Saturday’s beatification of a New Jersey nun credited with curing a boy’s eye ailment marks another step in a process that started nearly 70 years ago. Here are a few facts about the process:
Q: What is beatification?
A: Beatification is the third of four steps to become a saint. Those who are beatified must go through a local church investigation of the person’s life and writings to show their “heroic” virtues.
“The person needs to have those beyond the average good person,” said Maureen Tilley, a theology and medieval studies professor at Fordham University in New York.
Once that’s complete, they need to prove that the saint has been responsible for a miracle that is decreed by the pope. After that, the person is referred to as “blessed.”
Q: What does it take to become a saint?
A: Once a person is beatified, there needs to be an official certification of a second miracle. The requirement of a second miracle, however, is removed if the person being considered for sainthood is a martyr.
Q: How are miracles certified?
A: Miracles must be proven as such without any doubt that there was any other cause for the event. The review starts at a local level, where doctors must be certain that there were no other causes and the condition does not have any cases of “spontaneous remission,” Tilley said. Once the review is complete, it’s sent to the Vatican, where more doctors review the medical records before the event is decreed a miracle by the pope.
“They’ve got to have very good proof that this person was terribly, terribly sick,” Tilley said.
Q: Why can it take so long?
A: Under normal circumstances, those being considered for sainthood can’t actually be considered for five years after the person dies. Though there are exceptions to the rule, this is in place to show that the person made a crucial impact on people other than the person’s family and close friends, Tilley said.
The process is also prolonged because reviewers need to go over all of the writings and anything about their life, Tilley said.