Five years after her death, cause for canonization can begin.
By Lauren Arsena
Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament
Originally Published in Diocese of Birmingham’s One Voice
The opening of the cause for canonization of Mother Mary Angelica, PCPA, foundress of the Eternal Television Network (EWTN) and the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, is possible as of March 27, 2021.
There have been unique cases where this waiting period has been waived, for instance for John Paul II and Mother Teresa. For most, the Church requires 5 years till after the candidate has passed to ensure a more objective evaluation prior to beginning the process of canonization.
There are 4 distinct steps to sainthood. The first step in the process is to open the cause and evaluate the candidate’s life. At this time, the title servant of God is given to the candidate. The second step is approving the life lived by the servant of God as virtuous and, subsequently declaring them as venerable. The third step is the need for one miracle exclusively through the intercession of the candidate who can then be beatified or blessed. Lastly, a second miracle is required one the candidate is beatified to then be canonized and officially recognized as a saint in the universal Church.
To open the cause for canonization a petition needs to be sent to Rome from the bishop of the diocese in which the candidate died. First, a libellus, or written request, typically by the candidate’s church, religious community or order, is sent to the bishop to begin the process. The libellus would include a biography demonstrating a life of heroic virtue, reputation for holiness, all published writings, intercessory power, potential witnesses (this could include sisters, friars, friends, EWTN personnel, etc.) to verify the truths about the candidate’s life, and any alleged miracles. After the libellus is received and accepted, the bishop must request permission from the Holy See to open a special tribunal to evaluate the life lived by the candidate of the diocese.
From starting the largest global Catholic network, the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), hosting live shows addressing political, religious, and counter-cultural issues with people around the world, writing countless books on the faith, and miraculously building a Shrine dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, it’s evident Mother Angelica has left an indelible mark on the Church.
For Mother Angelica it would be the Diocese of Birmingham. Birmingham is where she spent most of her life and is currently buried at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville. With the approval from Rome, the investigation is then opened and the title Servant of God is given to the candidate in question. Witnesses and the writings from and about the candidate are gathered and carefully examined by the diocesan tribunal to determine whether or not the candidate lived a virtuous life. Once the investigation is complete and documented, the document is then sent to the Congregation of the Causes of Saints located in Rome. The Congregation then prepares a Positio, or a summary of the document given by the diocesan tribunal, and, in turn, nine theologians study the Positio and vote whether or not the candidate did in fact live a virtuous life. If they vote in favor, it then gets passed on to the cardinals and bishops of the Congregation. Lastly, it is given to the pope who can then give his final approval to the Congregation in declaring the candidate as venerable.
The next step is beatification. One miracle is required exclusively through the intercession of the venerable in order to be beatified. A scientific and theological tribunal gather within the diocese of where the alleged miracle took place and begin the investigation verifying whether or not there was a miracle. The documentation is then sent to the Congregation in Rome to analyze and confirm with the pope. Once the candidate is beatified, the candidate is then declared blessed.
In order to be canonized, a second miracle is required. The investigation process is exactly the same as the first miracle. With a second miracle, a cause for canonization is sent from the Congregation to the pope who can then officially declare the candidate as a saint. Traditionally, a special Mass will then be held in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican with the pope in honor of the new saint.
From starting the largest global Catholic network, the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), hosting live shows addressing political, religious, and counter-cultural issues with people around the world, writing countless books on the faith, and miraculously building a Shrine dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, it’s evident Mother Angelica has left an indelible mark on the Church. And once the cause is opened, the Church can carefully and prayerfully move forward in potentially declaring this momentous woman first as servant of God, then as venerable, then as blessed, and lastly as saint.