Last week we explored the development of the process for canonizing Catholic saints – by with the Church on earth recognizes if someone is certainly in Heaven or not.
Roughly the contemporary process looks like this:
Servant of God → Venerable → Blessed → Saint
This week, a reader named Fr. Paul D’Souza, OCD writes a question about the history of the process of Beatification:
Dear Dr. Taylor,
Just yesterday we were discussing whether or not there was a process of canonization and beatification in earlier centuries.
We were especially concerned with Blessed Dionysius and Redemptus who were martyred in 1638. Can you kindly find out for us when they were declared venerable? and other details of the PROCESS leading to their beatification in 1900 by Leo XIII. I am a Carmelite from Goa where we had a monastery in the 17th century from where these two went to their martyrdom in Sumatra.
Father Paul, bishops had the power of beatifying deceased Christians within their own diocese until July 6 1634, when Pope Urban VIII reserved the power of beatifying to the Pope alone (Cœlestis Jerusalem).
Being declared “Venerable” essentially means: “This person is approved as heroic in virtue, so now we are just waiting for one miracle to move on to beatification.”
I’m not sure about Blessed Dionysius (Denis) and Blessed Redemptus (shared feast day Nov 29) who were martyred in 1638. If you don’t count Saint Bede, the earliest example of being called “Venerable” goes back to 1673 (35 years after their martyrdom). We certainly have popes declaring “Venerables” in the 1700s. So it is unclear to me whether these two Blesseds were formally declared “Venerable” prior to their beatification in 1900. I suspect that they were since Venerable came to mean “accepted into the process of canonization” and each martyr was already well along that process by 1900.
Dr Taylor Marshall
PS: Notably, all priests of the Carthusian Order use the title “Venerable” rather than “Reverend.”