PRESS RELEASE OF THE POSTULATOR OF THE CAUSE OF BEATIFICATION AND CANONIZATION OF MOTHER TERESA
The Significance of Friday, 20 December 2002
Twice a year, before Christmas and in July, the Pope approves decrees on heroic virtues and on miracles. On Friday, December 20, the decrees to be approved include those concerning Mother Teresa’s heroic virtues and the miracle attributed to her intercession. Since this is the final step towards beatification, shortly after the decrees are approved, an announcement will be made concerning the date and place of Mother Teresa’s Beatification.
What is a Saint?
A saint is a disciple of Jesus Christ, who “lived a life of extraordinary fidelity to the Lord.” Saints are people who in this life were so united to Jesus Christ that with His help they strove to do “the will of the Father in everything,” devoting themselves “to the glory of God and to the service of their neighbor.” Saints give us shining examples of all the virtues, including: faith, hope, and love both of God and every human being; prudence (or practical wisdom), justice, fortitude (or courage), and temperance (or self-mastery); detachment, purity, and obedience; humility, simplicity and magnanimity. Each saint is noteworthy for certain particular virtues. For this reason, the Church proposes them to its members as friends and companions in the following of Christ, as models to imitate, and as intercessors with God.
Mother Teresa was known around the world for her whole-hearted and free service to the poorest of the poor, a virtue which lifted the hearts of many to God and inspired many to imitate her.
What is the meaning of Beatification?
The canonization of a saint is a solemn act by which the Pope, the supreme authority in the Catholic Church, declares that a person practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, is with God in heaven and is to be venerated throughout the whole Church. The Pope enrolls the person on the list of Saints. Another word for list is “canon,” hence the term “canonization.” The expression, “raised to the altars,” often used as an equivalent of “canonization,” means that the person is assigned a feast day in the yearly schedule of the Church’s liturgical celebrations. This assigning of a feast day is done at the time of beatification.
Beatification is a step in the process of canonization. By it the Pope allows public veneration of the person in the local Church, within the religious congregation with which he or she was associated, and in other places by those who receive such permission. Note the difference: a Saint should be honored in liturgical celebrations by the universal, that is, the whole Church, whereas a “Blessed” may be so honored in certain places.
The aim of the work before beatification is to establish as accurately as possible the historic facts of the candidate’s life, to demonstrate the way the candidate practiced the Christian virtues, and to show that the members of the Church, that is, “the faithful,” consider him or her to be holy and, therefore, worthy of veneration.
This process has two stages. The first stage, the Diocesan Phase, is the responsibility of the local church where the candidate lived; in Mother Teresa’s case, the Archdiocese of Calcutta. This phase, under the authority of the local bishop and assisted by a Postulator, focuses on gathering information - collecting documents and interviewing witnesses – on the life, virtues, and reputation of sanctity of the candidate for canonization. Once the Diocesan Phase opens, the candidate may be referred to as a “Servant of God.”
The second stage is the Roman Phase. The findings of the local church are transferred to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints [CCS], an office of the Vatican, for study and evaluation. This work is done by the Postulator under the supervision of an official of the CCS. After study by a panel of theologians and a commission of cardinals and bishops, the CCS presents its findings to the Pope for his judgment.
When the Pope affirms that the Servant of God indeed lived a heroic Christian life, he or she is then called the “Venerable Servant of God.” Upon the approval of a miracle attributed to the person’s intercession, the beatification ceremony may be held.
Miracle A miracle is an extraordinary event, which is scientifically inexplicable and, in a cause for canonization, is directly attributable to the intercession of the Servant of God. In the causes of saints, the miracles investigated are usually cures, because they are more easily documented. Miracles and graces or favours, granted after prayers to the Servant of God, serve as evidence that God Himself is the origin of that person’s reputation of holiness. A miracle is a sign of divine approval. Miracles confirm that it is God who has aroused in the faithful the opinion that a particular Servant of God is worthy of canonization.
An event proposed as a miracle is subjected to a thorough scientific investigation by experts. For beatification one authentic miracle must be recognized as obtained through the intercession of the Servant of God.
From Blessed to Saint A Servant of God who is beatified is called “Blessed.” The Blessed may be canonized after the occurrence of one more miracle attributed to his or her intercession.
Mother Teresa will always remain Mother for those who knew her, hence many people will call her “Blessed Mother Teresa,” but officially she will be known as “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta” and later, God willing, as “Saint Teresa of Calcutta.”
The Purpose of Canonization By honouring its children who lived as heroes of faith and love, the Church recognizes the power of the Holy Spirit within her. Saints give us joy; their example sustains our hope; and their friendship increases our love and union with God and with each other. A canonization is a way of giving thanks to God as we honor the person who has been so faithful to God’s plan in his or her life.