Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Question: Saints' images in church

I'm trying to track down an answer to a question: can someone who is a "venerable"* or a "blessed"--but not a "saint"--be honored with an image in a church? Last night, I went looking through the General Instruction on the Roman Missal and Built of Living Stones, the document the U.S. bishops put together several years ago on church architecture, but didn't find the answer there; nor was an Internet search helpful.

Any suggestions?

Update: I may have found my answer...I read an article at the Catholic Encyclopedia about the distinction between beatification--declaring someone "blessed"--and "canonization," after which one it termed "saint." It made the point that once one is beatified, s/he can be venerated as a saint, but not universally; canonization makes the permission--or mandate--universal. Hence, depending on the locality--and perhaps with ecclesiastical approbation, I'm guessing a Blessed can have an image put on display for veneration; once canonized, no permission would be needed.

I'm not saying this is right; if anyone can shed light on it, I'd be grateful.

* I realize not everyone is familiar with the distinctions the Church makes about someone being "venerable," "blessed" or a "saint." This is not a subject I can address in detail, but here's a quick summary: the Church has a formal process for declaring someone a saint--i.e., "canonizing" a saint. It involves initially recognizing someone as a "servant of God," which is the very beginning step, after which "the cause" has begun.

Part of the process is to investigate fully the individual's life and writings, if any. The faithful are invited to ask the Servant of God to pray for various things, and then the Church waits to see if anyone can show a miracle happened as a result. Proof is demanded, and insofar as it involves a healing, medical experts are consulted. The idea being that if we ask the late Pope John Paul II to pray for a miracle, and God grants it, that is evidence of the late pope's sanctity and being in heaven--and thus, a saint. But the Church requires more than one round of that, hence the steps of being declared "venerable," then "blessed," and then "saint." The reason for it being deliberate is, of course, to try to get it right. I probably got some detail wrong in describing this--this is a very quick, "not ready for wikipedia" version of the process!


Carmela James said...


What you've speculated sounds right to me.

I attended a Marianist university, and while we had images of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade on campus, I don't remember seeing any in any of the several chapels. However, I've seen images of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha in every Catholic shop I've ever been in. So experience doesn't help much.

But maybe logic can! What would be the point of having three categories if we could not venerate those who are not full saints yet? If that's the case, it should be a three-step process resulting in one category.

Jackie said...

Goodness, Father - it's REALLY purple!

Fr Martin Fox said...


Sorry, that was Advent purple, this is now Lent purple (wink!).

Fr. Ron Williams said...

In the priory chapel of St. Gertrude's parish (Cincinnati), there are stained glass windows of Dominican saints. I can't remember which colors match: either it's purple halos for the beatified and green halos for the canonized, or the other way around. But the point is they have images of the sacred who, at the time, were merely beatified. And stained glass windows are designed to last a very long time...!

Nan said...

Last summer I went to a Mass in remembrance of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. The parish in which it took place has no ties to her per se; however, because the Missionaries of Charity's local house asked the pastor to celebrate Mass in her honor, we properly celebrated her feastday. That wouldn't have been possible in any other parish in the diocese on that day; her order's involvement made it proper, so yes, it's like real estate, location, location, location.

In re: merchandise from Catholic shops, that's a totally different story. They also featured images of Bl. Teresa before she was beatified and also of Venerable John Paul II, prior to his having been declared venerable. I have the most recent memorial mass card of a deceased priest who people believe performs miracles.

It's typical for causes for canonization to have cards featuring their candidate, the better for interested people to venerate the deceased and to request miracles.

Bob Blum said...

It might help to know who the first "canonized" was, when they lived, and when they were "canonized". Anyone have any information on this? Thanks. Via con Dios.