Frequently Asked Questions
Venerable is the title given to a deceased person recognized formally by the pope as having lived a heroically virtuous life. Before being declared Venerable, a person is first recognized as a Servant of God, the title given to a candidate for sainthood whose cause is still under investigation.
After being declared Venerable by Pope Francis on June 12, 2019, the next step toward sainthood is to be beatified and recognized as a Blessed. One miraculous healing acquired through the candidate's intercession is required. Canonization (declaring someone to be a saint) requires a second miracle after beatification. The pope may waive these requirements. A miracle is not required prior to a martyr's beatification, but one is required before canonization.
Beatification is a ceremony during which a person is declared to be in heaven and is given the title of Blessed. Blesseds are recognized by the Catholic Church for their martyrdom or their holiness of life and intercessory power through graces, favors, or miracles that are granted by God. Blesseds are also accorded limited liturgical veneration in local Churches, but not throughout the universal Church.
The beatification ceremony occurs by the decision of the Holy Father after a diocese and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has conducted a rigorous investigation into the person's life and writings to determine whether he or she demonstrates a heroic level of virtue or suffered martyrdom. A miracle attributed to the person's intercession must be proved.
Canonization is the ceremony celebrated by the Pope at which the title of Saint is granted to a Blessed. Saints are recognized universally by the Catholic Church as models of holiness to be imitated. They are also intercessors who pray for us to God.
The Pope alone has the power to declare someone Venerable, Blessed, or a Saint. According to the current practice, the Pope orders the Beatification which is typically carried out by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the place where the Cause was studied.
The Pope is assisted by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints which is part of the Roman Curia. Requests to begin a Cause come from around the world. Individual Bishops study the life or miracles attributed to an individual and forward the results of their investigations to the Congregation for study.
God grants us grace to live a life of holiness according to his will. Saints are those who respond to the grace of God in an extraordinary way. Responding to God’s initiative, Saints are those who live lives of great and heroic virtue. They are sure examples of holiness for us to imitate. Their closeness to God also makes them powerful intercessors who we ask to pray for us before the Lord. God manifests his desire that the Saints be honored and revered by granting graces, favors, and miracles through their intercession.
It is the department of the Roman Curia that is responsible for making recommendations to the pope on beatifications and canonizations, and the authentication and preservation of sacred relics.
It is usually a medical healing that has occurred by the grace of God through the intercession of a Venerable or Blessed and is scientifically unexplainable.
Right now, the Vatican is investigating possible miraculous healings associated with the intercession of Father Tolton. If the pope declares one of those healings a miracle attributable to the intercession of Father Tolton, then Father Tolton would become a Blessed. If or when that could occur, we do not know.
Beatification is an authorization to honor a Blessed and celebrate their liturgical feast days in a local territory. Blesseds are not universally honored or celebrated until they are canonized a saint. For Father Tolton, the authorized territory is limited to the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois and Archdiocese of Chicago. Other Dioceses and other territories can petition the Congregation for Divine Worship to also be granted the authorization to honor Father Tolton.
The laity generally manifests the common opinion about the holiness of a particular person. The request is made to the local Bishop of the place where the person died. If the Bishop thinks the Cause is worthy, he initiates the Cause and begins a diocesan inquiry into the martyrdom or life and virtues of the person. At this stage, the person is called Servant of God. In 2010, the Father Tolton cause for canonization was announced by then Cardinal Francis George in Chicago. In February of 2011, the Cause for the Beatification and Canonization of Father Tolton Proclamation and First Session was celebrated in Chicago.
Note: Because Father Tolton lived and is buried in Quincy, but died in Chicago, both the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois and the Archdiocese of Chicago have worked together on his cause.
The diocesan inquiry is then studied by the Congregation of the Causes of Saints. If it is proven that the Servant of God practiced a life of heroic virtue, the Pope decrees the person to be Venerable, which Pope Francis announced for Father Tolton on June 12, 2019.
For a Venerable Servant of God who was not a martyr (this applies to Father Tolton), one proven miracle is necessary. After an alleged miracle is investigated by the local bishop and studied by the Congregation, the Pope can recognize the miracle by decree, after which the person may be beatified.
The Cause does not end with Beatification. It is important to continue to pray for an additional miracle, occurring after the Beatification, which can lead to Canonization. Saints are Canonized by the Pope in a ceremony generally celebrated at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
The body of someone who is a Blessed is a first-class relic. A small piece of hair or a small fragment of bone is also a first class relic. Items that the Blessed wore or owned are second class relics. Relics, both first and second class, are prepared so that the faithful who cannot conveniently visit the tomb are able to still approach the relic as a way of spiritually connecting with the Blessed whom they admire and revere.
The preparation of a first-class relic depends on the Congregation of the Causes of Saints which regulates this process. Note, Father Tolton has not yet been declared Blessed.
The pope will have to approve a miracle attributable to the intercession of Father Tolton. Once a miracle has been confirmed by the Pope, the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois and the Archdiocese of Chicago can formally begin planning for the Beatification of Father Tolton, which will take place in Illinois. Once the date for the Beatification is granted by the Pope, the Prefect for the Congregation of the Causes of Saints will come to Illinois to preside over and celebrate the ceremony.
Some honors are reserved only to those who have been Beatified or Canonized by the Church, but not to those who have not yet been Beatified.
After Beatification, Mass and the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours) may be celebrated in honor of the Blessed, especially on the assigned feast day, in local Churches connected to his life, but not throughout the universal Church. An altar can be constructed over or near the tomb. Churches and chapels can be dedicated in the name of the Blessed. Relics can be displayed for public veneration. An image of the Blessed can be displayed with a halo or with the light of heavenly glory. Books regarding miracles, graces, or revelations attributed to the Blessed may be published. Votive candles can be lit at the tomb, which can also be marked by memorials of graces or favors received through the intercession of the Blessed.
Before Beatification, public veneration of the Servant of God is not allowed, but the faithful may freely come to privately venerate the tomb of the Servant of God by coming to pray.
You can visit Father Tolton’s grave at St. Peter’s Cemetery in Quincy.
The Rite of Beatification takes place at the beginning of the Mass of Beatification. After a brief biography of the new Blessed is read, the Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints reads the Apostolic Letter of the Holy Father in Latin. This letter, which grants the individual the title of Blessed, is then repeated by a diocesan official in English. After this declaration, the new image of the Blessed with a halo is revealed, and a relic is presented for veneration and is incensed. Copies of the Pope’s Apostolic Letter are given to the Bishop and selected guests. After a Hymn of Thanksgiving, the Mass continues with the Collect (Opening Prayer) from the proper Mass of the new Blessed. The Mass continues as normal.