servant of God to be exhumed and examined. Relics can be taken. A certification “non cultus” is made, assuring that no superstitious or heretical worship or improper cult has grown up around the servant or his or her burial place.
- When all the information about a heroic life or martyrdom has been gathered at the diocesan level, the investigation of the candidate is presented to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints in Rome. The Congregation’s first step is to approve the canonical validity of the diocesan inquiry.
- In Rome, the Postulator General gathers further information about the life and death of the Servant of God. The results of the diocesan inquiry and the Roman postulator’s investigations are combined in written form, called a “Positio”. This document, in printed form, is the summary of all the necessary proofs.
- Then, after intensive study and with positive proof by the Vatican´s historians and theologians, the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints will recommend that the Holy Father decree the Servant of God’s heroic virtues of faith, hope and charity. From this point on the one said to be “heroic in virtue” is referred to by the title “Venerable“. A Venerable has no feast day, no churches may be built in his or her honor, and the Church makes no statement about the person’s probable or certain presence in heaven.
- Beatification is a statement by the church that it is “worthy of belief” that the person is in heaven. This step differs, depending on whether the cause is of a Martyr (Cause of Martyrdom) or a Venerable (Cause of heroic virtues).
Martyrs are not declared venerable. For a martyr, the Pope has to make a declaration of martyrdom, certifying that the candidate gave his or her life voluntarily as a witness for the faith. In that case a miracle is not required for Beatification.
For a Venerable, it must be proven that a miracle has taken place through his or her intercession, that God has shown a sign that the person is enjoying the Beatific Vision by performing a miracle in response to the Blessed’s prayers. Today, these miracles are almost always miraculous cures, as these are the easiest to establish based on the Catholic Church’s requirements for a “miracle.” The definition of a miraculous cure is: The patient was sick, there was no known cure for the ailment, prayers were directed to the Venerable, the patient was cured, the cure was spontaneous, instantaneous, complete and lasting, and doctors cannot find any natural explanation. To prove a miracle, another diocesan canonical inquiry has to be conducted. The authorities of the diocese in which the presumed miracle has taken place will question the person who has experienced the presumed miracle, other possible witnesses, and doctors. The inquiry focuses on credibility, medical or technical evidence, and the authenticity of the intercessory prayer.
If the diocesan inquiry closes with a positive result, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome will have another inquiry, involving a team of medical experts, into the case. The proof of a miracle can take quite some time. A miraculous cure of some types of cancer, for example, will require a ten year waiting period to see if the person is completely healed. With the liturgical celebration of a Beatification, the martyr or venerable is given the new title “Blessed“. A feast day with proper liturgical texts is designated, but its observance is normally restricted to the Blessed’s home diocese, to certain locations associated with him or her, and, naturally, to the churches or houses of the Blessed’s religious family, in our case, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
- To be canonized, through his intercession, a Blessed Oblate, after his Beatification, must have had another miracle performed. Canonization is the last confirmation by the church that the saintly person certainly enjoys the Beatific Vision. The “Saint” is assigned a feast day which may be celebrated anywhere within the Catholic Church, although it may or may not appear on the general calendar or local calendars as an obligatory feast. Parish churches may be built in his or her honor, and the faithful may freely and without restriction celebrate and honor the saint.