01 December 2009

Recognizing a Saint: Part 5 of 5

1 December 2009. This is the last installment of this series, as we have arrived at the pinnacle of the Church's recognition of sainthood: canonization. It is in canonization that the Church comes to bestow the title "Saint" on a person.

Once a person has been beatified, the final step to sainthood requires a proven miracle that has come about because of the Blessed's intercession. For a Blessed who is a confessor, this means a second miracle is needed. As in beatification, the proven miracle is taken as God's sign that the miracle has been performed by Him, because of the intercession of the Blessed, who is truly in heaven enjoying the beatific vision.

Upon the recognition of the miracle necessary for sainthood, the Pope can celebrate the canonization--adding the Saint's name to the list, or canon, of saints.

The formal declaration of canonization usually occurs during a special mass of the Pope outside of Saint Peter's Basilica before a large crowd. (However, the canonization mass may also be held in the saint's home country.) During the mass the saint's life history is read aloud, and the Pope chants the following in Latin:
In honor of the Blessed Trinity, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith and the growth of Christian life, with the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul and Our Own, after lengthy reflection, having assiduously invoked God's assistance and taken into account the opinion of many brothers of ours in the episcopate, we declare and define [name] to be a saint [or "to be blessed"], and we enroll him [or her] in the Catalogue of the saints, and we establish that in the whole Church he [or she] should be devoutly honored among the saints. In the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Then, a large tapestry with an image of the saint is unfurled before the faithful to admire and venerate. Shown above is the tapestry of Saint Francisco Coll y Guitart, canonized earlier this year by Pope Benedict XVI.

With canonization, the Saint's feast day is assigned and may be celebrated anywhere in the Church. However, not every Saint's feast day appears on the General Roman Calendar or is celebrated as an obligatory feast in the Church. (In fact, only about half of the days of the year ( 149 if I have counted correctly) are recognized on the General Roman Calendar as obligatory or optional memorials of a Saint.)

Churches may be named in the honor of a saint and the faithful are free, without restriction, to celebrate and honor the saint. And, the masses may be celebrated in the saint's memory.

In the history of the Church, however, the process for sainthood that we have examined in this series--Servant of God, Venerable, Blessed, and Saint--is a relatively new development. In the case of persons that have commonly been called saints from "time immemorial" (in practice, since before 1500 or so), the Church may carry out a confirmation of cultus whereby the Church affirms that it is acceptable to venerate the person and the person is given the title of Blessed. Profiled on this blog, Blessed Simon Ballacchi, is an example of one who has received the title "Blessed" in this manner.

This short series of posts has not, in any way, been a thorough or complete treatment of the process of the Church in recognizing a saint. However, I offer it to all readers as a brief explanation of how we the Church has come to venerate and pray to the saints for their intercession.

So, the end of the story is this: Pray to the saints! By the power of their intercession, we can each one be a better instrument of God's love here on earth.

IMAGE: The tapestry of Saint Francisco Coll y Guitart, canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on 11 October 2009.

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