Lives that forever leave a trace
How a cause of beatification is begun and carried out
It happens: some encounters you never forget, certain friends who were better than friends: friends who opened us to goodness, to being better when, alone, we would never have known how to do it. Carlo and Alberto are friends like these. Those who talk about them don’t only talk about the past, because the experience of then continues in their lives now. Then there are those who didn’t know them in person but through one of their letters, from something someone said. They discover they have companions, models that take you to the heights, to God. And the Church calls this the ‘fame of holiness’.
But what is a saint? For Christians, holiness has to do with God, with God-Love who came to meet us in Jesus, to give us his very own life through the Spirit. The first Christians called each other ‘saints’ not because they were already perfect – they knew their limitations! – but because they knew that Jesus, the Holy One, had made them new, a holy family, the People of God.
This gift is for everyone, but it certainly shines in certain people in a special way because of their personal commitment and correspondence to God’s will. Their lives have continued to inspire people throughout the ages. We look upon them as models, as companions in life. We pray to them that they will lead us to God.
The Church would like to offer us authentic models. It chooses some and examines them in depth, through a “cause of beatification and canonization”, a really in-depth process.
ÈIt takes a local bishop to begin the canonization process when the fame of holiness has been acknowledged for someone in his diocese who from then on is called “servant of God”. All of their writings are collected down to the most insignificant ones, at school, a note to a friend…. Testimonies from witnesses who knew them are heard, information is gathered about the life around them now. The criteria are quite severe: It must be ascertained that they lived the Gospel and a radical life of virtue in conformity with God’s will.
Once this impressive amount of information is collected, everything is sent to the Holy See for closer study. After that is completed, there is the final judgement. If the judgement was positive, the person is named “venerable”. But there is still need for another decisive sign, a miracle through the intercession of the future blessed, a sudden and complete healing, perfect and unexplainable by medical science. This sign powerfully shows their work before God. Here again, the judgement is severe, both on the medical and theological side.
If even the miracle is recognized as authentic, the signature of the Pope and the Rite of Beatification eternally propose this person as a model for the local church and is given the title “Blessed”.
A second miracle, rigorously examined as before, and a new approval from the Pope lead to canonization: the model is now proposed to the Universal Church and that person is called a “saint”, a special friend, a real light for many and forever.
Father Tommaso Danovaro