This Sunday we were pleased to have with us Archbishop Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. After celebrating the community Mass and joining us for pranzo, the archbishop remained to give a short presentation on his work in the Vatican and then entertained some questions. This office in the Vatican is entrusted with the task of receiving, investigating, authenticating, and eventually recommending that men and women of virtue be lifted up as blesseds or saints in the Church. It is the pope himself who makes the final decision and decree.
His Excellency is a humble man with a calming sense of humor. He also has more than 30 years of teaching experience in the academy and served for a period of time with then Cardinal Ratzinger at the CDF.
I was struck by his very presence. It is clear that this is a very down-to-earth and practical man who understands that he nor his office have the duty of "making saints" but merely to recognize the ways that God has worked in the lives of various Christians. He spoke, in relation to this, that it is his duty to merely follow a very clear and straightforward procedure and that he respects the process of inquiry, investigtion, medical and scientific in nature., etc for the 2,000 causes that are currently in some level of investigation.
I learned that if indeed a Catholic is killed for the faith, that is, he or she is a martyr, then a miracle is not required for beatification as it is for anyone else. Instead, a miracle is only needed for canonization.
Also interesting is the fact that he asks each bishop on their ad limina visit (which occurs every five or seven years by a bishop to the Vatican offices) to please search for and recognize models of holiness in his own diocese, especially secular lay men and women and married people. This is a duty of the bishop - to promote the local causes for sainthood. Often it is the case that the Congregation for Saints has a plethora of causes of religous founders. This lament comes from a man who himself is a Salesian! And of course, there is nothing wrong with canonizing founders of religious communities !!!! , but still, the Church needs more models of holiness of secuar lay men and women and married people.
A question was posed about whether a Christian can be canonized who had vice in his or her life, some imperfection, etc. The archbishop responded "yes", because it is often the shadow side of a human that makes his or her light even brighter. I was pleased to hear this for two reasons. First is because it helps us understand that saints are not given to us as models because they were perfect, but because they cooperated fully with the work of God in their lives. Second, because of the six Holy Cross religious whose causes for canonizations are currently in process, some had "shadows" such as the vice of anger, etc. And hey, there is hope for us too!
When asked why there are so many Italian saints, the archbishop quickly responded, "This is true. There are. And this is because as St. Paul said, 'Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.'". We all got a good chuckle out of that one.
I was able to speak ever briefly with him and he spoke quite enthusiastically about his recent visit to Notre Dame and when I handed him a holy card of Blessed Basil Moreau, CSC, he knew at once who he is.