CANONIZATION, a rite in the Roman Catholic Church by which a deceased person is inscribed in the catalogue of the saints and by which it is publicly, solemnly and canonically declared that such person is to be honored as a saint by all the faithful.
The desire to honor the dead is an instinct of human nature. The state picks out its great ones for civil honors; the Church holds up to the veneration of its members those who by the sanctity of their lives and their love of God and their fellow-men merit imitation.
The state Lonors its heroes on account of intellectual ability, oratorical gifts, courage or patriotism; the Church demands purity of life and eminent virtue in her spiritual heroes. As a proof of that virtue she requires miracles wrought by or through their intercession. The virtues, which must be heroic, and the miracles, are proved by a process most minute and searching.
During the early centuries the deeds of the martyrs were recorded by Christian notaries. For this purpose Pope Clement divided the city of Rome into seven quarters with a special notary for each quarter. The letters of Saints Cypnan, Jerome, Augustine and Epiphanius tell us of the efforts of the bishops to collect the deeds of the martyrs and to have them venerated.
In the early times individual bishops sifted the testimony regarding those brought to their notice as worthy of veneration and declared for or against it. But this gave rise to inconven iences and the necessity of a• central authority for judging in such cases was made manifest.
As early as the 4th century the case of Saint Vigilius, bishop of Trent, who was martyred A.D. 399, was brought to Rome to secure the consent of the Pope for his veneration as a saint.
Gradually the procedure in these matters was elaborated and in 1587 the Congregation of Rites was charged with the duty of investigat ing the causes of Beatification and Canonization.
Beatification precedes Canonization, and is a decree which permits the honoring of a servant of God by public worship in a certain place. It differs therefore from Canonization in that the latter not only concedes but declares that ven eration be paid by the universal Church to the canonized one whilst Beatification permits only in a certain place the honoring of the beatified.
The process by which Beatification is reached is a lengthy one. "The fierce light which beats upon a throne' is nothing to the minute and protracted inquiry which turns upon the every day life of the person submitted to it.
Thirteen or fourteen steps may be distin guished in theprocess of Beatification. The bishop of the diocese first inquires at to the reputation of the person proposed for virtue and miraculous powers. Then the question of is examined; namely whether any veneration was paid to the servant of God or whether any thing was done contrary to the de crees of Urban VIII which prescribes the form of Beatification and Canonization.
As a third step the minutes of these two in quiries are sent to Rome. The process is then opened before the Congregation of Rites. See CONGREGATIONS, ROMAN.
The Promoter Fidei (called in popular lan guage the "devil's advocate') is appointed. His duty is to raise objections against the proc ess and person. All the works printed or in manuscript, if the person were an author, are then examined. If a favorable report is made, then begins what is called the Apostolic Proc ess. A commission is given to the Congrega tion of Rites to investigate the notoriety, real ity and nature of the virtues and miracles as cribed to the one to be beatified.
Three bishops are appointed to deal with the case systematically. Their findings are sent to the Congregation of Rites and examined and arguments are heard pro and contra.
A new delegation makes another and more searching inquiry, if the result of the last ex amination is favorable. The process is again returned to the Congregation of Rites to be again examined. In three successive meetings, at the last of which the Pope is present, the virtues and miracles of the subject for beati fication are again discussed.