Benedict XVI: A Decree about Heroic Virtues and the extension of a Saint’s cult to the universal Church

The cause for beatification of a Servant of God important for the north-central United States had a big step forward today.

I read in the Bolletino today that His Holiness of our Lord promulgated a decree from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints about the heroic virtues of

– Servant of God Frederic Irenej Baraga, Slovene American, first bishop of Marquette (1797-1868).

The cause was moved by the Diocese of Marquette under the auspices of His Excellency Most Reverend Alexander Sample.

In the cause of beatification for a person who was not martyred, it is necessary to demonstrate with moral certainty that that person died having persevered to death manifesting the Christian virtues in a heroic way. A case, much like a legal case, is built from documents and examination of writings and testimonies. It is demonstrated that the person now has popular reputation of holiness. Everything is submitted to the Congregation in Rome, which double checks everything and submits the case or cause to experts in history and theology and then the members of the Congregation. If they determine that the case was made that the person lived a life of heroic virtue, they issue a decree to that effect. The Holy Father can either choose to promulgate that decree or not or say or not say when it will be promulgated.  That usually happens during a consistory.

Once the decree “super virtutibus” has been promulgated, the person is question is then referred to as “Venerable”. Thereafter, it is necessary to authenticate a miracle worked through the Venerable’s intercession to be able to move to the next stage, beatification. That is now where the cause of Ven. Frederic Baraga has arrived.

Congratulations to the people of Marquette (and Minnesota!) and WDTPRS kudos to Bp. Sample.

Also of great interest in today’s news:

Vatican City, 10 May 2012 (VIS) – The Holy Father today received in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. During the audience he extended the liturgical cult of St. Hildegard of Bingen (1089-1179) to the universal Church, inscribing her in the catalogue of saints.

Now it is necessary to read and study more about St. Hildegard, a truly fascinating woman and saint, so we can dispel the feminist twaddle with which her name and writings have been stained.

The extension of her cult – and when we say “cult” in a Catholic context like this, we mean the veneration saints are given, especially at the altar during liturgical worship of God – to the whole Church may puzzle some people. She was, after all, known as a “Saint” already. The cult of Blesseds is usually only local, unless by special permissions the cult of a Blessed is extended elsewhere. Saints are usually venerated liturgically by the whole Church. The cults of saints, their liturgical commemoration, come and go according to the times. There are many saints who are recalled when the Roman Martyrology is used as a liturgical book (for it is a liturgical book). Only a limited number of saints are placed on the Church’s universal calendar in such a way that we commemorate them during Holy Mass and in the Office. Hildegard’s cause goes back to the earliest times of a formal process for canonization. Her cause wasn’t ever formally completed. Nevertheless, down through the centuries she has been known as a saint, her writings and contributions have been esteemed, there is a popular cult around her person. Therefore, the Supreme Pontiff decided to end the ambiguity of her status and has caused her to “be inscribed in the album of the saints” as the phrase usually puts it. And he has also extended her liturgical cult to the whole Church.

I don’t know what the Orthodox think of Hildegard, but I believe Anglicans hold her in some esteem. It occurs to me that Pope Benedict’s move may have the additional motive of giving a fine gift to the former Anglicans who have entered the Church under Anglicanorum coetibus, bringing with them their traditionals and liturgical customs. Benedict XVI is, after all, the Pope of Christian Unity.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. dans0622 says:

    What is going on in that painting?

  2. Fr. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    The Holy Spirit is descending on Hildegard as in tongues of fire, while her secretary looks on.

    Readers might find Hildegard’s rejection of the ordination of women and defense of the male priesthood interesting. See the article, published in _Church History_ (1994), with a link here:

  3. dans0622 says:

    Thanks, Father.

  4. Gus Barbarigo says:

    As might have been mentioned in these pages, B16’s actions may be in preparation for naming St. Hildegard a Doctor of the Church:

    The Saint’s prophecies may be especially important today:

  5. Fr. Augustine, maybe Hildegarde’s position on the all-male priesthood is why Matthew Fox tried to reduce her visions to the mere physiological effects of migraine headaches.

  6. Pingback: Habemus Venerabilem! « Over the Rhine and Into the Tiber

  7. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I’m glad this was done for St. Hildegarde. She’s a great saint and thinker. It’s also a nice teaching moment, because people are often confused about the difference between local saints and saints on the big Roman calendar for everybody. Local saints from the days before the Congregation are still saints.

    And Venerable Bishop Baraga is awesome! Snowshoe Priest ftw!

  8. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Oh, and here’s the first three verses of a hymn in Chippewa by Bishop Baraga, for all you homeschoolers! Sadly, I don’t know what it’s about.

    To the air: “O digne objet de mes chants”,
    aka “Twinkle, twinkle, little star”.

    Kitchi apitendagwad
    Jesus ogagikwewin:
    Geget kitchitwawendagwad,
    Mojag kitchitwawendamog,
    Weweni pisindamog,
    Mino ganawendamog.

    Kakina okikendan
    Debeniminang Jesus;
    Kawin gego onendasin,
    Ka wika giwanimossi;
    Kaginig debwetawig,
    Gaie babamitawig.

    Weweni pesindagig
    Jesus odikitowin
    Kitchi jawendagosiwag,
    Gwaiak owabandanawa
    Wenjiching mikana,
    Mojag gaiakossewag.

  9. This is a day long-awaited by both admirers of St. Hildegard and those of us who study her academically. Indeed, many of us had long thought it improbable that her canonization cause would be renewed or that she would ever be considered for the honor of Doctor of the Church, to which the Pope will raise her later this year. Because her visionary writings are amongst the most intensely daring and theologically innovative of the twelfth century, her bold tendencies have long made that dream seem distant and unattainable. No longer!

    Indeed, there is a certain providence that the German Pontiff would be the one to rescue St. Hildegard’s powerful theological wisdom from the clutches of new agers and herbalists. A half-century ago, Hildegard was little known outside a small circle of German scholars; crucially, however, that small circle numbered a young Joseph Ratzinger in their number. His early work on medieval theologies of history most certainly brought him into contact with Hildegard’s powerfully prophetic vision of the Church’s mission in the world–a vision of corruption castigated and charity renewed, a Church both holier and smaller. Indeed, his exposure to Hildegard most certainly influenced his own visions of Church reform at the time of the Council, a vision he enunciated in his essays on Faith and the Future.

    I will soon post on my blog ( a detailed examination of Hildegard’s influence on Pope Benedict’s vision of a Church reformed and renewed. It is crucial, I believe, to understand the context of his early scholarship on medieval theologies of history in order to understand his “Reform of the Reform” today.

  10. RichardC says:

    I only know of her through her music.

  11. JackintheVox says:

    Father, please don’t overlook Sister Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, born in Bayonne in 1901 and died as a Sister of Charity at the College of St. Elizabeth Seton in 1927.

    Her elevation to Venerable is proof that even New Jerseyans can be saints. :-)

    She is also considered an “Apostle of Unity” as she was raised Byzantine Catholic.

  12. AdTrinitatemPerMariam says:

    That’s so awesome!!!! :D

    Venerable Frederic Baraga, pray for us!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Thanks for both these pieces of news! Splendid!

    Can anyone recommend English translations (off- or even on-line) of St. Hildegard’s works (or anthologies from them)?

  14. As I mentioned in my comment above, I have written a detailed examination of Hildegard’s influence on Pope Benedict’s vision of a Church reformed and renewed, which can be read here.

  15. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Thanks to Magister Nathaniel for the interesting two-part essay – and implicit translation recommendations in the footnotes! But the Liber Divinorum Operum ed. (1996) seems only the Latin text: is the quotation your own translation of that passage, there being no (full) English version (yet) available?

    P.S.: Something mechanical seems to have gone wrong in the first sentence quoted from the Trier sermon.

  16. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Priscilla Throop is your cheapie source for plain, simple translations of a lot of medievals, including some of St. Hildegard of Bingen. She’s done the whole Physica, Causes and Cures, and the Book of Divine Works. (Also big chunks of Hrabanus Maurus, St. Isidore, et cetera….) She’s a translating juggernaut. (Look for her stuff on Amazon and Lulu.)

  17. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Oh, hey! She’s put out Physica on the Kindle for $9.99! Yay yay yay!

  18. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Forgot to say that the above are more medieval medical tomes, complete with the theory of humors. You’ll have to read her theology elsewhere. (I think that’s Scivias and other stuff.)

    But if you read past the outdated scientific theory, there’s a lot of good sense in St. Hildegard’s medical stuff still. She comes across as a darned good household manager, like a lot of medieval women also great in other fields.

  19. To Venerator Sti Lot:

    The only English translation currently available of the Book of Divine Works is the one edited by Matthew Fox and published out of Santa Fe — and it should be avoided, as it was translated not from the Latin but from an incomplete German translation, and it comes with Fox’s peculiar brand of “creation spirituality”.

    The translations of the letters in my essays were taken from those published by Baird and Ehrman (as noted), and are highly recommended (and thanks for catching the typo!). The translations from the Liber Divinorum Operum were my own, from the Latin. I hope someday to publish a complete and accurate translation of that, her greatest work.

    If you want a good introduction, I would recommend reading her first visionary volume, the Scivias, available in an excellent translation from Paulist Press in the Classics of Western Spirituality series. There is also a serviceable translation of her second volume, The Book of the Rewards of Life, available.

  20. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Surely I am not alone in saying many thanks for all the explicit translation details to Scitoviadomini and Suburbanbanshee! With repect to the intended Liber Divinorum Operum translation, as I once heard a great Roman-British archaeologist say, “More power to your elbow!”

  21. Suburbanbanshee says:

    La Throop’s had out a translation of the Book of Divine Works since 2010.

    Of course, that doesn’t have to stop anybody. She’s not exactly a big huge annotator.

  22. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Actually, looked at the copyright page on the print preview, and it’s been out since 2009.

    Yes, I think La Throop needs to publicize her translations more.

  23. irishgirl says:

    Wonderful news about Hildegard von Bingen and Bishop Baraga!
    The first CD I bought had some of her compositions, but the music itself was ‘modern’.
    It was called ‘Voices of Light’, by the American composer Richard Einhorn. He wrote it after viewing the classic silent movie ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc’ (produced and directed by Carl Theodore Dreyer) at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. The film never had a ‘soundtrack’, properly so called, but this piece (with poetry written by now-Saint Hildegard, among other medieval female mystics) is used when the film is shown, with live orchestra and chorus.

  24. LaudemGloriae says:

    Can we do the same for Julian of Norwich?? So well loved with beautiful writings and another figure to be redeemed from the “feminist twaddle”. Ours is an age that needs the message entrusted to her from Our Lord “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” I can imagine a beautiful office and hymns written around her “showings.”

  25. inara says:

    This just may be the news that gets my husband’s brew kettle & wort chiller out of storage! St. Hildegard was one of the early advocates of adding hops to beer (& my hubby says the hoppier the better).

  26. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    A couple additional St. Hildegard notes:

    The Sequentia recordings (I think, her complete musical works) are now available in a ‘bargain’ boxed eight-cd set (I have not done much comparison pricing…, but, for example, it come to a little over $3 per cd at the U.S. Amazon), though the customer review at Amazon says ominously “Minimal artwork and documentation” (does this mean translating by ear?)

    The internet archive has Cardinal Pitra’s Analecta sanctae Hildegardis (1882) (an edition of selected works in Latin) and also Paul Kaiser’s 1903 ed. of her Causae et Curae.

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