30 November 2009

Recognizing a Saint: Part 4 of 5

30 NOVEMBER 2009. Reviewing the Church's process of declaring a person a saint, we have reached the step that is most difficult for a person--now called Venerable--to achieve: beatification.

Beatification is the statement by the Church that it is worthy of belief that the person is in heaven, having achieved salvation. The step of beatification can take one of two paths depending on whether the candidate is a martyr or a confessor.

A martyr is one who has voluntarily given her or his life for the faith. For a martyr to achieve beatification, the Pope must make a declaration of martyrdom. This declaration certifies that the Venerable gave her or his life voluntarily as a witness for the faith or in an act of heroic charity for others.

If the Venerable is not a martyr, then she or he is called a confessor--for she or he has confessed, or bore witness, to their faith by the way she or he lived their life. For a confessor, beatification requires proof that a miracle has taken place because of the intercession of the Venerable. In other words, the Church believes that a proven miracle is God's sign that the Venerable is indeed in heaven, enjoying the beatific vision, and God has performed the miracle in response to the Venerable's prayers. Today, the miracles are almost always miraculous cures. For the Church to confirm that a cure is miraculous, the Church must find that a person was sick, no known cure was available for the illness, the person directed their prayer of intercession to the Venerable, and the person was cured. The cure must be instantaneous, spontaneous, complete and lasting, and without medical or natural explanation.

Once the declaration of martyrdom is made or a miracle has been proven, the Church may declare the Venerable to be a "Blessed,"or, in Latin, Beatus or Beata. Each Blessed has a designated feast day, although it is typically only celebrated in the Blessed's home diocese (or other area particularly associated with the Blessed) or within the Blessed's religious order. Churches may not normally be named in honor of a Blessed.

Probably the most recognized Blessed today is Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Mother Teresa was declared a Blessed on 19 October 2003 by Servant of God Pope John Paul II the great. Several Blesseds have been profiled on this Blog:

Blessed Margaret of Savoy
Blessed James Benfatti
Blessed Simon Ballacchi
Blessed Raymond of Capua
Blessed Dominic Spadafora
Blessed Jordan of Pisa
Blessed Robert Nutter
Blessed Adrian Fortescue
Blessed Pope Benedict XI
Blessed Junipero Serra
Blessed Osanna of Mantua
Blessed Diana and Blessed Cecilia

The next and final installment in this series will examine the final step in the Church's recognition of sainthood: canonization.

IMAGE: Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

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