LAST OCTOBER 19TH, THE HOLY FATHER BEATIFIED MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA
The Significance of Friday, 20 December 2002
Twice a year, before Christmas and in July, the Pope approves decrees
on heroic virtues and on miracles. On Friday, December 20, the decrees
to be approved include those concerning Mother Teresa’s heroic
virtues and the miracle attributed to her intercession. Since this is
the final step towards beatification, shortly after the decrees are
approved, an announcement will be made concerning the date and place
of Mother Teresa’s Beatification.
What is a Saint?
A saint is a disciple of Jesus Christ, who “lived a life of extraordinary
fidelity to the Lord.” Saints are people who in this life were
so united to Jesus Christ that with His help they strove to do “the
will of the Father in everything,” devoting themselves “to
the glory of God and to the service of their neighbor.” Saints
give us shining examples of all the virtues, including: faith, hope,
and love both of God and every human being; prudence (or practical wisdom),
justice, fortitude (or courage), and temperance (or self-mastery); detachment,
purity, and obedience; humility, simplicity and magnanimity. Each saint
is noteworthy for certain particular virtues. For this reason, the Church
proposes them to its members as friends and companions in the following
of Christ, as models to imitate, and as intercessors with God.
Mother Teresa was known around the world for her whole-hearted and free
service to the poorest of the poor, a virtue which lifted the hearts
of many to God and inspired many to imitate her.
What is the meaning of Beatification?
The canonization of a saint is a solemn act by which the Pope, the supreme
authority in the Catholic Church, declares that a person practiced heroic
virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, is with God in heaven
and is to be venerated throughout the whole Church. The Pope enrolls
the person on the list of Saints. Another word for list is “canon,”
hence the term “canonization.” The expression, “raised
to the altars,” often used as an equivalent of “canonization,”
means that the person is assigned a feast day in the yearly schedule
of the Church’s liturgical celebrations. This assigning of a feast
day is done at the time of beatification.
Beatification is a step in the process of canonization. By it the Pope
allows public veneration of the person in the local Church, within the
religious congregation with which he or she was associated, and in other
places by those who receive such permission. Note the difference: a
Saint should be honored in liturgical celebrations by the universal,
that is, the whole Church, whereas a “Blessed” may be so
honored in certain places.
The aim of the work before beatification is to establish as accurately
as possible the historic facts of the candidate’s life, to demonstrate
the way the candidate practiced the Christian virtues, and to show that
the members of the Church, that is, “the faithful,” consider
him or her to be holy and, therefore, worthy of veneration.
This process has two stages.
first stage, the Diocesan Phase, is the responsibility of the local
church where the candidate lived; in Mother Teresa’s case, the
Archdiocese of Calcutta. This phase, under the authority of the local
bishop and assisted by a Postulator, focuses on gathering information
- collecting documents and interviewing witnesses – on the life,
virtues, and reputation of sanctity of the candidate for canonization.
Once the Diocesan Phase opens, the candidate may be referred to as a
“Servant of God.”
The second stage is the Roman Phase. The findings of the local church
are transferred to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints [CCS],
an office of the Vatican, for study and evaluation. This work is done
by the Postulator under the supervision of an official of the CCS. After
study by a panel of theologians and a commission of cardinals and bishops,
the CCS presents its findings to the Pope for his judgment.
When the Pope affirms that the Servant of God indeed lived a heroic
Christian life, he or she is then called the “Venerable Servant
of God.” Upon the approval of a miracle attributed to the person’s
intercession, the beatification ceremony may be held.
A miracle is an extraordinary event, which is scientifically inexplicable
and, in a cause for canonization, is directly attributable to the intercession
of the Servant of God. In the causes of saints, the miracles investigated
are usually cures, because they are more easily documented. Miracles
and graces or favours, granted after prayers to the Servant of God,
serve as evidence that God Himself is the origin of that person’s
reputation of holiness. A miracle is a sign of divine approval. Miracles
confirm that it is God who has aroused in the faithful the opinion that
a particular Servant of God is worthy of canonization.
An event proposed as a miracle is subjected to a thorough scientific
investigation by experts. For beatification one authentic miracle must
be recognized as obtained through the intercession of the Servant of
From Blessed to Saint A Servant of God who is beatified is called “Blessed.”
The Blessed may be canonized after the occurrence of one more miracle
attributed to his or her intercession.
Mother Teresa will always remain Mother for those who knew her, hence
many people will call her “Blessed Mother Teresa,” but officially
she will be known as “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta” and later,
God willing, as “Saint Teresa of Calcutta.”
The Purpose of Canonization
By honouring its children who lived as heroes of faith and love, the
Church recognizes the power of the Holy Spirit within her. Saints give
us joy; their example sustains our hope; and their friendship increases
our love and union with God and with each other. A canonization is a
way of giving thanks to God as we honor the person who has been so faithful
to God’s plan in his or her life.
HISTORY OF THE CAUSE
5 September 1997
Mother Teresa dies at the Motherhouse in Calcutta at 9:30 pm.
23 October 1997
Archbishop Henry D'Souza petitions the Congregation for the Causes of
Saints for a dispensation from the norm requiring a waiting period of
five years after death so that he may initiate the Diocesan Enquiry
into the Life, Virtues, and Reputation of Sanctity of Mother Teresa.
12 December 1998
Congregation for the Causes of Saints grants dispensation to Archbishop.
19 March 1999
The Superior Generals of the Missionaries of Charity appoint Father
Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., as Postulator to oversee the Enquiry and Cause,
and act on their behalf.
8 April 1999
The Bishops of the West Bengal region agree to introduce the Cause before
the standard five-year period.
21 April 1999
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints issues the "Nihil Obstat"
declaring there is no obstacle on the part of the Holy See to the Cause
of Canonization of Mother Teresa.
6 June 1999
Sister M. Lynn Mascarenhas, M.C. appointed as Vice Postulatrix.
11 June 1999
Postulator submits the petition to the Archbishop of Calcutta requesting
him to initiate the Diocesan Enquiry; included is a Biographical Report
and a List of Witnesses to be questioned.
12 June 1999
Archbishop makes public the Petition of the Postulator and declares
he is initiating the Cause of Beatification and Canonization of the
Servant of God Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
26 July 1999
The Official Opening of the Cause in St. Mary's Church, Calcutta. The
Archbishop administers an oath to the 12 members of the Diocesan Enquiry
Team. This Opening begins the period of field research, interviews with
eyewitnesses, and review of documents and materials pertaining to the
life and work of Mother Teresa. Concluding in August 2001, this work
produces 80 volumes of material, each approximately 450 pages, for presentation
to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
15 August 2001
Closing session of the Diocesan Enquiry into the Life, Virtues, and
Reputation of Sanctity of the Servant of God, Mother Teresa of Calcutta
in St. Mary's Church. The Acts of the Diocesan Enquiry is to be carried
to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome by the Postulator.
29 August 2001
The opening of the Transcript of the Acts of the Diocesan Enquiry into
the Life, Virtues and Reputation of Sanctity of the Servant of God Mother
22 September 2001
The Congregation for the Causes of Saints declares the validity of the
Diocesan Enquiry of Calcutta and the Rogatory Inquiries. The Congregation
for the Causes of Saints appoints the Rev. Msgr. José Luis Gutiérrez
Gómez as Relator of the Cause.
26 April 2002
The Positio is completed and given to the Congregation for the Causes
of Saints for study.
19 June 2002
A panel of five medical experts unanimously affirms that the cure of
Mrs. Monica Besra was instantaneous, complete, permanent, and scientifically
28 June 2002
A Congress of Theological Consulters unanimously affirms that the Servant
of God Mother Teresa of Calcutta practiced the Christian virtues to
a heroic degree.
6 September 2002
A second Congress of Theological Consulters unanimously affirms that
the healing of Mrs. Monica Besra, was miraculous and is to be attributed
to the intercession of the Servant of God.
24 September 2002
In Ordinary Session, the Cardinals and Bishops of the CCS, after hearing
the report of His Eminence, Simon Cardinal Lourdusamy, the Proposer
[Ponens] of the Cause, unanimously recognize that the Servant of God
Mother Teresa of Calcutta practiced the theological, cardinal and other
annexed virtues to a heroic decree.
1 October 2002
In Ordinary Session, the Cardinals and Bishops of the CCS, after hearing
the report of His Excellency, Bishop Salvatore Fisichella, the Proposer
[Ponens] of the Cause, unanimously confirm the existence of the miracle
attributed to the intercession of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
20 December 2002
His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, after receiving a full report, accepts
and ratifies the vote of the CCS concerning the heroic practice of the
Christian virtues by Mother Teresa and the miracle attributed to her
intercession, and orders that the decrees concerning the same be made
public. There follows the announcement that the Venerable Servant of
God Mother Teresa of Calcutta is to be beatified on
19 October 2003.
19 October 2003 His Holiness, Pope John Paul II beatified the Venerable
Servant of God Mother Teresa of Calcutta at St. Peter’s square