One of my sweet friends and blog readers asked me a question recently that I thought I would share and answer here.
She says: "I am not Catholic and have been hearing about Pope John Paull II's beatification that is coming up in the very near future. I thought perhaps, when you have a free moment, you could explain what that means."
First of all, fantatsic question. I would be happy to explain what I can. Of course, I am no expert, so please don't read this as a comprehensive answer to the question (or as infallible truth!)
Second, if anyone else has questions that they would like me to take a stab at answering, I would be happy to do that. Especially regarding Catholicism, I love to be asked questions because it opens the door for more understanding and unity within the body of Christ. And I trust that we can share respectfully here, even if we may not see everything perfectly eye to eye.
So, to answer the question...
Pope John Paul II will be beatified this Sunday, May 1. The timing is very significant. This is the second Sunday of Easter, which Pope John Paul II himself entitled "Divine Mercy Sunday". In 2005, it was the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday when our beloved JPII passed from this life to the next.
Beatification is simply part of the process of one being canonized a saint in the Catholic Church.
The process of canonization goes something like this:
1. Someone has to die. (I supposed you already guessed that.) Ok, in all seriousness now...the the process begins a minimum of 5 years after the death of someone regarded as exceptionally faithful. (Although, Pope Benedict XVI waived the 5 year minimum in the case of JPII due to his awesomeness. And, yes, I'm sure that's how he worded it. ;) )
2. The local bishop begins an investigation on the candidates life...he looks at virtue, orthodoxy, how he lived, any writings by that person, etc. Then a Vatican panel reviews the investigation.
3. After approval by the panel, the Pope names the candidate "venerable".
4. Next comes beatification. Beatification requires that a miracle take place as a result of the venerable person's intercession. (For example, in the case of John Paul II: there was a nun suffering from Parkinson's disease. A few weeks after JPII's passing, she began asking his intercession on her behalf and was miraculously healed.) If a miracle occurs, we can assume the person is in heaven and praying for us). With beatification comes the title "Blessed". So, after May 1, we will refer to our late pope as "Blessed Pope John Paul II".
5. One more miracle and then comes canonization. This is when a Blessed person receives the title of "Saint".
A few things to remember:
- A saint is someone who lives in Heaven. There have been and will be countless saints throughout time. You have probably known many and hopefully you will be one someday. It would be impossible for the church to canonize every peron who is granted eternal life with Christ. The Saints that are recognized by the Church are just some of the exceptional examples of Christians who are worthy of remembering and imitating.
- Catholics do not worship saints. We honor holy men and women who have joined the great cloud of witnesses.
- Catholics do not pray to saints. We ask them to pray with us and for us.
- We do not attribute miracles to the power of the saint themselves, but to the power of God through their prayers. It would be like asking a friend to pray for you. If a miracle occured, you would not think your friend healed you, but you would be forever grateful to that friend for their prayers on your behalf.
- Canonization does not make someone a saint. It recognizes that God has already made them a saint.
SO, I think that pretty much covers it. I think. To all my Catholic friends - did I leave anything out or could I have said something more clearly? Please comment if you feel you can shed some more light on this topic.
To my non-Catholic friends - did I answer comprehensively enough? Let me know if you need clarification.
Also, let me just say I love JPII. LOVE him. And so...I leave you with this. May his words minister to your heart
"Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are an Easter people and hallelujah is our song!"
"It is Jesus you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fulness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices; the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal."