COMMUNION of saints is mentioned in the ninth article of the Apostles' Creed, where it is added, according to the Roman Catechism, as an explanation of the foregoing words, "I believe in the holy Catholic Church." The communion of saints consists in the union which binds together the members of the Church on earth, and connects the Church on earth with the Church suffering in Purgatory and triumphant in Heaven.
(1) The faithful on earth have communion with each other because they partake of the same sacraments, are under one head, and assist each other by their prayers and good works. Even the personal merits of a just man profit his brethren, because the greater his goodness, the greater the efficacy of his prayer for others, the more fitting it is that, as he does God's will, so God should deign to do his by increasing the graces or converting the souls of those for whom he prays.
Catholic commentators understand St. Paul to refer to this communion in good works when he encourages the Corinthians to help their needy brethren at Jerusalem. "Let your abundance," he says (2 Cor. viii. 14), "supply their want, that their abundance also may be the filling up of your want" i.e. that you may share in their spiritual, as they have shared in your temporal, riches. Again, God spares his people for the sake of the saints among them, just as He was ready to spare Sodom had ten just men been found in it; or forgave Job's friends at the sacrifice and prayer of Job himself; or so often restrained his wrath against his people for his servant David's sake. Of course also many graces are given primarily for the edification of the Church.
We communicate with the souls in Purgatory by praying for them.
THE act of declaring a person or persons deceased, whose virtues have been proved by sufficient testimony, and whose power with God has been demonstrated by miracles, to be among the number of the blessed.
To pay honor to the dead whom the general voice declares to have lived well is an instinct of human nature Roman citizens brought the images of their distinguished ancestors into their villas; under the empire they recognized the farreaching power and august majesty sometimes the beneficence of their rulers by deifying them after death; in China, the worship of ancestors is to this day the most living portion of the popular religion; among ourselves, the numbers of monuments in our public places everywhere, though in many cases rather attesting the vanity of the living than the merits of the dead, prove the universality of the impulse. A modern writer of note has said that everything depends on how a people "does its heroworship." The Church, divinely founded and divinely guided as she is, so far recognizes this view that she encourages us to distinguish with singular honor certain of her children who have gone before us in the Christian warfare, bids us reserve this honor for those whose virtue reached the "heroic" level, and that we may not be deceived, establishes a careful and deliberate process whereby to test the truth of facts and probe the moral significance of actions. Her judgments and her processes need not fear a comparison with those of public opinion. The State which modern religion invites us to regard as a moral agency, the fiat which is not to be appealed against, has also modes of conferring honor, and does not wait for their death before it rewards its servants. It has peerages, baronetcies, orders, stars, money, and offices. If we examine on what grounds these distinctions are dispensed, we find that it is for rare intellectual ability usually attended by the gift of expression for the capacity of amassing money, for courage with direction, and for simple courage; a certain degree of patriotic devotion being supposed to be present in each case. In this way, and on these grounds, the modern State honors its heroes. To the Church, the more or less of ability possessed by those whom she recommends for our veneration is a matter of no concern. She is as willing to raise a St. Isidore, the gardener of Madrid, to the ranks of the Blessed, as an Augustine of Hippo or a Thomas Aquinas. The proof of eminent virtue is all that she demands, and as a conclusive and compendious test of the presence of this high order of virtue, she requires the authentication of miracles wrought by, or through the intercession of, the person whose virtues are under debate. Such are, in her estimate, the only sound basis of a popular cultus, and when these conditions have been complied with. such a cultus has been never known to be discredited.
The possession of virtue rising to the heroic level, and the illustration of that virtue by miracles, are matters of fact, which must of course be established, by testimony. The witnesses, in most cases, can be no other than the countrymen and countrywomen of the reputed saint, for only they can have seen his life from so near at hand as to be competent to speak with certitude respecting it. In the early times, individual bishops, and afterwards metropolitans acting upon this local testimony, and sifting it in the best way they could, declared the blessedness of certain persons, and proposed their memories for the veneration of the faithful. But it is notorious that local testimony is rarely free from bias, that national and provincial sympathies, or even antipathies, are apt to disturb the judgment, and that for this reason the universal Church could not safely endorse without injury even the unanimous judgment of his own countrymen on the virtues of a reputed saint. Earl Waltheof, put to death by William the Conqueror, was regarded by the English as a martyr, and miracles were said to be worked at his tomb; the same thing happened in the case of Simon de Montfort; but it may reasonably be doubted whether antipathy to the Norman and the foreigner was not a substantial factor in these reputations for sanctity. Considerations of this kind prevailed, many centuries ago, to cause the inquiry into reputed sanctity to be reserved to the central authority in the Church, the Holy See, and to recommend the wisdom and necessity of the decision that without the sanction of that see no religious cultus may lawfully be paid to the memory of any holy person, however eminent for virtue or notorious for miracles. As early as the fourth century, in the case of Vigilius, bishop of Trent, we find the authority of Rome invoked to recognize a martyr or confessor as such, and sanction his being honored in the liturgy. The procedure to be observed was gradually regularized, defects remedied, and safeguards supplied; and in the tenth century we meet with the complete process of a canonization, of which the object was St. Ulrich, bishop of Augsburg. Still, however, through the inordinate fondness with which those of a particular country or religious order regarded holy persons of their own blood or profession, instances of abusive cultus sometimes occurred; and accordingly we find Alexander III., in 1170, publishing a decree in which it is declared unlawful to honor any person publicly as a saint, however celebrated for miracles, without the consent of the Roman Church. Still more important is the bull of Urban VIII. (1634), in which the form of procedure in cases of canonization is minutely prescribed, and various abuses condemned. In this bull, however, the Pope declared "that he did not wish to prejudice the case of those [servants of God] who were the objects of a cultus arising either out of the general consent of the Church, or a custom of which the memory of man ran not to the contrary, or the writings of the Fathers, or the long and intentional tolerance of the Apostolic See or the Ordinary." (Ferraris, Cultus Sanctorum.)
It remains briefly to explain in what manner the duty, thus reserved to the Holy See, of testing the evidence offered in proof of sanctity, is discharged. The celebrated treatise of Pope Benedict XIV. on Heroic Virtue (of which a translation was published some years ago by the English Oratorians) is the standard authority on the subject. There are three recognized degrees of sanctity that of Venerable, that of Blessed, and that of Saint. On the first and third we shall speak more fully under the head of CANONIZATION; it is with the title of Blessed, given on the completion of the process of Beatification, that we are at present concerned. At the present time, Beatification is nearly always a stage on the road to Canonization; the same rigorous proof of eminent virtue and the working of miracles is demanded in one case as in the other. But whereas the cultus of a canonized Saint belongs to the universal Church, and churches and altars can be freely erected in his or her honor, and images, pictures, or statues of him or her displayed without special permission, in, the case of one of the Blessed it, is otherwise. The honor and veneration which are authorized in their regard are limited and partial; and because the cultus of one of them is permitted to one country, or city, or order, or branch of an order, it does not follow that it should be practiced elsewhere, and the attempt to extend it without special permission is condemned. Nor is it lawful, without such permission, to display their pictures or images in churches, nor, under any circumstances, can Mass be said or the breviary recited in their honor.
Thirteen or fourteen different steps may be distinguished in the process of Beatification; the general object of all these slow and lengthy inquiries extending always over many years, and sometimes from one century to another being to unite the credibility and authenticity which can only be founded on the reports of witnesses locally and personally cognizant of the facts to the authority of a juridical investigation conducted by trained and impartial intellects. It must be remembered that the character and behavior of the reputed saint are subjected to the severest possible strain; that the "fierce light which beats upon a throne" is nothing to that which so minute and protracted an inquiry turns upon the everyday life of the person submitted to it. "The person who is to be beatified must have practiced in the heroic degree, chiefly the three theological virtues, Faith, Hope, and Charity, and the four cardinal virtues, Prudence, Justice, Courage, and Temperance, with all that these suppose and involve; nor is it enough to show that these have been practiced to this degree of perfection under certain circumstances: numerous acts, a permanent and habitual practice, principally of charity, are required; and, with regard to the cardinal virtues, the habit of that virtue which was the proper and distinguishing excellence of the person's calling. Thus justice and temperance are required in statesmen and prelates; in Popes, zeal for the defense and propagation of the Catholic faith; in kings, loyal attachment to the Church and the Holy See; in married women, gentleness and devotion, etc.
The first step of the process is a formal inquiry instituted by the bishop of the diocese as to the fact of the reputation of the person whose beatification is demanded for virtue and miraculous power. This being accomplished, either the same bishop or a Roman official inquires into the fact of noncultus that is, whether the bull of Urban VIII. (supposing the case not to be included among the exceptions therein specified) has been hitherto scrupulously complied with. Thirdly, the acts or minutes resulting from these two inquiries are sent to Rome, to the secretary of the Congregation of Rites. [ROMAN CONGREGATIONS.] Before this body the process is now opened, at the request of the postulators, or supporters of the beatification. The fifth step is the nomination of a promotor fidei (called in popular language the "devil's advocate"), whose duty it is to point out any flaws or weak points in the evidence adduced, and raise all kinds of objections. Sixthly, the Congregation examines, if the person were an author, all the works, printed or in manuscript, which were ascertained to be of his composition, and draws up a formal report on them. If this be favorable, the seventh stage is reached, that of the introduction of the apostolic process; for Rome, so to speak, now makes the cause its own, and gives a commission to the Congregation of Rites to try it, investigating, not only the notoriety, but the reality and nature of the virtues and miracles ascribed to the beatificandus. This commission, without a special Papal dispensation, is never issued till at least ten years have passed since the first transmission of the acts to the secretary of the Congregation. The next step is the appointment by the Congregation, under what are called litterae remissionales, of a delegation of three bishops, or other high functionaries, to deal with the case systematically, and examine witnesses in respect of the reputed virtues and miracles. The acts of this delegation, which are often extremely voluminous, are, as the ninth stage, sent to the Congregation, by which they are examined, and arguments heard, pro and contra, from the postulators and the promotor fidei. If the result is favorable to the beatificandus, a second and still more searching inquiry into the real and inmost nature of all that has been deposed respecting him is committed to a new delegation; this is the tenth stage. The process, being returned to the Congregation, is finally considered by them, both as to its form and as to its substance; and the virtues and miracles are separately the subject of debate in three successive assemblies or congregations, at the last of which the Pope himself is present. After having sought to know the will of God by prayer, the Pope makes known his judgment to the secretary of the Congregation. A new general congregation is then held, at which it is considered whether the beatification may be proceeded with without further delay; if the decision be favorable, the Pope appoints a day for the ceremony, and orders a brief, setting forth the apostolic sentence, to be prepared The final stage of this long process, the beatification itself takes place in the Vatican church; it includes the public reading of the brief, the chanting of the Te Deum, the unveiling of the image or picture of the newly beatified on the altar, the incensing of the image, the reading of the new collect, etc.
By an "equipollent beatification" is meant the Papal authorization of the public cultus of a confessor or martyr, founded on the proof of one or more of the exceptional conditions stated in the bull of Urban VIII.
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