Father Joe's Blog

What is Beatification, and How Is It Achieved?

September 2017

Every so often, someone asks me about the prayer we say at the end of the General Intercessions (Prayers of the Faithful) during our weekend Masses for the beatification of Fr. Francis Mary of the Cross Jordan.

I wrote an explanation in one of our weekly bulletins a few months ago. I’d like to share that explanation here for those parishioners who might have missed it, and for others who have an interest in the church’s process to sainthood. 

I belong to the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians), which began St. Joseph parish in 1952.  Fr. Francis is the founder of the Salvatorian fathers and brothers, the Salvatorian sisters and the Lay Salvatorians.  He began the order in 1881 as the Catholic Teaching Society, which later became the Society of the Divine Savior, also known as the Salvatorians. This year, we are celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Salvatorian presence in the United States.

At the beginning of Advent in 2016, as part of that year-long celebration, we began to say the Prayer for the Beatification of Fr. Jordan.   

Beatification is an "administrative act" by which the pope allows a candidate for sainthood to be venerated publicly in places closely associated with his or her life and ministry.  That place may be as small as one city, although usually it is the diocese where the person lived or died.  It is the final step in the process to canonization, or recognition as a saint by the catholic church.  

Fr. Jordan’s vision was to serve others in whatever ways needed “so that all may know the One True God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.”

One of his chief concerns was foreign missions. In 1890, when the Society was only nine years old with only a handful of priests, Fr. Jordan accepted responsibility for a huge mission in Northeast India.  Salvatorian men and women still work as missionaries today on every continent, except Antarctica.

The case for Fr. Jordan’s beatification was introduced to the Vatican in 1943. Toward the conclusion of the 1999 Triple Jubilee year, commemorating the anniversaries of Fr. Jordan’s birth, ordination, and death, Pope John Paul II came to pray at Fr. Jordan’s tomb and visit the Salvatorian Motherhouse in Rome for nearly three hours.  This was a very promising sign that the process toward canonization was moving forward.

Today, there is a very structured process for becoming recognized as a saint by the Universal Church. It involves several phases, including:

Collected and written history. After the death of a holy man or woman a formal request, made by people from the candidate’s church and community, is sent to the bishop of the diocese where the person died.  A history is produced and written works are collected. The request includes that history, written works, and testimony of the candidate’s exceptional virtue and dedication to God.

If the bishop determines that the evidence is compelling, he will ask the Congregation for the Cause of Saints for permission to open the case.  Once the case is opened, the person is called a Servant of God.

Servant of God. During this phase, the bishop sends the report to Rome where it is translated into Italian, a step called the Apostolic Process.  A summary of the findings is presented to the Congregation for the Cause of Saints and it is here that nine theologians examine the evidence presented.  A majority vote can pass it to the Congregation.

When this is approved, the Prefect of the Congregation authorizes the person to be called Venerable.  Fr. Jordan was deemed “Venerable Fr. Francis Mary of the Cross Jordan, Servant of God” in Spring 2011.

Testimony of a Miracle.  A very important witness is God.  To pass from the level of Servant of God, there must be testimony of a miracle, or God’s confirmation on the matter.

On January 14, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI  authorized the Congregation for the Cause of Saints to promote the heroic life and virtues of Fr. Jordan. That same day, the Holy Father also authorized the Congregation to promote the Decree on a miracle performed through the intercession of the Servant of God John Paul II, whose beatification occurred on May 1, 2011.

Beatification. Once the miracle is confirmed, the Servant of God can then be declared Blessed in a process called “beatification.” Our founder’s cause is proceeding at the Vatican, and we are now awaiting the decree of beatification. Once this occurs, a second miracle is required to advance to canonization, the final step in the process to sainthood.

I hope this helps you understand why we are using this particular prayer in this particular year. 

Always in the Savior, Fr. Joe