Skip to comments.Beatification of Mother Teresa of Calcutta - October 19, 2003
Posted on 10/18/2003 3:58:09 PM PDT by NYer
What It Means To Be Blessed
For many, even in the Church, the Catholic practice of beatifying and canonizing is an enigma. Why does the Church do it? How does the Church do it? What are the implications of being canonized, or in the case of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, beatified?
General History. First it should be noted that according to the testimony of Sacred Scripture every Christian is a saint. The Greek New Testament speaks in many places of the hagios (Acts 9:32; Rom 15:25, 31; Eph 1:1; Col. 1:2; Jude 1:3 and others). The Latin Vulgate speaks of the sancti, which is rendered in some English translations as the saints and in others as the holy ones. As St. Peter tells Christians, "you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." The saints are set apart by God through baptism, filled with His divine life (the Kingdom of God within), and called to announce that Kingdom's presence in the world to the whole human race. Thus it is that in the Scriptural usage all of those baptized into Christ and in the state of grace can rightly be called saints.
In another sense, stricter and more technical, the saints are those in whom Christ's victory over sin, the devil and death has not just begun, as it has in us, but has been completed. This is the case when the wayfaring state of earthy life is concluded and the holiness of life attained in the pilgrim's state is realized perfectly in heaven. Even while saying that no one is truly good but God (Mt 19:17), Christ called us to the perfection of goodness, of holiness, "be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48, Mt 19:21; Col. 4:12, James 1:4), since nothing imperfect will enter into heaven (Rev 21:27).
The early Church understood that only the Christian who followed Christ perfectly would go immediately into the heavenly Jerusalem. Others would enter the purifying fires of purgation "to be made perfect," from which they would not depart until they had "paid the last penny" (Mt 5:26, 1 Cor 3:13, 15). Since perfection was conformity to Christ in His death, a process begun at baptism, the martyr (literally, witness) for Christ was seen to have achieved the goal. Thus, during the age of persecution (from Pentecost to 311 AD) esteem for those Christians who had been killed in hatred of the faith (in odium fidei) lead them to extol their example of heroic witness to Christ, to guard and preserve their relics (the trophies of victory over death) and to celebrate the anniversary of their birthday into eternal life. The Circular Letter of the Church of Smyrna on the Martyrdom of St. Polycarp (155 AD) illustrates this esteem perfectly.
We have at last gathered his bones, which are dearer to us than priceless gems and purer than gold, and laid them to rest where it was befitting they should lie. And if it be possible for us to assemble again, may God grant us to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom with gladness, thus to recall the memory of those who fought in the glorious combat, and to teach and strengthen by his example, those who shall come after us.
Finally, the greatest tribute of honor that could be rendered to the martyr was to have his or her name mentioned in the Canon (or Eucharistic Prayer) of the Mass, accompanying the Lord in His Redemptive Sacrifice. This was done on their feast day, the day of their entry into eternal life. The Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer 1) retains the eloquent testimony of the Roman Church for the Mother of the Lord, for the apostles, and the most significant martyrs of Rome and Italy.
"In union with the whole Church ...we honor Mary ... Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude; we honor Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian." (Communicantes)
"For ourselves, too, we ask some share in the fellowship of your apostles and martyrs, with John the Baptist, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia and all the saints." (Nobis quoque peccatoribus)
Thus, in the early centuries of the Church the popular acclaim of sanctity in the martyrs, the veneration of their relics, the honoring of their names in private and liturgical prayer (with the consent of the local bishop) canonized important witnesses to Christ in the universal, and the local, Church, as examples of the perfect fidelity to which all Christians are called.
Although the age of martyrs has never truly ended, the relative peace that existed after the Edict of Milan in 311 meant that martyrdom was a rarer example of perfection than it had been. The Church began to look for other models of holiness, other ways in which conformity to Christ could be a witness to the faithful and the world, the living out in daily Christian life of the dying to self and living for Christ undertaken in baptism. This witness was found in those whose white martyrdom of heroic virtue confessed to the world the triumph of light over darkness, of grace over sin, of the new man over the old man (Eph 4:17-24), and thus of Christ over Satan. Thus, such Confessors, the witness of whose life had the fame of holiness, began to enter the roles of the canonized.
This cultus* (religious veneration) was generally of a single diocese, but as the fame of the person spread it could encompass several dioceses, and in the case of Mary, the apostles and other significant figures be universal in fact. Although the records of early Church Councils shows occasional interventions to correct abuses in the naming of saints and to establish criteria for their acclamation, the process continued to be a local one with some few examples of Popes declaring saints of universal veneration.
The first canonical process seems to be that of Pope Urban II (1089-99), in the "Cause" of Nicholas of Trani. The Bishop of Trani was ordered to conduct a local investigation into his alleged sanctity and miracles, which then would be submitted to the Pope for judgement. This first "Cause" dragged on over several pontificates, and seems not to have been concluded favorably. It also seems to have occasioned developments in the legal procedures themselves, Callistus II (1119-24) requiring all causes to include a critical biography of the Servant of God. As often happens in the Church, abuses brought about major developments in Church practice. In 1170 Pope Alexander III decreed that no one could be declared a saint without the permission of the Supreme Pontiff. This was precipitated by the acclamation as saint of a Swedish "martyr" who was killed while drunk, and thus could not be truly said to be a willing witness for Christ. This regulation was formally incorporated into Church law by Pope Gregory IX in 1234.
The centralization of the canonization process in Rome was an inevitable development of the Church's theological and canonical Tradition. While the acclamation of the faithful and the acceptance of the bishop is in most cases an adequate witness to the holiness of the person, it only provides a moral certainty, a reasonable credibility, that the person is in heaven. In order to give universal witness to the sanctity of someone a higher standard needed to be invoked, that of the charism of the infallibility of the Church. According to Catholic teaching the Church, the Mystical Christ, cannot err in matters of faith and morals (Jn 16:13). The practical exercise of this infallibility falls to the apostolic office, which in the name and by the authority of Christ the Head of the Church intends to bind the faithful in a matter of faith or morals. This can be done either by the college of bishops as a whole, as in a Council (Acts 15:28 15:28), or by the Successor of St. Peter (Lk 22:32, Acts 15:7-12 15:7-12). By the grace of the Holy Spirit Christ protects such judgements of universal import for the Church from error. The common opinion of theologians historically, therefore, is that papal Canonization is an exercise of the charism of infallibility, protecting the Church from raising an unfitting individual to the universal veneration of the faithful. As in the case of a dogmatic declaration, the declaration of a saint inserts that person into the heart of the Church's life, in this case into the central mystery of the faith, the Eucharist, and must by its nature be free from error.
Cause for Beatification/Cause for Canonization.
According to an ancient theological axiom grace builds on nature. For this reason the Church is very careful to exhaust the human and reasonable means of determining the sanctity of a person before relying on supernatural ones. As noted earlier the papal canonization process quickly developed certain procedures which had to be followed in the diocese and in Rome, such as the collecting of evidence, of testimonies of witnesses and the writing of a critical biography. By the fourteenth century two regular processes were in place, the Cause for Beatification and the Cause for Canonization. The first, when successfully concluded, allowed some measure of veneration of the Blessed by the faithful, in his or her diocese, by a religious order, by a nation. The second permitted universal veneration of the Saint by the Church. The concluding stage of each was conducted in the form of a trial, with sides for or against. The office of the Promoter of the Faith or Devil's Advocate, who argued against the Servant of God, dates from this era.
The Processes have gone through several revisions and refinements over the centuries, including two recent ones, under Pope Paul VI in 1969 and under Pope John Paul II in 1983. Included in Pope Paul's reforms were the consolidation of the processes into a single Cause for Canonization. Notable in those of Pope John Paul II was the elimination of the Devil's Advocate, as well as many procedural changes.
What it means to be Blessed.
Up until the beatification of a Servant of God Catholics must observe a strict rule of non cultus, meaning that while they may privately pray to and venerate an individual whom they believe to be in heaven there may not be any public acts of religious veneration. In fact, the presence of a cultus before the approval of the Church is given can end the candidacy of a Servant of God.
With Beatification a number of marks of veneration can be given to a person. The most important one is that a feast day, with its proper Mass and Office (Liturgy of the Hours), can be granted to particular dioceses and religious orders and congregations. For example, Blessed Takeri Tekawitha, the Lily of the Mohawks, is celebrated on the liturgical calendars of the U.S. and Canada. In the U.S. and Mexico there is a feast day for Blessed Juan Diego, the visionary of Guadalupe. By analogy, this privilege is somewhat akin to the practice of episcopal canonization earlier in Church history, except that a bishop manifests to Rome his flock's desire to venerate a Blessed and Rome grants such local veneration.
With beatification comes the restricted right to venerate the relics of Pius and John, to have public prayers to them and to honor their images in places of worship where this is granted by the Holy See. It is restricted in the sense that it is the veneration of a part of the Church and not the whole, and lacks the finality of canonization.
*Cultus. A certain negativity has attached itself to the English term cult (a false, exaggerated religious system) which should not be applied to the older, properly understood, Latin term cultus. The Latin term in the ancient world had the meaning of religious worship of God or a god. It could be applied to the True God (which would be legitimate) or to a pagan god among gods (which would be idolatry). In using the term, but with specific theological meaning, the Church distinguishes between the forms of worship appropriate to God, Trinity, Christ and the Blessed Sacrament (called latria, worship or adoration, in the strict sense), and the forms of veneration and honor appropriate to the Blessed Virgin, the angels and the saints (called hyperdulia or the greatest measure of veneration in the case of Mary and dulia or simple veneration in the case of the angels and other saints). It is a principle of justice that we must honor, respect and show gratitude in proper measure to those who are part of God's plan for our natural and supernatural life. God commands it in the Fourth Commandment. This includes our natural parents who gave us life, but also those to whom we owe a debt for their role in the redemption (1 Cor 4:14-16, Heb. 13:7), first among whom is the Blessed Virgin Mary (Lk 1:48).But without the fidelity of the angels, who served as God's messengers, of the prophets, of the apostles, the evangelists, the Fathers and the great and holy men and women of all ages, we today would not have the faith. That is the foundation of our individual and collective gratitude for the working of God's grace in their lives and thus of their cultus (in the way understood by the Church).
Sunday Oct. 19, at 4:00am ET in North America
Encores will be seen Sunday Oct. 19, 12:00 pm & 6:30 pm ET
Monday October 20 12:30 am ET
Tuesday October 21 9:00 am ET
Thursday October 23 9:00 am ET
Saturday October 25 4:00 pm ET
My alarm clock is set and I'll be watching the events as they unfold - LIVE - from Rome! (super large mug of hot java in hand ;-) ).
I believe you can watch it live over the Internet. Check the web site:
Mass this evening was said by the former associate pastor, whom I had never met. In his homily, he mentioned that this was a big week for saints! He then proceeded to 'quizz' the parishioners on which saints had feast days this week (not a real quizz!). Of course, thanks to your Daily Mass Reading posts, I knew them all, even Ignatius of Antioch ... lol.
This priest was asked to fill in as our pastor, along with many other priests and the bishop went to Rome. Ironically, this mass was by far, one of the most reverent I have ever witnessed in this diocese. Normally the pastor uses that oversized host for the consecration. This priest chose a smaller one and held it so devoutly as he elevated it, that it brought tears to my eyes. He spoke the words of consecration directly against the host and into the chalice. Even more amazing, we had 3 altar boys, two male lectors and two male EEMs.
After mass, I made a point of approaching him to compliment and thank him for the beautiful liturgy. He was most appreciative. I asked him to which parish he was attached. None! He is the chaplain at the catholic hospital.
He spoke so lovingly of the pope and Mother Teresa. If anyone deserved to be in Rome, it was this humble servant of God. Grrrrr! Such is life in a liberal diocese.
It is a great poverty that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.
-- Mother Teresa
|Sunday, October 19, 2003
If you had one wish, what would you ask for? Good health and long life? Wealth? Power? The conversion of loved ones? Honor and praise from others? How about meaningful work with a lot of suffering and few external rewards?
When James and John asked for seats of honor and authority in Jesus kingdom, the other apostles became indignant, apparently jealous of being passed over. But Jesus gently asked these two men whether they were prepared to follow him down the only road to his kingdom, which is the way of the cross.
Baptized into his death, all Christians will reign with him. But how do we live out the reality of that union? Jesus tells us we wont find good models in secular society, where leaders lord it over those they are called to lead. For this, we have to look to Jesus, who came as the slave of all, and to the men and women who imitated him.
One such woman was Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who will be beatified today in Rome. For more than fifty years, Mother Teresa dedicated herself to serving the poorest of the poor throughout the world. Along with the sisters who joined her religious order, she didnt just help the poor; she lived among them, embracing a life of poverty in imitation of Jesus, who also became poor so that we could become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). And as she did, she discovered the same truth about material goods that Jesus sought to teach James and John about prestige and worldly respect: The more you have, the more you are occupied, and the less you give. But the less you have, the more free you are. Poverty for us is a freedom.
Because she wanted to be filled only with Christ, Mother Teresa was able to give generously, both of herself and of Jesus love. Often, the work was exhausting and thankless. But it also generated laughter, hope, and glimpses of the glory of God. As we celebrate Mother Teresas beatification today, lets follow her example. Lets fix our eyes on Jesus and ask him to help us serve as fully as heand shedid.
Holy Spirit, you upheld Jesus throughout his life. Grant me eyes of faith to see you and the heart of compassion to share you with others. Make me a living witness to the love that can transform the world.
September 5, 2007
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the tiny woman recognized throughout the world for her work among the poorest of the poor, was beatified October 19, 2003. Among those present were hundreds of Missionaries of Charity, the Order she founded in 1950 as a diocesan religious community. Today the congregation also includes contemplative sisters and brothers and an order of priests.
Speaking in a strained, weary voice at the beatification Mass, Pope John Paul II declared her blessed, prompting waves of applause before the 300,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square. In his homily, read by an aide for the aging pope, the Holy Father called Mother Teresa one of the most relevant personalities of our age and an icon of the Good Samaritan. Her life, he said, was a bold proclamation of the gospel.
Mother Teresa's beatification, just over six years after her death, was part of an expedited process put into effect by Pope John Paul II. Like so many others around the world, he found her love for the Eucharist, for prayer and for the poor a model for all to emulate.
Born to Albanian parents in what is now Skopje, Macedonia (then part of the Ottoman Empire), Gonxha (Agnes) Bojaxhiu was the youngest of the three children who survived. For a time, the family lived comfortably, and her father's construction business thrived. But life changed overnight following his unexpected death.
During her years in public school Agnes participated in a Catholic sodality and showed a strong interest in the foreign missions. At age 18 she entered the Loreto Sisters of Dublin. It was 1928 when she said goodbye to her mother for the final time and made her way to a new land and a new life. The following year she was sent to the Loreto novitiate in Darjeeling, India. There she chose the name Teresa and prepared for a life of service. She was assigned to a high school for girls in Calcutta, where she taught history and geography to the daughters of the wealthy. But she could not escape the realities around herthe poverty, the suffering, the overwhelming numbers of destitute people.
In 1946, while riding a train to Darjeeling to make a retreat, Sister Teresa heard what she later explained as a call within a call. The message was clear. I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them. She also heard a call to give up her life with the Sisters of Loreto and, instead, to follow Christ into the slums to serve him among the poorest of the poor.
After receiving permission to leave Loreto, establish a new religious community and undertake her new work, she took a nursing course for several months. She returned to Calcutta, where she lived in the slums and opened a school for poor children. Dressed in a white sari and sandals (the ordinary dress of an Indian woman) she soon began getting to know her neighborsespecially the poor and sickand getting to know their needs through visits.
The work was exhausting, but she was not alone for long. Volunteers who came to join her in the work, some of them former students, became the core of the Missionaries of Charity. Other helped by donating food, clothing, supplies, the use of buildings. In 1952 the city of Calcutta gave Mother Teresa a former hostel, which became a home for the dying and the destitute. As the Order expanded, services were also offered to orphans, abandoned children, alcoholics, the aging and street people.
For the next four decades Mother Teresa worked tirelessly on behalf of the poor. Her love knew no bounds. Nor did her energy, as she crisscrossed the globe pleading for support and inviting others to see the face of Jesus in the poorest of the poor. In 1979 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. On September 5, 1997, God called her home.
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