ECCLESIAL FUNCTION OF THE CANONIZATION
What are the reasons driven by the Church to continue promoting the Causes of Canonization?
Which are the function of the same causes in today’s world?
All Christ’s disciples are called and invited to the sanctity (Mt 5:48), by the baptism, we have been made participants of the divine nature. All we drink from the same source of sanctity.
In ontological sense, there is no difference between the age of a mediocre Christian or that of the Christian who practices the virtues in a heroic level and are intimately united to Christ. There is, however, a difference of level, of growth, of intensity in the union with Christ, as there is, for instance, a difference of intensity in any kind of friendship.
The sanctity is no other thing than the union with God. As much intimate is this union, greater will be the level of sanctity of a person. The Saints are the giants of the sanctity.
The Church from the very beginning, aware of the great power of intercession of those who, during life were united intimately to Christ and enjoy now the sanctity in heaven, proposes to the faithful, as examples of life in the following of Christ and as intercessors before God, first the MARTYRS who, in an act of immense love for Christ, offered their lives for the defence of faith; later on the CONFESSORS, who with the exercise of the virtues in a heroic level, were faithful imitators of Christ, model and source of all sanctity. They come up, thus, the CAUSES OF CANONIZATION with the formal intervention of the Church that regulates the piety of the faithful and declares, in virtue of the infallibility of the Pope, that the so called servant of God enjoys the glory of heaven.
The BEATIFICATION and CANONIZATION presuppose always a high sanctity, an intimate union with God; however, neither martyrdom nor the exercise of the heroic virtues during life demand or suppose the beatification or canonization.
Not always are elected as candidates to the canonization those more holy before God. And this has its explanation. A cause of canonization carries some considerable expenses, and requires a constant effort and, especially, an effort and dedication that can last many years. All this supposes an organization, an entity that goes beyond the individuals. It is understood thus that there are beatified and sanctified more religious than diocesan priests, and more priests than laity. The fact that they were not proposed to the canonization candidates who were people who reached, surely, in the world a high level of sanctity before God, is not a question of clericalism, or the predilection for certain categories of people, but to the lack of sensitivity and organization of the ecclesial community in which the servant of God lived. Thanks to God, in the last times, there is a bigger sensitivity in the faithful people. There are now many causes of canonization of laity pendent in the Congregation to which a special care is dedicated and, in the equality of conditions, they have precedence over the others.
On the other hand, we do not try to reward on earth those of a Christian who was a hero of sanctity. Nor the beatification or canonization can increase the glory of the blessed or the saint, who are enjoying in heaven the presence of God. Both, however, have a SOCIAL FUNCTION, an ECCLESIAL FUNCTION. In the election of the candidates to the honour of the altars, we should not lose sight of this essential finality of the beatification and canonization.
THE FINAL AIM OF THE CANONIZATION ARE NOT THE SERVANTS OF GOD, BUT THE FAITHFUL. They are the targets and the beneficiary of the same. The saints have not the need to be declared as such. They are the faithful who have the need that the Church continues promoting constantly new models of sanctity, able to help them hear in any condition of life the gospel message, and they are precisely the saints the creative pioneers and prototypes of the kinds of sanctity necessary in a determined period. Practicing a new style of living Christianity, shows that a determined form of life and action offers possibilities of fulfilling as man and a Christian; they teach with experience that also “THUS”, in this specific conditions of ambience and work, one can be Christian. For that, a servant of God is so much canonizable as attractive and stimulating be the message that he can offer to the modern world and greater his fame of sanctity, so that the faithful can be encouraged to follow his steps and examples.
The saints have not only the function of serving as incentive, stimulus for the faithful, but they contribute to fortify and increase the existing union between the triumphant Church and the pilgrim Church. In brief:
THE BEATIFICATION is an act by which the Church allows that, in certain places or by a certain category of people, a servant of God be honoured with public cult, with the title of Blessed.
THE CANONIZATION is a public, solemn and definitive declaration of the infallible Magisterium, made necessarily by the Pope, by which it is affirmed that the Blessed is found among the blessed in heaven and is commanded to render him public cult –without restriction- by the universal Church.
Concerning the requisites demanded for the beatification and canonization, we can reduce them to the HEROISM OF THE VIRTUES, MARTYRDOM and MIRACLES.