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What is a Saint – The Ordinary Phase, Part 3

The process of “making” saints was one that evolved slowly throughout the centuries of Christian history. Detailed reform procedures came in 1588, when Pope Sixtus V created the Congregation of Rites and gave its officials responsibility for preparing papal canonizations and for the authentication of relics. It was not until the pontificate of Urban V111 (1623 – 1644) that the papacy finally gained full control over the making of saints. In a series of papal decrees, Urban defined the canonical procedures by which beatification and canonization would take place. (Making Saints, Kenneth L. Woodward, Simon & Schuster, 1990, Pg75.)

The process eventually progress into two definitive segments. They included two canonical processes, the Ordinary and the Apostolic. Upon the death of a person considered to have lived a holy life, people who knew the individual are wont to discuss the deceased person’s life of holiness among themselves and their local pastor and priests at the diocesan level. They then begin to pray to the deceased holy person for their intercession with God for “divine favors” that would help in alleviating personal mental and/or physical sufferings in their lives or of those among members of their families and friends. The favors requested could also involve deliverance from natural disasters as earthquakes, floods, etc.: even deliverance from political persecution, and so on. These prayers to the deceased could be answered in some degree. The magnitude of the degree would delineate a granted “divine favor” from a “miracle.” I shall not describe the difference at this time. However, should the incidences of transcendent influence continue to occur on behalf of the hopeful intercessory prayer of the deceased person for those praying for relief, usually events by the faithful become stimulated.

The Ordinary phase of investigation into the holiness of the candidate proceed through many phases. These include:

(1) The Prejuridical Phase is a time frame within which to evaluate the reputation of holiness of the candidate and determine whether the reputation is durable and has substance and not a passing phase of emotion and celebrity. Currently, the normal time frame could be as little as five years. The local bishops are wary to rush the process. However, during this phase an individual or group recognized by the Church can organize unofficial activities in anticipation of the formal process by organizing financial and spiritual support on behalf of the candidate. The innovators are called the “initiators” of the cause. They are usually members of religious orders, who may possess the expertise, resources and self interest to properly guide the process to conclusion.

In the case of Venerable Father Anthony Vincent Gallo that person was his younger brother, Don Mario Gallo, a consecrated Brother of the Redemptorist Order. Talk about Divine Providence!

Reports of divine favors

The “initiators” are permitted to collect money to support activities and expenses of the cause: solicit reports of divine favors, print prayer leaflets, write newsletters of current events occurring, and publish a biographical book of the life of holiness of the candidate. It is effect a promotional phase designed to promote private devotion to the candidate, and to convince the local bishop (ordinary) that a genuine and persistent reputation for holiness does factually exist.

The initiator(s) eventually become the “petitioner” of the cause when they formally request the bishop to open the official process.

(2) Informative Phase. If the local bishop is convinced that there is merit in the candidate, he institutes the Ordinary Process. The purpose of this process is to provide sufficient material to the Congregation of the Causes of Saints so that its officials can determine whether a formal process is merited. The local bishop convenes a tribunal of inquiry. Witnesses are summoned to testify both for and against the candidate. It is at this point in the initial investigatory process that the candidate is called “the servant of God.” The purpose of these investigative procedures is twofold: the first is to establish whether the candidate has a solid reputation for holiness, and second to gather preliminary testimony as to whether that testimony is supported by facts. The local bishop must determine that the Servant of God is not the object of a public cult; i.e., it must be proven that with the passage of time, the candidate has not become the object of veneration in a public way. This procedure is to attempt to prevent cults of veneration to saints that are not officially canonized by the pope

(3) Judgment of Orthodoxy. This is a process whereby the local bishop appoints officials to collect publish documents of the candidate, if any exist, as well as letters and unpublished writings of the candidate. These documents are forwarded to Rome to be examined by experts in theology to determine whether or not any writing has subject matter that are contrary to official Church doctrine. If any exist, the cause is halted immediately. Those who work at the congregation in Rome confirm that the failure to pass the test of doctrinal purity has been the major reason why causes have been halted or put on indefinite hold. Those candidates that were prolific writers and published many books and articles would result in a long period of examination and scrutiny by the congregation officials assigned to the task. Furthermore, all Servants of God must receive from Rome a “nihil obstat” that there is nothing objectionable about them in the Vatican’s files; particularly in the files of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which is charged with the defense of faith and morals. This is in addition to any of the other nine congregations that would have reason to keep data on the candidate.

(4) The Roman Phase. This the point at which real deliberations begins. As soon as the dossiers from the local bishop arrive at the congregation, responsibility for the cause is assigned to a postulator resident in Rome. His responsibility is to represent the petitioner, who paid by him. The petitioner also pays for the services of a defense lawyer selected by the postulator from among many canon lawyers, lay and clerical, who are licensed by the Holy See to handle causes. From the materials provided by the local bishop, the lawyer prepares a brief aimed at proving to the congregation’s judges that the cause should be officially introduced. In his brief, the lawyer argues that a true reputation for sanctity exists and the cause contains sufficient evidence to justify a fuller inquiry into the virtues of the Servant of God.

The Promoter of the Faith or Devil’s Advocate prepares his own brief in objection to the defense lawyer’s brief arguments. This exchange is usually repeated several times and many years-even decades-elapse before all differences between the advocate for the cause and the Promoter of the Faith are satisfactorily resolved. Eventually, a printed volume called a “Positio” is prepared which contains all the material developed at that point, including the arguments of the Promoter of the Faith and the advocate defending the cause. The Positio is studied by the cardinals and official prelates at an official meeting in the Apostolic Palace. If they make a positive judgment, the implication is that there a good grounds for the cause for a Processus (trial.)

Upon acceptance of the cause by the congregation, notice is sent to the pope. If he has not objection, he issues a Decree of Introduction. This decree passes the jurisdiction of the cause to the Holy See, and is now called the Apostolic Process.

In effect, the Apostolic Process is a more exacting version of the Ordinary Process; its purpose is to prove that the candidate’s reputation for holiness is based on fact. Thr Promoter of the Faith (Devil’s Advocate) and the defense advocate for the cause again commence their briefs and counter briefs concerning the practice of heroic virtue by the candidate during his/her lifetimes. They are wrangle again over the letters, published writings and books of the candidate to clearly ascertain their purity of Church doctrine.

After all this is completed, the postulator and the advocate of the cause prepare another document called the “Informatio,” which outlines in systematic detail the case for proving heroic virtue. All supporting testimony and documents are attached to the Informatio. It is sent to the Promoter of the Faith, who, after extensive study, answers with all of his objections. This exchange is printed into a volume with attached documents and submitted to the official of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints and their theological consultors for study and judgment. The issues are debated in similar fashion with study and judgment by th congregations officials a second and a third time. At the second go around cardinals of the congregation are involved. At the third time, the pope also is involved. If, then, the candidate is judged to have practice virtue in the heroic degree, he/she is entitled to be called “Venerable.”

(5) Examination of the Corpse. Sometime prior to Beatification the body of the candidate is exhumed for identification by the local bishop. If it is discovered that the body is not that of the Servant of God, the cause continues, but all prayers and similar private devotions at the gravesite must cease. This examination is for examination purposes only.. But if it revealed that the body is incorrupt, this discovery can influence interest in and support for the cause among the faithful. However, the Roman Catholic Church does not regard an incorrupt body as sign of sanctity. Environmental factors, Church officials believe are sufficient to explain such anomalies. This was not always the case. Through the early centuries of Church history, the bodies of saints gave off a sweet scent – “the odor of sanctity,” it was called-an incorruption that was taken as a strong indication of divine favor.

This tradition continues to move the faithful, in not officials of the congregation.

process of determining the sanctity of the candidate. The rank, if you will, of “Venerable” is an enormous accomplishment for the candidate’s cause on earth. The Church has officially proclaimed that the candidate, through human investigation and judgment, of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints and officially approved by the pope, the Successor of St. Peter, that the candidate is a saint based on all human evidence available.

The cause of the Venerable Father Anthony Vincent Gallo is currently at this most impressive juncture.

But, in all causes of saints, God has yet to speak! How? Through His granting of a miracle in answer to the intercessory prayers to the candidate, that he/she intercede for them with God to grant the miracle.

The next giant step to sainthood is the proclamations of the candidate to the status of “Blessed.” This is proclaimed when the candidate is beatified. It is necessary for Beatification that at least one miracle be attributed to the intercession of the candidate with God.  At lease a second miracle through the candidate’s intercession, subsequent to Beatification, is necessary for the candidate to be Canonized a saint. The pope officially proclaims that the candidate is a recognized saint in heaven.

God has spoken! I refer to this as the Testimony of God!


What is a Saint?
Continue Reading:

Part 1: What is a Saint? – Understanding God’s Love

Part 2: What is a Saint? – Purgatory

Part 4: What is a Saint – The Ordinary Phase Continues



Resources for “What is a Saint?”

The Jerusalem Bible – Reader’s Edition, with abridged introductions and notes, Doubleday, Division of Random House Inc., March 2000, General Editor – Alexander Jones, Nihil Obstat – Lionel Swain S.T.L., L.L.S., Imprimatur – John Cardinal Heenan, Westminster 4 July 1966.

Encyclopedia of Catholicism, Richard P. McBrien, General Editor, Harper San Francisco.

Making Saints, Kenneth L. Woodward, Simon & Schuster, 1990.

Dogmatic Constitution of the Church

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