Cause for Canonization

The Catholic Church believes that all people are created to become saints by living lives of faith, hope and charity.  A saint is someone who is happy with God in heaven.  By canonizing someone, the Catholic Church confirms that we can be certain a person is indeed a saint in heaven.  Although we hope that many people are in heaven, the Church names saints for three purposes: firstly, to glorify the work of God’s grace active in their lives; secondly to confirm that this person accurately lived out the Gospel and is a good model for us to follow; and finally to reassure us that in asking for the saint’s intercession they will lead us to Christ.

The word “canon” refers to the “list” of saints, although “list” is used here loosely.  The list of saints is by no means exhaustive, but is intended as a guide and reassurance for the faithful.  The Church is very meticulous about the process of canonization, as she does not want to lead people astray by proposing an unreliable model of holiness.  Of course the Church recognizes that no one is perfect, so a saint may have some flaws, but they must overall show a great love for God and others that is guided by the faith of the Church.  We all rely on God’s grace, especially the saints!

The Four Big Steps in the Process of Canonization

1. Servant of God:
The title given to a candidate for sainthood whose cause is still under investigation, prior to beatification. Father Kapaun was named a Servant of God in 1993.

2. Venerable: 
The second stage in the process occurs after a diocese or religious institute and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has conducted a rigorous investigation into the person’s life and writings to determine whether he or she demonstrated a holy life and heroic level of virtue. A "Positio Super Vita, Virtutibus et Fama Sanctitatis" (Statement on the Life, Virtue and Holy Reputation) on the Servant of God is compiled and studied by the Congregation for Saints. If approved, the Congregation will issue a decree of Heroic Virtue, stating that the candidate lived the theological, cardinal and related virtues to a heroic degree, and the candidate is given the title Venerable.


Note: On November 9, 2015, Bishop Kemme presented the Positio to the Congregation for Saints.  In June of 2016 we received word that Father Kapaun's Positio passed the Historical Commission at the Congregation for Saints.  Sometime in 2017 we hope the Theological Commission will have a chance to review it as well.  From there, the cause will go to a group of Cardinal and Archbishop Consultors who will judge it and make their recommendation to the Holy Father who must give the ultimate approval of Father Kapaun's Heroic Virtue.

 

 

 

 

 

3. Beatification: 
The next stage in the process is beatification.  This means that it is worthy of belief that the candidate is in heaven, but it is not yet an infallible declaration that this is the case.  Beatification brings with it a concession of limited public veneration, meaning that the home diocese or region can honor the Blessed officially in her churches and liturgies, most notably by celebrating the Blessed on a certain "feast" day with special prayers written in their honor, as well as including statues and images of the Blessed inside Churches.  In order to be beatified, a Venerable must have a miracle attributed to his intercession to give greater evidence that he is in heaven with God. This miracle must take place after his death.  The miracle is investigated by the Congregation of Saints in a similar way to the Positio, albeit by a different team.  Martyrs — those who died for their faith — can be beatified without evidence of a miracle. Although we have received word that Fr. Kapaun will not be named a martyr, we are confident and hopeful in the two alleged miracles that we are preparing for investigation.

4. Canonization:
This is the step by which the Church formally declares a person to be in heaven and enrolls him in the "Canon" or official list of saints. Another miracle, having occurred after his beatification, is needed to show that God indeed approves this step.  Canonization is an infallible statement that we can be certain that the person is in heaven; it also means the saint can be celebrated in liturgies and with images throughout the entire Church.

See a diagram of Fr. Emil J. Kapaun's Path to Sainthood

 

What is the Congregation for the Causes of Saints?
A department of the Roman Curia, established originally as the Congregation of Rites by Pope Sixtus V in 1588. Reorganized and renamed in 1969 by Pope Paul VI, and again in 1983 by Pope John Paul II. In addition to making recommendations to the pope on beatifications and canonizations, it is also responsible for the authentication and preservation of sacred relics.

Source: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Your Role:
Cardinal Angelo Amato of the Congregation for Saints told us that it was important that we continue to pray for Father Kapaun's cause and that we continue to tell his story.  The Congregation likes to choose saints that are well-known.  Although Father Kapaun is certainly known by many, you can play an important role in his cause by sharing his story! 

Watch a great video on the Process of Canonization by Busted Halo: