Pope to canonize 16th century Jesuit, waives procedure

With the stroke of his pen he waived the (in my opinion prudent and yet still not enough) requirement for a second miracle before the canonization of Bl. John XXIII.

Now, with another stroke of his pen, Francis will elevate to the altars a 16th century Jesuit, Pierre Faber, one of the first companions of St. Ignatius Loyola.

There is precedent, and recent precedent, by the way.

From Andrea Tornielli:

French Jesuit priest Peter Faber to be made a saint in December

ANDREA TORNIELLI
VATICAN CITY
Pierre Faber, a “Reformed” Jesuit priest whom Francis sees as a model figure, is to be proclaimed as saint before Christmas, Stefania Falasca reports in an article for Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire. The process for his cause in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints is complete and now all that remains is for Francis to issue the Bull of Canonization that will proclaim the first companion of St. Ignatius a saint, extending the cult of the soon-to-be-saint to the Universal Church.

Faber was born in the Upper Savoy region of France in 1506 and died in Rome in 1547 just a few weeks before he was due to attend the Council of Trent. He was beatified in September 1872 with a Papal Rescript issued by the Sacred Congregation of Rites and ratified by the Society of Jesus. Now Francis is extending the liturgical cult to the Universal Church.

The process followed for Faber’s canonization is called “equivalent canonization”. This is when the Pope omits the judicial process and ceremonies involved and orders a servant of God to be venerated in the Universal Church, when such a saint has been from a remote period the object of veneration, when his heroic virtues (or martyrdom) and miracles are related by reliable historians, and the fame of his miraculous intercession is uninterrupted. “Examples of this in recent history include John Paul II, who decreed 3 such canonizations, Benedict XVI who decreed 1, the last of which was that of Angela da Foligno, confirmed last 9 October by Pope Francis,” Avvenire writes.

But Faber’s canonization takes on a whole new meaning as the Jesuit is “a model of spirituality and priestly life for the current successor of Peter. At the same time, he is an important reference point for understanding the Pope’s leadership style.” Faber lived on the cusp of an era when the unity of the Church was being threatened. He mostly kept out of doctrinal disputes and steered his apostolate towards a reform of the Church, becoming a pioneer of ecumenism.”

Francis spoke about Faber in his famous interview with Jesuit journal Civiltà Cattolica, [The Big Interview™] revealing some key aspects of the priest as a figure: “[His] dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents; his simple piety, a certain naïveté perhaps, his being available straightaway, his careful interior discernment, the fact that he was a man capable of great and strong decisions but also capable of being so gentle and loving.”

“The picture of Faber that emerges from the texts is that of a thinker in action, a man who was profoundly attracted by the figure of Christ and was understanding of people. The cause of separated siblings was one he held close to his heart and he was good at discerning spirits. He lived an exemplary priestly life and the unconditional nature of his ministry was reflected in his patience and gentleness. He gave himself without asking others for anything in return. Faber distinguished himself for his “affective magisterium”, in other words, his gift for spiritual communication with people and his ability to put himself in other people’s shoes,” Falasca writes.

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27 Responses to Pope to canonize 16th century Jesuit, waives procedure

  1. Phil_NL says:

    Respectfully, Father, I have to disagree with your comment on the miracles.

    Canonization is, as far as I understand, held to be an infallible pronouncement, which means that prudence does not play a role: either the saint is a saint (and would have been so from the day of his death here on earth), or the doctrine of infallability does not hold. A ‘false positive’ in the research leading up to a canonization would therefore be impossible.

    Having a process investigating ‘suspected saints’ will help us find out what God has ordained already which in some cases means elimination from the list of people we think may be saints, but the actual decision would be shielded from considerations of prudence. So if the decision is made, in my opinion the process by which it is arrived at is irrelevant.

  2. Whether or not canonization is an infallible act is a controversial debate today. There is substantive evidence for both sides but I haven’t seen this really settled and answered brilliantly yet. The Church has never defined canonization as infallible, as with many subjects that we take for granted.

    I am very uneasy with the current reduced process of canonizations and the loss of the devil’s advocate and the miracle requirement. The whole idea is to uncover anything in a person’s life that could be misconstrued, cause scandal, or any imperfection not worthy of imitation and example. I used to be so proud of the process when defending the veneration of saints to a non-Catholic as the process was ironclad and without error. Today I see people being made saints, such as Fr. Damien of Molokai [for whom I have had a lifelong devotion], who before were considered to have imperfections – such as his temper and language – that kept many from being named saints. Yes, Fr Damien died a martyr of service to others but the Church historically studies all aspects of the end of a life and previously he was deemed not quite perfect. Because Thomas a Kempis was discovered to have been buried alive, and no one witnessed the end of his life, he has never been named a saint. Fr. Escriva is another controversial canonization as I hear that there were ignored testimonies of less-than-perfect aspects of his life. And then we have the exhaustive work of Fr Luigi Villa on Pope Paul VI [and others] – when that dossier made the rounds throughout the hierarchy, the process came to a stop. Ironically, as soon as Fr. Luigi died, the process for Pope Paul VI suddenly came back to life.

    Some say infallibility of canonization will be proved one way or another when a clearly unworthy candidate is named a saint, or the process cannot conclude by some miraculous intervention.

  3. robtbrown says:

    Phil_NL says:
    Canonization is, as far as I understand, held to be an infallible pronouncement, which means that prudence does not play a role: either the saint is a saint (and would have been so from the day of his death here on earth), or the doctrine of infallability does not hold. A ‘false positive’ in the research leading up to a canonization would therefore be impossible.

    Fr Z’s point refers to the role of prudence in the process by which the Cong recommends to the pope that someone can be beatified (or canonized).

    Even so, infallibility is guarantee that the conclusion of a pope in a relevant matter will not be in error. That does not mean that the process by which he came to the conclusion (which includes prudence) is not also protected by the same guarantee.

    Also: If memory serves, St Peter of Alcantara appeared to St Teresa of Avila and said that he had to spend one hour in Purgatory.

  4. Legisperitus says:

    It’s hard to say canonization is “infallible” in the same sense that dogmas of the Faith are infallible. The infallibility of dogma comes from its being part of the Deposit of the Faith, the teaching of Our Lord faithfully transmitted by the Apostles and their successors. But nobody claims Christ told His Apostles that Father So-and-so in the 29th Century was going to go to Heaven, for example. It’s not a part of revelation.

    The so-called “infallibility” of canonizations, as I understand it, is more like a moral certainty and we have that certainty because of the careful scrutiny involved in the traditional process of canonization. Now, this is not to discount the historical phenomena of canonization by popular acclamation, or through longstanding veneration, or whatever… but only to say that a canonization which is the outcome of a legal process, much like a jury verdict, is reliable to the extent the process is sound.

  5. robtbrown says:

    Looking at the language used in canonization, I have a difficult time thinking that it would not be an infallible act.

  6. Supertradmum says:

    Great news, thanks for the heads-up, Fr. Z.

    Canonization is infallible. Saints do not go to Purgatory-which is the whole point of the Church showing us their lives as those of perfection in holiness. Canonization means that the person most likely had purgation on earth. There is much written about this, no need for speculation.

    To be a saint means to attain illumination and the unitive state with God as much as a person can, on earth, and that the Church shows us a person to emulate.

    Martyrs are different. There martyrdom, as such a violent witness to the Faith, is instant purgation, as it were. The martyrdom is the witness to holiness, not necessarily the entire life. So, the legionnaire of old who took the place of one of the dying Christian soldiers who apostatized, at the last minute, is a saint.

    I suggest reading Garrigou-Lagrange on perfection and one blog which has unpacked his ideas in over 400 posts.

    As to private revelations, those are not infallible and should not be used for proof, although, possibly, support for proof.

    I am so glad about this canonization. We need more examples of holy priests.

    Also, please join me in prayer for my serious intentions as I am praying to Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, another holy priest.

  7. Supertradmum says:

    excuse misspellings and typos, please-going out the door..

  8. pontiacprince says:

    I too have to agree with Phil and others that it is an infallible statement by which he declares that the person is in heaven.A miracle is not required.Hence there have been hundreds of infallible statements on this topic especially by Bl John Paul 11.
    The lives of many ,if not all, of those so-declared makes it plain that ‘ordinary’ persons with all their faults and failings can and do enjoy the vision of God.
    It is a most comfortable teaching all who strive for this beatific vision.

  9. robtbrown says:

    Supertradmum ,

    The text of canonization says that a certain person is a saint, i.e., assumed into heaven–rather than still in Purgatory (or even worse). Where does it say that someone has never been in Purgatory? Now obviously, that the saint is proposed as a moral example means that no significant time in Purgatory would be appropriate, but I don’t see how a straight shot from life into heaven is necessarily the case.

    It is true that Private Revelations are not infallible–neither is theology.

  10. robtbrown says:

    Legisperitus,

    Moral certainty by definition cannot be said to be infallible.

    Canonization can be said to be infallible because it refers to the Credo, which includes the Communion of Saints.

  11. Phil_NL says:

    Tina: I think we set our expectations too high if we assume Saints to be perfect from the moment they were born. that was certainly not the case for many martyrs (who are not one bit less saintly), and I see no reason why there wouldn’t a any intermediate possibilities between holy-from-birth-till-death on the one hand, and sinful-as-can-be-except-the-last-minute-of-martyrdom on the other. (No disrespect meant, but a concise alternative of verbalising that thought eludes me right now). Supertradmum also hints in that direction, I believe. It’s also perfectly possible that quite a few saints weren’t canonized, even if they are saints. There is no infallibility to guard against a ‘false negative’.

    Robtbrown, legisperitus: besides the choice of words in a canonization – which is rather strongly in favor of an interpretation as infallible – I would add to that the following thought: it would be odd, to say the least, that God would allow his Church to – as a matter of course – venerate Himself and persons not worthy of such honor (perhaps not even in Heaven at all; if canonization would be fallible, that would be a distinct possibility) in the same breath, as we all do every Sunday. A ‘false canonization’ would damage the essence of our worship. I think therefore that we have more than ‘moral certainty based on the process’.
    And at that point, you can indeed say that the process at which the canonization was arrived may have been in error (even if the conclusion is not), but that is a rather moot issue then, isn’t it?

  12. mamajen says:

    The Church does not teach that a saint must have gone straight to Heaven.

    I researched the infallibility aspect a few months ago, and believe canonization to be infallible. I found one self-proclaimed “lay theologian” (Medjugorje and Garabandal supporter) with a website arguing otherwise, and wonder how many others he might have convinced.

    I can certainly understand why people want a more cautious, bullet-proof process. Canonization is for the people on earth, and they need to take away the right message. But, in the end, the Church does not create saints, she merely determines which saints may be venerated.

  13. Priam1184 says:

    Ok I am going to have to read more about soon to be Saint Pierre Faber. But the fact that he has been dead for almost half a millennium and beatified for well more than a century now makes me have less of a concern with the waving of the miracles for him than for some of the more recently deceased who seem to be being canonized on a wave of emotion. But that last bit about emotion is only my own very fallible opinion. And I don’t think that ‘ecumenism’ meant the same thing in the 16th century as it does today so: Sancte Petre Fabus ora pro nobis!

  14. Priam1184 says:

    Forgive my poor choice of words: soon-to-be Saint Pierre Faber died half a millennium ago, but he is certainly not dead. Sancte Petre Faber, ora pro nobis.

  15. Heather F says:

    I’m also kind of baffled by the “saints can’t have gone through Purgatory” notion. As I understand it, everybody who is in heaven (and isn’t actually God) is a saint. That’s what saint means–the holy ones. Anyone who makes it to Purgatory is going to be a saint when their purification is completed.

    A canonized saint is one whom we have been given reason to believe is definitely in heaven, and who has been shown to have demonstrated heroic virtue worthy of a model of faith. But “heroic” doesn’t mean “perfect” (otherwise we would have no saints but Our Lady!). And as for bypassing Purgatory, how would we know? There is no way to know how much or how little further purification someone might have needed upon death, at least not from this side.

    It’s reasonable to think that someone who lived a life of great holiness probably wouldn’t need much, but we can’t know that they needed none at all. Particularly when it comes to martyrdom — there’s martyrdom and then there’s martyrdom. Someone cheerfully singing hymns while bathing in boiling oil probably is much closer to the “go directly to heaven” ideal than some regular guy shaking in his boots when the guys with guns yell that they’re going to shoot all the Christians in the room, but that doesn’t mean the second guy isn’t a real martyr.

  16. Phil_NL says: A ‘false canonization’ would damage the essence of our worship. I think therefore that we have more than ‘moral certainty based on the process’.

    In his Dialogue Concerning Heresies — surely among the finest works of apologetics in the English language — St. Thomas More deals at some length with the question of religious frauds, and also with the question: what if a damned person be venerated as a saint? He shows that that God in His goodness ultimately exposes fakes and charlatans, frequently through the diligence of His ministers. But he also argues that, even if it were possible that someone not a saint were venerated in the mistaken belief that he is a saint, it would not redound to our harm, because it is for God’s sake that saints are venerated, and the honor we pay them ultimately belongs to Him.

  17. Phil_NL says:

    Miss Anita Moore:

    I can gladly go along as far as the observation that it would not harm us (assuming the belief is genuinely mistaken), God would not hold an honest mistake against us.
    But I would find it most illogical if God were to allow such a state contrary to truth – it would in essence be misleading the faithful (especially since intercessions may be asked which are impossible in such a situation, and the worship we accord to God on account of his gift of the Saints would also be misguided in its particulars), and thus go against His very nature.

  18. New Sister says:

    Years ago I read a book about Bl. Peter Favre and since wondered why he hadn’t already been declared a saint like the other original Jesuits. The book, “To The Other Towns” (a free-be tossed into my order from Ignatius Press) included parts of the Blessed’s diary with first-hand accounts of the Protestant rebellion in Germany (he was at the Diet of Worms and Regensburg). He observed that the bands of Protestant jongleurs were laughed out of the towns where the laity had been faithfully catechised and nourished by the Sacraments, and that in places where corrupt/lazy clergy dwelt the faithful were easily devoured by Protestant error. Devotion to him would seem (to me) to dovetail nicely with Benedict XVI’s “Year of the Priest” and focus on the holy Curé d’Ars.

    The book also documents eye-witness accounts of this Blessed (soon saint!) levetating in prayer and being enveloped in a bright light.

  19. Phil_NL: Sorry if I gave the impression that a person must be perfect throughout life to be named a saint. Not so at all. duh. of course. Not what I meant. Sometimes I just don’t write ‘straight’. LOL. My favorite kind of saints are the lousy reprobates like myself, who change with great difficulty – these stories always fire me up and give me hope. Butler’s Lives of the Saints has been core reading throughout my life.

    Legisperitus at 8:10 am: Interesting thought. Ruminating here, don’t most Magisterial statements consist of a lot of research and debate in the process?
    This discussion brings to mind: what is a saint? an hour or less in Purgatory? was there some threshold of imperfection allowed in the old canonization process?
    Early on, only martyrs were considered saints – thus the name in the Canon of the Mass. The Church could assure us of sanctity of martyrs because of how they died. What changed? How did the Church come to change this label of saint?

    We know that there are many unnamed saints in heaven. The objective of naming a saint is picking out and holding up the best example of heroism and virtue out of many possibilities. Naming a saint is not only about honor and admiration, but giving the Church Militant a gold standard by which to live – not just a person that’ll ‘do’. Visions, levitating, curing, stigmata, bilocating, does not make the saint – its always the deeds and teachings/writings. If such fancy things happened, great – but that is not any proof whatsoever of a saint.

    Infallibility really boils down to the trust we have that the Church can not fail us in teaching Faith and Morals. This teaching is always based on Scripture/Revelation. There is nothing new, the Church only expounds on revealed Truth. If She should ever appear to contradict that Truth, then we would know that it is not really the Church making the statement but a counterfeit or hireling. The Church does not err nor change Her teachings.
    So…how does naming a saint reflect this infallibility? Is it possible to err in naming someone a saint?

    Most here are utterly unfamiliar with the excruciating exactness and precision that once was the process of canonization, starting by choosing the most stellar lives out of innumerable candidates. But what’s new? The new generation really has no first-hand knowledge of the Church before the 60s. Thus the wild underestimation of what naming a saint entailed then.

    There’s also ‘the fewness of the saved’ to consider. It is very rare that anyone gets to Purgatory, let alone getting to heaven immediately or in a short time. The majority of humanity is damned. Of the hundreds of thousands that die in a month, maybe one person might be saved. Therefore, the process for canonization should remain that old process of miracles and scrutinizing writings and behavior, to scour any behavior or statement that might lead us astray. I am so tired of the ambiguity and laziness expressed about our Faith today by spineless hierarchy [not all hierarchy]. Give me a real, solid, unambiguous example of virtue and heroism. Don’t give me ‘saints’ who have questionable behavior that was never addressed in the canonization process.

  20. Phil_NL says:

    Tina,

    While I hope Fr Z doesnt consider this a rabbit hole, and with no offense to you intended, on “the fewness of the saved” you’re more pessimistic than the most extreme calvinist I’ve ever met! (and we have a few of those in this country who are pretty depressing).
    For starters, the Church holds the Keys, those who die with the succor of the sacraments – and that number is surely bigger than one a month! – we know they are not lost. Secondly, God is free to save whomever He pleases on top of this. One can have an endless debate on how big or small this category is, but your numbers basically reduce it to zero. Given that there are people who are guinuely, through no fault of there own, out of reach of the Church, one would need a very strict position regarding ‘extra ecclesiam nulla salus’ to justify such a position, and that issue only touches upon the very borders of the problem under consideration.

    I think it would be very unwise to equate canonization with entry into Heaven; canonization teaches us a person is in Heaven, absence of canonization does not teach the reverse. Not everyone who ‘makes it’ into Heaven will be proclaimed a Saint, nor will be worthy of emulation (except for obtaining timely forgiveness), so it’s only logical that many resident of heaven are not proclaimed saints.

  21. Grabski says:

    With the stroke of his pen he waived the (in my opinion prudent and yet still not enough) requirement for a second miracle before the canonization of Bl. John XXIII.

    It’s been 50 years; why waive it? Seems that there’s a reason there hasn’t been a 2nd miracle, and that reason doesn’t say “canonize”.

  22. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Tina, your opinion is apparently not those of the Magisterium (cf. Benedict XVI, Encyclical Spe salvi, No. 46). Though I admit to say I admire what it is – your own good morality or your courage or both – that prevents you from despairing while holding what you hold. (I said that without irony.)

  23. Imrahil says:

    Worthy of note is, also

    I did not mean to add that to what the dear @Phil said, because he said precisely this, but to underline it.

  24. gjp says:

    As long as the Pope is interested in the idea of putting oneself in others’ shoes, why doesn’t he put himself in Pope Emeritus Benedict’s former shoes? You know, the red ones?

    OK, I tried.

  25. mamajen says:

    Grabski,

    I think your conclusion is unfounded. As Father Z frequently says, we should ask for miracles. Maybe people are not asking Bl. John XXIII for a miracle. How many, who might have received his help, have not asked for it because they think he shouldn’t be a saint?

  26. robtbrown says:

    Tina in Ashburn says,

    Infallibility really boils down to the trust we have that the Church can not fail us in teaching Faith and Morals. This teaching is always based on Scripture/Revelation. There is nothing new, the Church only expounds on revealed Truth. If She should ever appear to contradict that Truth, then we would know that it is not really the Church making the statement but a counterfeit or hireling. The Church does not err nor change Her teachings.
    So…how does naming a saint reflect this infallibility? Is it possible to err in naming someone a saint?

    I already answered that above, paraphrasing St Thomas: Canonization can be said to be infallible because it refers to the Credo, which includes the Communion of Saints.

    Veneration of the Saints follows from this doctrine.

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