From a reader…
We pray with our Necrologium every night during Compline and we have many “Servants of God” along with “Venerables” and “Blesseds” among the dead of our Congregation.
I was wondering, do we pray for their souls?
Servants of God are those whose causes for beatification/canonization have been opened. Until they are official declared “Blessed” So-and-So we don’t have a statement of moral certitude from the Church that they are in heaven. “Venerable” means that the person lived a life of heroic virtues, but they have not yet been declared “Blessed” or “Saint”.
Yes, we can pray for the repose of the souls of “Servants of God” and that they be brought swiftly into the glory of heaven, if they do not already enjoy it.
Some will pray to a “Servant of God” for intercession even though their causes have not yet progressed. That said, there must be no public cult for a “Servant of God”. That is not permitted until at least beatification.
Our prayers for a Servant of God who is, in fact, in heaven – though we don’t know that for sure now – are not in vain. God knows how to dispose of the good works we perform for the sake of the souls in Purgatory.
I was asked recently (in a friendly way) “based on what evidence can the Pope know and by what authority can the Church declare someone to be in Heaven”. My somewhat glib answer was “by the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church”. For better or worse that was accepted. But I went later to comb through my Tanqueray, Pruemmer, Herve, etc. and could not find an explanation. Help please.
Perhaps you could define “public cult”. Suppose a group of friends wanted to gather to pray for one of their members by invoking the intercession of a servant of God and suppose they wanted to do it in a fairly public manner so that any results from prayer would be well documented and easily attested. Would that constitute a public cult?
Or suppose a group who is interested in the cause of a particular person published a prayer to be used for the purposes of obtaining a miracle that could be used as evidence to advance that servant of God’s cause. An example can be found on the website of the Abby of Solemes (http://www.solesmes.com/abbe/dom-prosper-gueranger). Would that constitute a public cult?
rtjl: Prayers for miracles associated with a sainthood cause are not public cult. They are private cult.
Public cult: A devotion “carried on in the name of the Church, by persons legitimately designated to do so; and by the performance of acts that, according to the institution of the Church, are referable only to God, the saints, and the beatified.”
Private cult is everything else. The Church is extremely generous with allowing people to do all sorts of private devotions. Logically, you have to let people pray for their dead and ask for their prayers; it’s part of the Communion of Saints, to which all Christians belong.
A group of friends is just people. A group of friends standing at the White House gates or in the middle of Disneyland is still just people.
A group of friends that included a bishop and a priest, and the bishop and the priest standing at the altar in church doing Mass… that would be different.
Having up pictures in a church building, where the person is portrayed as a saint/martyr and not as Bob the Donor, is also an example of public cult. The English Martyrs under Henry VIII and Elizabeth I got an exception to “de non cultu”, because the Pope at the time said it was cool to put them in a fresco of English martyrs at the English seminary in Rome.
But usually it’s okay to put up saint pictures in church of blesseds and saints, but not of venerables and servants of God. (Which means no Servant of God Dorothy Day, unless she’s portrayed as Just Another Laywoman. Martin Luther King is supposed to be Right Out. I guess you could always relabel him as St. Martin de Porres, if you are stuck with a Weird Sixties Church.)
Unwilling, the proof of miracles performed after death is one really big way of knowing someone is in heaven and can intercede for us.
If I obtain a plenary indulgence for the person in question, would he or she not become a saint?
Joe, if the Venerable had not, yet, got to heaven, and your plenary indulgence were fully satisfactory (fully met the conditions), then yes, they would become a saint. I.E. in Heaven. But that does not mean they would become a canonized saint. For one thing, the Church does not go around declaring when a Catholic has truly met the requirements for a plenary indulgence.
I have a slightly different question: Should we pray for canonized saints? I know, that seems silly – they are ALREADY in heaven. However, some time back, I read a book by St. Alphonsus Liguori. In the preface, (his own preface), he asks the reader to say a prayer for him. Now, for a writer that’s a brilliant thing to do, because if you get a lot of readers you get a lot of prayers said for you. But it got me to thinking: God is outside of time, and God can apply the merits of an act that comes later to some other person earlier: that’s EXACTLY what God did for all the Patriarchs and Prophets who were saved – God gave them sanctifying grace in virtue of the later salvific cross and death of Jesus. So, who is to say whether St. Alphonsus Liguori was a saint in his day precisely because all those readers, down the centuries, have been saying a prayer for him? If so, who am I to ignore the saint’s own request? Surely, if Mother Teresa or John Paul II, when they were alive, had asked me to pray for them, I would do so. So should I not grant St. Alphonsus the same treatment? So I said a prayer for him.
I would suppose that the prayer could be generalized so: “Lord, if X is in need of prayers, let this be for him. If X is already a saint without my prayers, then let this prayer be in thanksgiving and honor to You for making him to merit heaven.”