This question comes from a comment under another post, but it stands on its own.
From a reader…
Father, quick question? I too believe that Benedict is a saint in heaven. Of course, when someone dies (including a pope), we pray for his soul. Thursday’s requiem will do just that. However, at what point is it permissible to pray *to* him for his intercession?
This is a good question.
In the long history of the Church venerating saints, first popularly, and then formally declaring certain saints for veneration, there have always been two crucial elements involved… at least until fairly recently, quite strong. That is…
… fama sanctitatis… reputation for holiness, and
… cult. (I don’t mean anything like liberal koolaid or blue oysters.
There can also be reputation for martyrdom, but let’s leave that aside.
The very first thing that spurs the beginning of a “process” which could lead to beatification is that there is a widespread, spontaneous public devotion for the person. In our lifetimes, a good example of this is how so many people were in favor of the canonization of John Paul II. There was obvious, widespread and spontaneous devotion to him. That was less manifest in the case of Paul VI. I never encountered people strongly devoted to Paul VI. I digress.
Because of this strong devotion, someone (the “actor“) will take the initiative to begin a cause.
As the cause progresses, proofs (documents, testimonies, writings, etc.) have to be gathered and examined which can be long and rigorous. At a certain point the “servant of God’s” cause advances to the printing of materials such as cards with prayers asking for intercession. However, there also has to be certified that there is no untoward or heretical veneration, any improper cult, around the servant of God or the place of burial. It is important that there be no official liturgical rites or images. For example, were a picture of the servant of God depicted with a halo put up in church or a stained glass window before the time of beatification. So, there has to be popular, spontaneous devotion, but it can’t be exaggerated or heretical.
As far as a figure such as Benedict XVI, I think there will be a strong popular devotion to him that could grow into a cause. How soon can one invoke his intercession? It seems reasonable to me to wait at least the few days allotted for mourning, an octave plus, the novemdiales.
Would it hurt to ask his intercession before that? Privately, no. Not at all. But there should be no organized cult of devotion in parishes, etc. Let it evolve on its own.
I am confidant that it will. Firstly, Benedict exuded kindness and solid faith. His prayer life was clearly deep, individually (you don’t write as he did otherwise) and liturgically. I do not want to see any cause rushed, and I think that some recently causes have been. But I suspect there will be a cause in time. While the haters are going to hate him no matter what, I believe that many hearts will begin to soften, even of those who were not enamored of him in life.