It was announced yesterday by the Vatican that John Paul the Great will be beatified May 1, 2011 on Divine Mercy Sunday. This date is fitting because it was JPII who proclaimed the second Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday in 2000, the same day of St. Faustina's (of Poland) canonization.
Fr. John Zulsdorf (aka Fr. Z) shares some thoughts on the speedy beatification process of JPII:
In the combox of this blog some people are expressing confusion or dismay about the rapid beatification of Ven. John Paul II.
As you know, it was announced that the Beatification will take place on 1 May. This is just over six years since the late Pope’s death.
The process of cause of a saint or the examination of a claimed miracle or the investigation of a possible martyrdom are “processes”. I don’t mean to be circular. A “process” in this sense is like a legal process, it is like a trial.
Evidence is gathered according to a rigorous standard of documentation, people are deposed under oath, and a case is presented. Others examine the methods by which everything is gathered and they study the content. They conduct their own investigations to find if anything important might be missing, by accident or on purpose. Various commissions, scientific, historical, and theological give opinions. Eventually everything is presented before members of the Congregation, cardinals and bishops, who give their opinion, much as a jury would. If they give their approval, a decision is issued in the form of a decree – Congregations have jurisdiction to issue decrees – and it goes to the Church’s highest judge, the Roman Pontiff.
At that point the Roman Pontiff can choose to promulgate the decree or not.
This is like a juridical process or case because a claim has been made and, in justice, they truth of the claim has to be determined. It is a matter of justice for the one who made the claim in the first place and was the “actor” (from Latin ago) for the cause. He has a support staff, as a client would have lawyers and experts.
Sometimes it take years, decades, to assemble the proofs for a cause. It often depends not just on the date of death of the servant of God in question, but also, particularly, on the resources of the actor. The actor has to provide all the money for research, travel, documentation, copies, translations, scientific studies, etc. etc. This can be very costly, especially if the person was very famous and had a large quantity of of writings, speeches, many people knew him. Sometimes the actor has to provide the motivation to move forward as well. He will get someone to oversee the mechanics of the process and keep it going.
Consider that in the case of John Paul II, there were literally kilometers of documents from his pontificate, many thousands of speeches, he lived a long life and many people knew him, etc. However, the actor in this cause had tremendous resources and was able to get a strong team together and get everything done. On the other hand, in the case of Fr. McGiveny, founder of the Knights of Columbus, there were so few writings, letters, sermons, personal materials, that that part of the cause went quickly.
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints published the decree for the beatification, in part below. Full text here.
Beatification: Sign of the depth of faith and invitation to a fully Christian life
The proclamation of a Saint or of a Blessed by the Church is the fruit of putting together various aspects regarding a specific Person. First, it is an act which says something important in the life of the Church herself. It is linked to a “cult”, i.e. to the memory of the person, to his full acknowledgment of him in the awareness of the ecclesial community, of the country, of the Universal Church in various countries, continents and cultures. Another aspect is the awareness that the “presentation on the altars” will be an important sign of the depth of the faith, of the diffusion of faith in the path of life of that person, and that this sign will become an invitation, a stimulus for us all towards a Christian life ever more profound and full. Finally, the sine qua non condition is the holiness of the person’s life, verified during the precise and formal canonical proceedings. All this provides the material for the decision of the Successor of Peter, of the Pope in view of the proclamation of a Blessed or of a Saint, of the cult in the context of the ecclesial community and of its liturgy.
John Paul II’s pontificate was an eloquent and clear sign, not only for Catholics, but also for world public opinion, for people of all colour and creed. The world’s reaction to his lifestyle, to the development of his apostolic mission, to the way he bore his suffering, to the decision to continue his Petrine mission to the end as willed by divine Providence, and finally, the reaction to his death, the popularity of the acclamation “Saint right now!” which someone made on the day of his funerals, all this has its solid foundation in the experience of having met with the person who was the Pope. The faithful have felt, have experienced that he is “God’s man”, who really sees the concrete steps and the mechanisms of contemporary world “in God”, in God’s perspective, with the eyes of a mystic who looks up to God only. He was clearly a man of prayer: so much so that it is from the dynamism of his personal union with God, from the permanent listening to what God wants to say in a concrete situation, that the whole of “Pope John Paul II’s activity” flowed. Those who were closest to him have been able to see that, prior to his meetings with his guests, with Heads of State, with Church high officials or ordinary citizens, John Paul II would recollect himself in prayer according to the intentions of the guests and of the meeting that was to come.