From the Jesuit run America Magazine comes this with my emphases and comments.
The Universal Call
The Editors | SEPTEMBER 19, 2011
Ever since the Second Vatican Council spoke of the “universal call to holiness,” there has been a move to recognize more lay men and women as saints, as models of sanctity for lay Catholics. Several contemporary lay women and men have already been raised to the “glories of the altar,” among them St. Gianna Molla (1922-62), an Italian mother who carried a child to term rather than consent to an abortion and died in the process. Others on their way include Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901-25), the charismatic Italian social activist who said, “Charity is not enough; we need social reform.” In that same vein, the cause for canonization of Dorothy Day, the American-born co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, has just been advanced. And in 2008, Louis and Zélie Martin, the devout parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, were beatified, a rare instance of a husband and wife recognized together. [Bl. Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi.]
But when it comes to recognizing saints, the church still tends to favor popes, bishops, priests and members of religious orders. In June Pope Benedict XVI released the latest list of 27 candidates for sainthood, which included martyrs in the Spanish Civil War, among them a bishop and 13 Daughters of Charity; an Austrian priest killed in Buchenwald; the Mexican foundress of a women’s religious order; an 18th-century Italian diocesan priest and a French Dominican priest who founded the Bethany community. While there are plenty of holy Fathers and Mothers on that list, where are the holy mothers and fathers? [If the editors of America Magazine have someone in mind, I suggest that they become the actors of a cause. After all, they have the money and resources together with the apparent will to do such.]
Fifty years after the council, in the midst of the church’s continued invitations for laypeople to lead holy lives, why are there still relatively few role models for the laity? Surely there are many who fit the definition of holiness: men and women who, aware of God’s love for them, return that love through service to their neighbor, specifically in their humility, charity and self-sacrifice.
Though the logistics may be difficult, the church should find a way to recognize models of holiness in men and women who lived “ordinary” lives. [The Church does have a way. It is called a “cause”. The editors of America could initiate one.] These would include: someone other than a saint from the very earliest days of the church (like St. Joseph), [There are martyrs in the ancient Church, right? Very many of them “ordinary” people. But note the writer’s choice of St. Joseph. More on that later.] someone who was not royalty (like St. Elizabeth of Hungary), a married person who did not found a religious order in later years (like St. Bridget of Sweden), a couple who did not initially plan to live as “brother and sister” while married (like Louis and Zélie Martin), someone who did not found a religious community or social movement (like Dorothy Day) and someone who did not die in terrible circumstances (like St. Gianna Molla). [Do you get the sense from that list that the writers of America are focused on who has sex and who doesn’t?]
While Catholics recognize that the canonized saint needs to have led a life of “heroic sanctity,” many lay Catholics long for someone they can emulate in their daily lives. [Hold on. Are the editors saying that Catholics are not in fact to strive for heroic sanctity? Also, I believe the better term for what the Congregation must determine is “heroic virtue”. I don’t want to quibble to much with “sanctity”, which is “holiness”, but we more easily come to a determination of the holiness of a person though “proofs” about their manifestation of virtues, theological and cardinal.] Which raises a question: Who is holier—Mother Teresa or the church-going mother who for decades takes care of an autistic child? Pope John Paul II or the pious man who serves as a director of religious education while holding down two jobs to support his family? The answer: they are all saintly in their own ways. “Heroic sanctity” comes in many forms—and it includes both those whose faith inspires them to found a religious order and those whose faith enables them to care for a sick child for years on end. [That is right. But while someone can propose that a person lived a life of “heroic virtue“, they then have to demonstrate that claim so that it can be accepted with moral certainty. That isn’t easy. And it shouldn’t be, given the stakes.]
Three factors frustrate the desire for more lay saints. The first is the persistent belief that ordination or taking religious vows represents a higher level of holiness than does, say, raising a child. [I believe there is a pretty sound tradition that priesthood and religious life are higher callings. But I don’t think anyone suggests that having that calling automatically means greater holiness.] But even the saints disagreed with this idea. “Holiness is not the luxury of a few,” said Mother Teresa. “It is a simple duty for you and for me.” [Yes, of course. To be lived according to one’s state in life. A Jesuit should know that.]
The second factor is the public nature of the lives of the priests and members of religious orders who are canonized. It is easier to see the personal impact of a founder or foundress than it is to know about a parent’s care for an autistic child. This kind of hidden lay holiness will be less likely to attract the devout simply because it is less well known. So, in the case of the ordinary layperson, the church’s requirement that a local devotion spring up around the person will be frustrated. [For someone to promote the cause of a person, they have to be known. Those who knew the person must have the sense that the person was holy. The issue of the person’s fama sanctitatis is important precisely because it affirms the devotion of the ordinary people the editor’s are exalting. It is a sign of God’s favor when authentic.]
The third factor is the arduous, time-consuming and expensive canonization procedure, which only religious orders and dioceses have the financial resources and technical know-how to navigate. [Consider the implications of a procedure that is easy, swift, and cheap. McSaints. Consider the impact on the Church’s reputation when many people not meriting beatification or canonization, miracles which are bogus, obtain approval.] Not many children of holy parents can manage the complex process required by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. [Where there is a will there is a way. If people want it badly enough, and if God favors the enterprise, they find a way. It may not be the smooth and easy road the editors of America want. When did excellence cease to be of value in Jesuit spirituality?] Once the mother of the autistic child dies, who will advance her cause? Few might know of her holiness, yet her example might speak to more Catholics than even that of a pope. [I cannot but agree. She might be inspiring.]
If the church hopes to offer relevant models of holiness for laypeople, it is time to make the canonization process far more accessible and far less expensive for those who knew a holy husband, wife, mother, father, friend or neighbor.
So, they think the process is too complicated and expensive.
I think that these causes are very important and require the highest standards. Having high standards will incur costs.
What aspects of finding out the truth of claims about holiness are the editors of American Magazine ready to set aside?
Another thing that makes me uncomfortable with their editorial is the sense I get that they don’t quite get what this “heroic” thing is.
At the time of the beatification of John Paul II I wondered aloud if we weren’t seeing a shift in the criteria for what is called “heroic virtue”. I wasn’t suggesting that John Paul wasn’t heroically virtuous, by the way. But I get a sense, in recent commentary, that what has always been understood as “heroicity” in the practice of the virtues a Christian must manifest hasn’t been somewhat undercut.
As I learned in the Studium conducted by the Congregation for Causes of Saints for future or potential postulators, et al., a virtue is practiced to a heroic degree under ordinary circumstances when it is practiced over a long portion of the person’s life and to the end with perseverance till death. It can also be heroic when the circumstances of life are such that that most people fail. True martyrs, for example, in their time of trial are thought to, in that time of being martyred, manifest the virtues to a heroic degree.
There is a tension inherent in the “universal call to holiness” and living a life of holiness, according to the virtues, to a “heroic” degree. Heroic necessarily means something beyond the normal way people react to thing in life. We are called to heroic virtues. Not all of us attain them to a heroic degree.
And here I wonder aloud again…. could it be that the concept of “hero” has been eroded? I don’t, for example, agree with the incessant use of the word “hero” when people do something out of the ordinary or perform some good act. For example, I think that a Marine who is award the Congressional Medal of Honor probably did something heroic. As much as I admire Marines, I don’t think that a Marine is a “hero” simply for serving in the Marine Corp. I heard a story the other day and saw a video, about a man who ran to a car which was entirely engulfed in flames after an accident and, risking his own life, broke the window by pounding on it with his bare fist in order to rescue a perfect stranger. I think acts like that are heroic. The flames were enough to deter most people. He did it anyway, seemingly with no self-interest. I am not sure that running to a car not on fire and opening the door and pulling a person out is “heroic”. It could be. The first example clearly is. The second… not to clearly. When you want to hold someone up as heroic, it is better to hold up clear examples of heroism, not doubtful examples.
Heroic virtue is attained through perseverance, elbow grease, and special graces. It isn’t everyday.
That is not to say that people don’t attain the joys of heaven if they don’t manifest the virtues in a heroic degree. They certainly can. But when we want to hold some one up as a model of something, we hold up a model, not something ordinary. We hold up as fine an example as we can find, so as to aspire, edify. Cal Ripkin was a model baseball player, because he played well with great consistency for a very long time. Some model players have shorter and less consistent careers, but they accomplished true mastery of the tools of their positions. On cooking shows, you want to see good cooks, not just average cooks. Even if they cook “average” or “everyday fare”, they do it well, with skill and insight. What you then do with their recipes and examples is up to you. You can adapt their recipes to just “okay”, or you can try to make it well. But the model should be exemplary.
Another thing. If the editors of American Magazine want the process to be cheaper, are they willing to abandon tenets of social justice and not pay people a proper wage for the work they do? To put together a case for your “servant of God” you will have to cover travel and living expenses, which are not set by the Church, secretarial and translation costs, research, experts in many fields, etc. A cause is a serious thing, like a juridical trial. Precision is required because the truth is desired.
What aspect of finding out the truth of claims about holiness are the editors of American Magazine ready to set aside?
Yes, religious orders and dioceses have greater resources than most individuals. The editors of American Magazine don’t think it is fair that people with resources should be able to advance causes, but those without the same resources cannot. Do I detect a whiff of class warfare? Let’s “dumb-down” the process so that everyone can have a whack, so that everyone can be called a “saint”.
But, “fair” is a description of the weather, not of life.
If some poor person thinks that another person who has died was a saint, then that person can go to the local bishop and make a case that a cause should be opened. If the local bishop is convinced, he will take steps to begin a cause as the causes “actor”.
Otherwise, if the editors of America Magazine have some people in mind for beatification, I suggest that they band together to be the “actor” in a cause, approach the dioceses where the people died, and then commit to carrying the cause through to the end.
Rather than call on other people to do something, or to dumb-down the process, why don’t they write an editorial saying that they will take on the expenses of the process for any one and every one who has a person to propose?