Today is the Feast of St. Gregory VII, Hildebrand. He reigned from 1073-1085. This was a serious Pope. He had to deal with the Investiture Controversy, which was about the primacy of the Pope’s authority. He was vilified during his pontificate for his steadfastness. He wound up excommunicating Emperor Henry IV three times. You might remember the story about how Gregory imposed a penance on Henry. Henry was to walk to Canossa, where Gregory was. Some accounts have Henry kneeling in the snow before the entrance to the castle.
Gregory didn’t have qualms about dealing with politicians who were bad Catholics. He acted.
Gregory VII was introduced into our veneration at the altar – though not so much this year, because it is Tuesday in the Octave of Pentecost – not through canonization, as most modern saints are. He is venerated due to “equivalent canonization”.
The mighty Benedict XIV, Lambertini, explains “equivalent” or “equipollent canonization” in his De Servorum Dei beatificatione et de Beatorum canonizatione. Essentially, a Pope can enjoin the Church to observe the veneration of a Servant of God not yet canonized by the insertion of his feast into the liturgical calendar of the Universal Church, with a Mass and the Divine Office. The conditions are that there must be a) a “cult” of the person, that is religious veneration, 2) attestation of virtues or martyrdom in historical records, and 3) uninterrupted fame of miracles brought about by his/her intercession. This “equivalent canonization” isn’t done with the usual process and formula of canonization, but rather by means of a decree that the Church venerate the Servant of God with the same cult by which canonized saints are venerated. Some examples of this sort of canonization are Norbert, Bruno, Pietro Nolasco, Raymond Nonnato, Stephen of Hungary, John Fisher and Thomas More, Venerable Bede, Albert the Great, etc. More recently, Benedict XVI did this for St. Hildegard of Bingen.
Benedict XIV, who did this for some saints, also was the Pope – and great canonist – who codified the process for beatification and canonization which, though altered in some parts, is basically the same process still used today by the Church.
So, now you know.