The Apostolic Process on the Virtues and Miracles in Particular

THE real trial of the candidate for canonization begins with the work of this Process which inquires into the very nature and genuineness of the individual virtues and miracles. All the other Processes are essential conditions in the procedure for canonization, but still they are merely preliminary and they all lead up to the strict and careful examination carried out by this Process. As has been already observed, judicial order requires that the duties of the Informative and Apostolic Processes should be complete before this Process is established. And hence the work of these two Processes is aptly compared to the finding of a grand jury in the law of this country. Like the grand jury the task they undertake is to decide whether or not the case is to go on for trial. And when their judgment is favorable to the cause, then and then only, does the Holy See establish the Process on the virtues and miracles in particular.

This Process usually consists of at least two parts, the Inchoative or Inceptive Process and the Continuative Process. Notwithstanding its title, the Process sometimes confines its investigations altogether to the virtues, omitting the examination on miracles, and then a distinct Process is constructed to inquire into particular miracles, in order that the result may be submitted to the consideration of the Congregation of Rites.


The nature of this Process is clearly indicated by its title, and its object is to take valuable evidence which might be lost if there was notable delay. At first sight it would seem that this Process was not necessary in causes of ancient standing when eyewitnesses could no longer exist. But even in such causes this Process is often most useful, for witnesses may be found whose evidence would not be available in case of delay, and who are intimately acquainted with the traditional and historical knowledge of the servant of God, so that the cause would suffer materially if deprived of their illuminating testimony.

The decree of Pope Innocent XI. requires that, after the findings of the Informative Process are presented at Rome, a period of ten years should elapse before the Introduction of the cause. If, however, there is danger of losing important evidence, the Postulator of the Cause may, through his Procurator, ask a dispensation from this delay, and the Holy Father usually grants such a petition. In these exceptional circumstances the Process, "lest the proofs should perish," may be constructed before the completion either Of the Process on noncultus, or the Apostolic Process on reputation in general. It is obvious that the danger referred to nearly always exists, and, according to the more recent discipline, it is customary, on the petition of the Postulator, to establish this Process immediately after the Commission of Introduction has been signed by the Supreme Pontiff.

In this Process the jurisdiction of the judges is more limited than usual; they are restricted as to the time within which their work should be done, and as regards the witnesses to be submitted for examination. For if the Process is unduly protracted some of the witnesses may be no longer available, and this may be detrimental to the cause. Then, again, the judges receive powers to examine only a certain class of witnesses namely, those who, on account of advanced age or infirm health, are in danger of dying before the close of the inquiries on noncultus and reputation in general, and also such witnesses as are soon to depart from the place where the Process is constructed. In this connection those witnesses are regarded as old who have reached the age of fifty years. In addition to fresh witnesses all those already examined in the Informative Process are called again to give evidence in the Apostolic Process on the individual virtues and miracles; and hence it should be the first care of the Postulator to find out who amongst these witnesses are old, infirm, or soon to leave the place. And if any of these witnesses has already died, left the place, or is incapable of appearing through ill-health, or any other cause, it is the duty of the Court to obtain authentic testimony regarding such decease, disappearance or incapacity. Witnesses already examined in the Informative Process must make no reference to their previous evidence; they are to submit their statements to the Court as if they had never been examined before. Official witnesses are not called at this inquiry, but hostile witnesses, if any are indicated, must be submitted to careful examination.

At the close of the inquiry all the acts of the Process are carefully enclosed and sealed by the judges, who use a special seal; they are then handed over to be preserved in the Episcopal archives until they are finally incorporated with the acts of the Continuative Process. With these exceptions the Process, "lest the proofs should perish," carries on its work precisely in the same manner as other Apostolic Processes, observing with scrupulous care all the rules and solemnities approved by the Holy See.


This Process is called Continuative because it is the continuation and complement of the Inchoative Process which by the indulgence of the Holy Father has been established provisionally that is to say, lest the proofs should be lost. In reality it is one and the same Process with the other, having the same subjectmatter, the only difference being that what was begun in the other is in this Process continued and brought to a conclusion. In this Process witnesses are examined without any restriction as to age or health or immediate absence, and besides hostile and official witnesses, and those already examined in the Informative Process, the Postulator is at liberty to call any others that may be deemed useful, especially those who are capable of giving evidence of a miracle that may be proposed for the purpose of beatification. If any witnesses already examined in the Informative Process cannot now be produced to give evidence the Postulator should be able to testify to their death, or absence, or any other impediment preventing their examination.

The acts of both Processes are combined so that the two parts form one Process on the virtues and miracles in particular. With the acts of this Process are also included all documents and writings connected with the cause, and except the proceedings on noncultus the acts of all Episcopal Processes if constructed in Apostolic form.

It is superfluous to repeat the forms already given in the Apostolic Process on Reputation in general, for the present Process follows exactly the lines there laid downthere is a petition from the Postulator to the Bishop or Archbishop, the Bishop's reply, the election of judges, and an additional Subpromoter of the Faith, the election of an Actuary and Messenger, the swearing in of all these officials, the oath of the Postulator de calumnia, the opening and reading of the Remissorial Letter and the Letter of the Promoter of the Faith resident in Rome. The sessions are begun and carried on with the due and careful observance of all the forms and solemnities already described.

It cannot be too strongly insisted on that the Process on the individual virtues and miracles is the cardinal inquiry in all causes of canonization. It is here the real merits of the deceased are put to the test; and this Process is the Supreme Court, which determines finally whether or not the servant of God is endowed with those virtues and gifts which must adorn all those who are placed on the catalogue of saints. The reader must therefore take care that his mind is not distracted by the forms and ceremonies required for the Process, and that his attention is specially directed to the subjectmatter of the inquiry.

What then is the question to be investigated by this Commission? The reply is briefly this: did the person proposed for beatification practice virtue in the heroic degree, and was this virtue illustrated by the gift of miracles? Here we have in a few pregnant words the entire scope and significance of the inquiry. And in solving the question at issue the Process covers a very wide field. The whole life of the servant of God, from his most tender years to the close of his earthly career, is brought under review, and submitted to the fierce white light of the most searching investigation.

And in particular the Process investigates the signs of sanctity which the servant of God showed from his earliest youth, what was the origin of his vocation if he embraced the religious life, how he put into practice the virtues of his calling or state of life, and whether he practiced the moral and theological virtues and those things belonging to them in the heroic degree.

In examining the possession of virtue the three Divine virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity are first dealt with. And in regard to the Divine virtue of faith, the foundation of all sanctity, the Process makes inquiry as to whether the servant of God often returned thanks to God that he was born in the bosom of the Catholic Church, and prayed that all would be brought within her fold; whether he always gave a firm assent to all the articles and mysteries of Faith: especially with what fervor he adored the mysteries of the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, and the august Sacrament of the Altar. It is also inquired whether he loved devotion to the Blessed Virgin, whether he endeavored to propagate it, and how; whether he prayed long and frequently before the Blessed Sacrament; if a priest, with what fervor of spirit he celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, how he prepared for it, and whether in the act of celebration there appeared external signs of faith; whether he showed a tender devotion to the Passion of Jesus Christ; whether he often meditated on this mystery, with what fervor and piety, and whether he strove to enkindle this devotion in others. It is also asked whether he paid special veneration to the Blessed inhabitants of Heaven, which of them he selected as patrons, and with what devotion he honored them; did he burn with the desire of propagating the Catholic Faith and of shedding his blood for the truths of faith; whether he taught the truths of Christianity to the faithful; whether he taught the catechism; whether, if a priest, he preached earnestly and taught the Word of God with fruit; did he venerate the Sacred Scripture and the writings of the Holy Fathers. It is inquired whether he obeyed the laws of the Church and the commands of his Superiors, whether he showed honor to the Supreme Pontiff and all the ministers of God; whether he rejoiced when some erring one was converted to the Catholic Faith, and was mournful when the Church suffered loss or persecution; whether the decoration of the house of God was dear to his heart and the observance of the sacred ceremonies. Finally, inquiry is made as to whether he observed faithfully the precepts of God and the Church, whether he desired to gain Indulgences, whether he hated all bad books and everything opposed to the Faith, whether he frequently approached the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion, and in fine whether God illustrated his faith by any miracle or special favor.

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