Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Beatification: NOT the last stop!

Fourteen years ago, I was in the spring semester of Third Theology, preparing for ordination to the Diaconate. There were two of us from the Metuchen Diocese at The Mount, and both of us wanted to be ordained with our seminary classmates at the Basilica of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg. I went to see my Bishop, to ask him for permission for the two of us to be ordained "out west". Bishop Hughes said he had no problem with it. Diaconate ordinations, he said, can get a little "over the top", especially when done at the home parish of the guy being ordained. The zeal of the parishioners to make it a wonderful celebration means it can, at times, end up eclipsing the Priesthood ordination that will follow the following year.

This was a thought I've been having in the aftermath of Pope John Paul's Beatification. What could be done to top it? Could the crowd be any bigger? The all-star lineup any more impressive? The weather nicer? The music more glorious? Sadly, there's nowhere to go BUT down when it comes to expectations from both within and outside the Church (and the media will be looking for some way to criticize it).

In the case of seminarians, the Diaconate is wonderful, but not the ultimate goal. Similarly, Beatification is marvelous and terrific and (to be British for a moment) brilliant, but not the final goal. The final goal is Canonization. There is no "striving for permanent beatification", and stopping there.

There is another thought here (my head is full of 'em): Pope Benedict is no fool. He is the one who returned the tradition of beatification Masses being celebrated not by the Pope, but by a designated Cardinal (usually the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints). Of course, being Pope has it's perks, and when it's someone you have a fondness for, you can always bump the tradition and do it yourself. Pope Benedict did for Blessed John Henry Newman, and obviously here for Blessed Pope John Paul. But maybe he allowed all the pomp and devotion because he doesn't think the canonization will happen in the foreseeable future. Maybe like the Hebrew slaved freed from Egypt, they will not see the promised land, but their children will. For us, this may be it for what we will see in our lifetimes.

In the meantime, this is a neat little video explaining the difference between Beatification and Canonization, explained by Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

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