It is not contended that the precise degree of virtue reached by the saints can be measured with mathematical accuracy. The end and object of this Process is to ensure that no one will be enrolled in the catalogue of saints who has not attained the required degree of virtue. Any just. person may receive from God a combination of grace, virtue and gifts, and reach a high degree of perfection, but those only are selected for canonization who by many stages of progress have shone forth by the possession of virtue in a heroic and preeminent degree. And, whilst all the saints are remarkable for conspicuous and manifold excellence of life, some of them shone with greater brilliancy than others. It may be said of the saints, as St. Paul says of the just, that they differ as "star differeth from star in glory."
The Process regarding individual virtues and miracles is always confined to persons of reputed holiness who have departed this life. But it may be observed that examinations regarding the possession of sanctity are sometimes made in reference to those who are still in existence. Informal commissions are now and again appointed to investigate the cases of living persons who enjoy a widespread reputation for sanctity of life. A dignitary of rare insight and experience may be authorized to make an examination and submit a report to his ecclesiastical superior. These inquiries are often of a protracted nature, but sometimes they come to an end with rather startling suddenness. In his remarkable work "The Psychology of the Saints" M. Joly gives somewhat amusing instances of the application of unexpected tests of sanctity. On one occasion St. Philip Neri was sent by the Pope to a monastery in the neighborhood of Rome to inquire into the sanctity of a religious said to be favored with revelations and ecstasies. "The weather was abominable," says M. Joly, "and Philip, who had started on a mule, arrived at the convent soaked to the skin and covered with mud. The sister was brought to him and she appeared full of sweetness and unction. By way of beginning his theological examination, Philip sat down, held out his leg, and said to her: `Pull off my boots.' The sister drew herself up, scandalised. Philip had seen enough. He seized his hat and went back to the Vatican, to tell the Holy Father that a religious so devoid of humility could not possibly possess the graces and virtues she was credited with."
Another example of the same kind is given in a footnote: "It seems that in our own times a similar test has been held sufficient. A certain Rose Tamisier was supposed to be favored with extraordinary graces. A prudent ecclesiastic came to see her. `You are the saint, aren't you,' he said to her. `Yes, Father,' was the answer he got. The illusion was instantly detected.
The work of the Process on the Individual Virtues and Miracles is not complete until the body of the deceased servant of God and all relics and mementos of the deceased are formally identified. This identification forms a part of the duties of the Process, and the judges are bound, by directions given in the Remissorial Letter of the Pope, to visit the tomb, and to identify and describe the actual condition of the tomb and body of the servant of God, and also any relics or mementos of the deceased that may still survive.
And in carrying out the duties of this visitation the judges are bound to examine witnesses, two at the very least, regarding the precise place of sepulture and the identification of the body and relics of the deceased, and also to inspect all documents, judicial or nonjudicial, connected therewith and to incorporate them in the acts of the Process. It is their duty also to see that the experts deputed by them shall describe the body and relics minutely with all their qualities and surroundings, and to include in the acts of the Process the sworn declaration of such experts. And in no circumstances shall they permit any person, lay or cleric, of any state or dignity, no matter how exalted, to take away from the tomb, either from devotion or any other motive, any relic or souvenir of the deceased or to place any extraneous object in the tomb. Such action is prohibited under pain of excommunication, of which those present should be solemnly warned. If, on account of the dampness of the place, or from any other cause, it is found desirable to change the place of burial, permission to do so should first be obtained from the Holy See, and if such permission has not been procured everything should be replaced in precisely the same condition as before. The act of inspection is not carried out in public, but the judges are at liberty to admit a few clerical dignitaries and distinguished lay people. The medical experts, as well as the carpenters and grave diggers, are all sworn to carry out their respective duties faithfully. A new, leaden shell is prepared to contain the remains after examination; and a metal cylinder should be in readiness to hold a suitable epitaph, which is signed by the judges, the Subpromoters of the Faith, and the Notary. Two medical men must be present, of whom one should be a surgeon and the other a physician.
This visitation and identification are carried through with the utmost diligence. The acts of the last recognition by the Process on noncultus, if such exist, are taken from the archives of the Bishop and included in the present Process, in order that by comparison of the measurements, dimensions, and all other circumstances the identity of the remains may be proved beyond all possibility of doubt. Everything is most minutely described, the appearance of the body, the shroud, whether anything supernatural has been observed, and the medical men give the result of their examination in a sworn affidavit. Several sessions are held, with all the solemnities of other Apostolic Processes; all the evidence and documents connected with the Process are finally collected, and being duly signed and sealed, are sent by the accredited messenger to the Apostolic See.
All the elaborate care which the Church bestows on the identification and preservation of the bodies of servants of God is intimately connected with the Catholic teaching that all men shall rise again with the bodies they had in this life. The resurrection of the body is an article of the Apostles' Creed, and one of the most characteristic doctrines of Christianity. It has always been the teaching of the Church, revealed from on high, that the body is an essential element of our human nature, that man, body and soul, is the work of God, and that both are precious in His sight. And in accordance with this profession it has at all times been the discipline of the Church that the bodies of deceased persons should be treated with respectful consideration. And when there is question of servants of God whom the Church is about to declare with infallible voice as numbered amongst the blessed and whose bodies will rise again to a glorious life it is fitting that their earthly remains should be regarded with especial respect and reverence. The very idea of honoring the saints implies that we should venerate their relics; and reliquaries containing authenticated relics of canonized saints are by a natural instinct of devotion everywhere treasured in Catholic houses and religious communities.
When the sessions of this Process have come to an end, the acts and minutes are, as usual, sent to Rome for final judgment. And the discussion of the individual virtues is regarded as one of the more important discussions (dubia majora), of which, according to the constitution of the Congregation of Rites, only one can be proposed at the same time.
It is a noteworthy fact that the question of the virtues cannot be proposed for discussion until fifty years have elapsed since the decease of the servant of God, unless the Pope is pleased to grant a dispensation. The cause of Blessed Gabriel of the Dolours (died 1864, beatified 1908) is in our time a glorious example. And another illustrious example is St. Alphonsus Liguori, founder of the Redemptorist Order, who was so remarkable for his writings and for the simple austerity of his life.
Before entering upon the discussion of the virtues, a very important preliminary step is necessary - that is to say, the Congregation must pronounce judgment on the validity of all the Processes, both Informative and Apostolic, hitherto held. For this purpose the Procurator, or, in other words, the legal adviser of the Postulator, prepares a summary of the Processes to be examined. The usual objections are raised by the Promoter of the Faith, to which the Postulator replies. All the documents are collected by the Advocate of the cause, and he prepares a statement on the validity of the Processes. Then the Holy Father is petitioned to grant leave to have the discussion carried on at an ordinary meeting of the Congregation, and the question is there proposed "Is there satisfactory proof of the validity of the Processes constructed both by Apostolic and Ordinary authority: were the witnesses duly examined, and the legal documents properly inserted in the case and to the effect in question?" If all the difficulties are satisfactorily answered the decree establishing the validity of the Processes is published, and the way is now open for the discussion of the individual virtues and miracles.
The question of the virtues is first discussed, and here, as in other judgments, considerable preparation is necessary. Documents are put in order, objections and replies follow, and the statement on the virtues is drawn up. Then the question is formulated _ "Is there satisfactory evidence that the venerable servant of God practiced both the theological virtues and the cardinal virtues and those connected with them, and in the heroic degree, in the case and to the effect in question."
The point is discussed three times, first at what is called the antepreparatory meeting, next at a preparatory meeting, and finally at a general meeting. The first meeting takes place in the palace of the Cardinal Relator of the cause, and only Consulters of the Congregation are allowed to vote. The second takes place in the Vatican palace, and at this meeting only the Consulters aforesaid vote though the Cardinals of the Congregation are present and their chairman or prefect presides. The third is also held in the Vatican palace, and at this meeting the Pope presides, and both Cardinals and Consulters record their votes. For each of these meetings the advocate of the cause prepares reports, called respectively report (positio), new report, final report. Objections are raised by the Promoter of the Faith at each of these three Congregations, and before proceeding to the next meeting a majority of the Consulters must decide that all these objections have been satisfactorily answered. At the final meeting, the Pope presiding, a faithful narrative is given of the proceedings at the previous congregations, the final report of the Advocate is read, and the Cardinals and Consulters record their votes on the question. If the voting is favorable the Pope is asked to pronounce sentence accordingly; but His Holiness issues no decree at this stage, but commends himself earnestly to the prayers of those present in order that, guided by celestial light, he may decide the momentous question on its merits. If the decision of the Pope is favorable he orders, a few days afterwards, that a decree be prepared by the Secretary, which is immediately published. If the decision is adverse no decree is issued, and the silence of the Pope is accepted as his response.
It should be stated in fine that during each of the three days on which the aforementioned meetings are held the August Sacrament of the Eucharist is exposed for public adoration in the Churches of the places where the venerable servant of God lived or died.
If, as the title indicates, this Process investigates not only the virtues of the servant of God, but also the miracles worked through his intercession, the findings of the Process on the miracles must also be submitted to the Congregation of Rites for final judgment. This judgment always takes place after the judgment on the virtues, and the discussion is carried out in the same manner as that of the virtues. There is the statement on the miracles, which consists of the information, summary, objections and replies. If, however, the miracle is one of miraculous healing the Sacred Congregation requires not only the votes of the Consulters, as in the judgment on the virtues, but also the votes of expert physicians who give their votes in the interests of truth, to use the technical language. The votes of three experts are considered carefully in the antepreparatory meeting, and if they are regarded as insufficient other skilled physicians may be called upon to give their evidence and votes at the preparatory and general meetings of the Congregation. All the experts called upon are designated by the Cardinal Relator of the cause.
The final judgment belongs to the Supreme Pontiff, who, if satisfied, pronounces sentence that "there is satisfactory evidence regarding the miracle or miracles."
When the miracles have been proved, and the Supreme Pontiff has issued his decree declaring the proof satisfactory, a meeting of the Sacred Congregation is held, in which the question is debated "whether or not, given the approbation of the virtues and miracles, it is safe to proceed with the solemn beatification of the venerable servant of God." The meeting is held in accordance with the petition of the Postulator, in which he begs that the question be discussed. In the petition are incorporated the decrees approving of the virtues and miracles, and the views of the Promoter of the Faith are also added. The question is debated once only in a general meeting of the Congregation in presence of the Pope, with all due solemnity, including public exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. A vote of the Consulters is taken, and if the majority are favorable the Pope issues a decree authorizing the solemn beatification of the servant of God.
If the Postulator desires that the cause should proceed to canonization the procedure is briefly as follows: - As has been stated in the chapter on miracles, additional miracles must have been wrought since beatification through the intercession of the beatus: two miracles if the cause proceeds by way of noncultus, and four if by way of the excepted case, but even if only one miracle has been worked, this one may be examined, and others if they occur by a new Process. The Postulator then petitions the Pope for a Commission of the Reassumption of the Cause, and when this is obtained a Remissorial Letter is sent with directions for the construction of the Process. The ordinary course of Apostolic Processes is then followed; the decision of the Process is conveyed to the Sacred Congregation; judgment is given on the validity of the Process; the Sacred Congregation discusses the findings of the Process on the miracles, and the Pope pronounces sentence. The final stage is the discussion on the security (super tuto) with which advance to canonization may be made, and this discussion is held, as in the case of beatification. The decree of canonization is then issued by the Pope, and the solemnities take place at the appointed time.
This "Decree on the Safety" may be described as the last judicial act of the Church in causes of canonization. It is the culmination of all the Processes when everything goes well, it is the copingstone of the wallthe final touch of the brush which completes the picture. For Catholics the long procedure is invested with a sacred character; they recognize in the movement the protecting hand of infallibility. And nonCatholics too will often admit the overwhelming nature of the evidence brought forward to establish the sanctity of those proposed for canonization. As an illustration of the effect produced on the minds of two candid Protestants by an examination of the available evidence it is worth while repeating an authentic anecdote narrated by Monsignor Gaume. In the instance in question Cardinal Lambertini, afterwards Pope Benedict XIV., was Relator of the Cause, and as he was one day busy in his cabinet with an enormous bundle of papers, two English Protestants called to pay him a visit. The conversation had scarcely begun when a messenger from the Holy Father brought the Cardinal an order to come immediately to His Holiness. The Cardinal begged his noble visitors to excuse him, and, engaging them to wait, said to them: "If you like to examine this bundle you will not find the time so long." The proposal was accepted. Procedures, depositions. of witnesses, accounts of miracles, all sorts of documents were ransacked, scrutinized, and pondered during the absence of the Cardinal, who was delayed much longer than he had expected. "Well," said he on his return, "what do you think of our procedures?" "If the person referred to in the documents that we have examined," answered the two Englishmen, "be not canonized, you will never canonize anybody" "Do the proofs then seem sufficient to you?" "And more than sufficient!" "We are harder to please than you. If we do not receive other evidence the case will come to nothing." And the two Englishmen went away with one prejudice less, saying aloud that the Saints of the Roman Church had no ally in them, and that they themselves should not like to have their probity put to such a test.
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