Friday, January 14, 2011
We learned this morning that Pope John Paul II, the person for whom our school is named, will be beatified on May 1, 2011. That gave me occasion, as headmaster, to "bone up" on the process by which the Church declares people "saints." Here's my quick summary:
It’s important to say at the outset that the Church does not “make” saints. Rather, it tries to recognize what God has already done in the life of an individual. And because saints are held up as persons to be emulated by all, the Church tries to set up a deliberative process that makes sure a person has been thoroughly “vetted” and is truly worthy of such recognition.
Canonization is a 3 step process, which usually can begin no earlier than 5 years after a person’s death. However, there was an overwhelming sense in the world-wide Church upon JPII’s death that we had just witnessed the passing of a truly holy person and a great man. The cry heard over and over at his funeral was “Santo Subito!” or “Sainthood Now!” Recognizing this sense, Pope Benedict waived the 5 year rule in his case—so in terms of the Church’s usual time-table, this process has moved really quickly.
The first step is a person is declared “Venerable”. A person who is “venerable” is a one the Church has recognized as having heroic virtue. Pope John Paul II was made “Venerable” John Paul II just over a year ago, in December of 2009.
The second step is to be declared “Blessed”, or to be “Beatified”. This is what the Vatican announced today. To be beatified, it must be shown that God has worked through that person to perform a miracle posthumously. The logic is if a miracle occurs, that person must be in heaven. In JPII’s case, the Church recently confirmed the authenticity of a miracle involving a French nun who prayed through the intercession of JPII to be cured of Parkinson’s disease. JPII will be beatified on May 1, 2011. It’s going to be a big deal—the Vatican expects hundreds of thousands of people to come to the Vatican to celebrate that event.
(Intercessory prayer just means a person asks someone else to pray for him or her, much the same way we might ask a member of the Church who is living to pray for us).
The final step is canonization—at that point, one is called “saint.” For that to happen, there must be confirmed evidence of a second post-humous miracle. No time table on that, but a reasonable guess is that it would happen some time within the next 2-3 years.
We'll have to start prepping here at JPII for the inevitable celebration!