BEATIFICATION OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO, MAY 23, 2015
|Girls throw flower petals in a procession of Blessed Oscar Romero’s relics in Zacatecoluca, El Salvador, on July 18, 2015.|
Following the beatification of Archbishop Oscar A. Romero in May, the Archdiocese of San Salvador promulgated guidelines regarding the miracle required for Blessed Romero to advance to sainthood—the final phase of the canonization process. According to the Salvadoran Church document and a canonization expert consulted by «Super Martyrio,» for Blessed Romero to become “Saint Romero,” his supporters will need to demonstrate the occurrence of a miracle through his intercession—and to prove it though a rigorous medical confirmation process.
«Super Martyrio» interviewed Fr. William H. Woestman, omi, J.C.D., a canon lawyer and author of a prominent tome about the canonization of saints to help us understand the miracle requirements. Fr. Woestman edited Canonization: Theology, History, Process, 2nd ed. (Ottawa, Faculty of Canon Law, Saint Paul University, 2014, 541 pgs.). He currently serves as Promoter of Justice for the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Chicago, where a miracle by another high-profile sainthood candidate is under study. “We are in the process of investigating an alleged miracle through the intercession of Blessed John Henry Newman,” Fr. Woestman explains. Cardinal Newman was beatified by Pope Benedict in 2010 and, like Archbishop Romero, he is one miracle away from being declared a saint. We also spoke to David Mueller, of the Dorothy Day Canonization Support Network, about praying to support a saint’s cause.
Of miracles and martyrs
Reviewing the basics, the sainthood process consists of two tracks, each of which has two steps within its trajectory. First, a person is sainted either because: (A) they have led a holy life (the “way of confessors”—like Cardinal Newman) or (B) because they were killed for the faith (the “way of the martyrs”—like Archbishop Romero). Second—and regardless of which path is taken—the process consists of two stages: (1) beatification (which both Newman and Romero have reached) and (2) canonization (which neither has yet attained). Confessors need a miracle (and a declaration of “heroic virtue”) to be beatified and a second miracle to be canonized. For martyrs, martyrdom itself is the miracle that counts toward beatification, but a second miracle is required for canonization. Thus, Archbishop Romero, who has been beatified, is now in need of a miracle to be canonized.
Types of miracles required
The types of miracles that the Church requires for canonization, according to the Salvadoran Church guidelines are “miraculous cures after the invocation of a Servant of God or a Blessed.” Accordingly, the requisite miracle requires a medical healing which cannot be explained by natural processes: such as “the instant healing from a serious illness, without having used any drugs or other cures; the disappearance of a severe atrophy; or that a wound should heal instantly.” (As the guidelines explain, “nature can correct the atrophy of a limb or heal a wound, but never does it instantly.”) To illustrate, the miracle that led to the canonization of St. John Paul II involved a woman who was cured of a brain aneurysm after doctors had told her that she only had a month left to live. Opus Dei founder St. Josemaría Escrivá was canonized following the cure of a cancerous chronic radiodermatitis sufferer of this terminal disease. St. Kateri Tekakwitha became the first Native American saint in 2012 after a young boy survived a severe flesh-eating bacterium which doctors had given up hope on, and declared that he would die.
Where—and with whom—the miracle may originate
Fr. Woestman explains that the miracle need not occur within the province within which Romero is recognized as a “Blessed” (unlike canonization which pertains to the universal church, beatification is limited to a given geographical zone). Therefore, the person reporting a miracle need not be from El Salvador: “It can be from anyone, anywhere in the world.” In fact, the person claiming a miracle need not even be Catholic (therefore, the phrase in the introduction to the Salvadoran Church guideline that talks about “a miracle obtained by a faithful Christian through the intercession of Blessed Oscar Romero” should not be taken as a limitation). In the event that the miracle occurs in a diocese other than San Salvador, “the bishop of the diocese in which the cure took place is competent to conduct the investigation,” explains Fr. Woestman, pointing to the miracle in the Newman case mentioned above (Blessed Newman’s cause is promoted by the Birmingham Oratory in England, but the miracle is being investigated in the U.S.).
When the miracle may arise
Although there is no geographical limitation on where the miracle can occur, there is a temporal limitation on when it occurred. From the Salvadoran Church guidelines: a “miracle performed after beatification is required for canonization.” Fr. Woestman confirms that the miracle must occur at some point in time after Romero was beatified. “The cure must be after the beatification; any time after the beatification, even immediately after.” Archbishop Romero was beatified on Saturday May 23, 2015, at approximately 10:26 A.M. San Salvador time. The miracle must occur sometime after that time.
How to pray for a miracle
Those hoping to obtain a miracle through the intercession of Blessed Romero should pray to Oscar Romero using the prayer card published by the San Salvador church (photo). They should also take steps to ensure that any miracle obtained through their prayer is traceable to Romero so that it can be used to promote his canonization. “Intercession must be principally through Blessed Romero,” says Fr. Woestman. Given that requirement, it would be reasonable to take steps that will leave no doubt that the intercession came “principally through Blessed Romero.” For example, if the family and friends pray without cease to Blessed Romero exclusively, then it will later be easier to demonstrate that a cure was obtained “principally through Blessed Romero,” whereas, if they pray to Blessed Romero, but also to St. Joseph and St. Jude and St. Anthony, then the issue may be clouded, and it would be more difficult to demonstrate that a subsequent cure was obtained “principally through Blessed Romero.”
How to report a miracle
Someone who prays to Blessed Romero for intercession and believes they obtain a miracle should write up a statement summarizing the facts that lead them to that belief. Specifically, the Salvadoran Church requests “a written report, as thorough and detailed as possible, on the following: [i] the symptoms of the disease; [ii] diagnosis and prognosis by the doctors; [iii] any cures; [iv] the history of the disease; [v] whom the patient was entrusted to; [vi] if healing was instantaneous; [and vii] medical tests after healing.” Once they have compiled that information, they should contact the Office for the Canonization of Archbishop Romero of the Archdiocese of San Salvador, Tel: 2234-5347/ 2234-5300 ext. 147, Avenida Dr. Emilio Álvarez y Calle Dr. Max Bloch, Colonia Médica, San Salvador, El Salvador, C.A. The Canonization office would thereafter assume the investigation. (If anyone has any relevant information, they may also contact «Super Martyrio» and I will be glad to assist them with the report or with contacts.)
Finally, beyond the need for prayers for intercession in specific cases, the faithful could and should pray for the canonization of Archbishop Romero, generally. The supporters of the Servant of God Dorothy Day who pray for her beatification are exemplary in this regard, as are the Knights of Columbus who pray for the beatification of their founder Fr. McGivney. Both groups have organized structured and detailed programs to encourage constant prayer invoking their patrons. David Mueller, of the Dorothy Day Canonization Support Network, tells «Super Martyrio» that Dorothy Day’s supporters have organized 54 groups numbering over 2,000 members who pray for Day’s cause. Mueller met Day in the 1970s, and believes he too may have been the beneficiary of her intercession when he recovered from bile duct cancer in 2005. Day’s supporters have met and exceeded their goal of having at least 31 prayer groups so that if they each pray at least once a month on a different day of the month, there is literally a group praying for Day’s beatification every day of the year. Although it is too early in Day’s process to investigate miracles, her supporters are lining up many potential cases. “And if you believe in the power of prayer like we do, it is well worth it,” says Mueller.
Therefore, I call on Romero devotees to begin praying a Rosary every Friday for the general intention of obtaining Archbishop Romero’s canonization, and for the specific needs of those unknown devotees who may be praying for a miracle through his intercession. Based on the response to previous initiatives to launch prayer novenas in support of his beatification, I believe that many are interested in supporting the cause in this way. “Prayer is power,” the Blessed Romero tells us. “Prayer is breath for the Church and is the Church’s great need. When we organize a prayer vigil we are revealing the health of the Church that is able to breathe. Those who are able to breathe are able to pray and realize that their power is not rooted here on earth but is transcendent and rooted in God.” (July 20, 1979 sermon.)
I offer again the «Rosarium» published here for this sacred purpose. And in the words of the Salvadoran Church: “We ask the Lord that all may be for His glory and for the good of those who love Him.”
Blessed Oscar Romero, pray for us!