Tag Archives: saints

The Splendor of Truth, St. Hildegard and the Sins of Priests

Here’s a thought, just a thought, a theory, maybe just a hypothesis:

On December 20, 2010, Pope Benedict gave a compelling speech to the cardinals and bishops in which he reviewed the Year for Priests and talked pretty frankly about the abuse crisis. In this context, he offered up a quotation from St. Hildegard von Bingen, where she gives voice to the Bride of Christ:

For my Bridegroom’s wounds remain fresh and open as long as the wounds of men’s sins continue to gape. And Christ’s wounds remain open because of the sins of priests. They tear my robe, since they are violators of the Law, the Gospel and their own priesthood; they darken my cloak by neglecting, in every way, the precepts which they are meant to uphold; my shoes too are blackened, since priests do not keep to the straight paths of justice, which are hard and rugged, or set good examples to those beneath them. Nevertheless, in some of them I find the splendour of truth. (Italian: splendore della verità)

She’s discussing the sins of priests and how they mar the face of Christ. Yet some priests remain faithful and in them is found the splendor of truth. The phrase struck me because it is the title of St. John Paul II’s most significant encyclical. In fact, a few paragraph later, Benedict highlights the significance of the encyclical Veritatis Splendor as denouncing with “prophetic force” the relativist moral philosophies that led to the pedophilia crisis in the first place: “The effects of such theories are evident today. Against them, Pope John Paul II, in his 1993 Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, indicated with prophetic force in the great rational tradition of Christian ethos the essential and permanent foundations of moral action.”

What’s interesting about this to me is that Benedict seems to indicate, by putting these two things so close together—the Hildegard quote and the encyclical’s title—that it seems as if he is indicating that the encyclical was written precisely to address the sins of priests and that the title itself comes from St. Hildegard.

Just to make sure I wasn’t making things up, I checked the other languages. The speech was given in Italian and indeed in both the Hildegard quote and the first line of the encyclical, the phrase “splendore della verità” is used. (The title of an encyclical comes from its first line.) Now, of course, the encyclical belongs to the reign of St. John Paul II, but Ratzinger as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith certainly had a role in its drafting. In George Weigel’s magisterial biography of John Paul II, the author discusses possible contributors to Veritatis Splendor and states, “The extensive references to St. Augustine and the themes from St. Bonaventure reflect longstanding interests of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger” (p. 691).

The phrase, “splendor of truth,” is very rare. However, I did track down one use of it in the Collect (opening prayer at Mass) for the Monday after Epiphany: “…that he who appeared among us as the splendor of truth…” It shows up in Origen, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Leo the Great and in St. Bonaventure’s mystical writings, but the phrase is still very rare. The fact that Benedict XVI himself pairs up the title of the encyclical with the Hildegard quote and adds a discussion the “sins of priests” in both segments is more than a little remarkable.

So, to summarize my hypothesis, it seems to me that Pope Benedict XVI is indicating 1.) the title for Veritatis Splendor originated from a text by St. Hildegard and that 2.) the encyclical was specifically directed against the sins of priests, namely the abuse crisis. What do you think?

Lessons from the Life of St. Catherine of Siena

St_Catherine__San_Domenico

I just read the life of St. Catherine of Siena by Sigrid Undset (trans. Kate Austin-Lund; Sheed and Ward, 1954) and I want to consolidate a bit of the information that I learned here in no particular order:

  1. The famous fact that Catherine miraculously fasted on the Eucharist alone for much of her life was no saccharine act of devotion nor a merely nice favor from the Lord. Rather, she was unable to eat other food without vomiting and considered the miracle a punishment for her sins of gluttony:

    “Later Catherine complained sometimes that she wished with all her heart that she could eat like other people, so that she could avoid causing annoyance. When it gave her the most terrible pain to swallow anything, and her stomach could not retain anything that she forced into it , she said that she believed it must be a punishment for her sins, and especially for the sin of gluttony, for she had been so greedy for fruit when she was little.” (p. 96)

  2. Jesus taught her how to read miraculously. Though she had taken a few lessons in Latin, one day she woke up knowing how to read so she could pray the Breviary. (p. 48)
  3. As is well known, she had an invisible engagement ring from Jesus on her finger that only she could see (p. 50) and she had the stigmata that no one could see.
  4. When Catherine would fall into ecstasy, she could feel nothing, so people would kick her to test her (p. 59)
  5. She would take wine from a wine barrel in her parents’ basement to give to the poor with the meals she brought them and it miraculously lasted many times longer than it should have. (61-62)
  6. Catherine cared for a leper named Cecca who would insult her violently every time she came to perform her nursing ministrations. Cecca was so covered in scabs and puss that she stank and no one else was willing to care for her. (pp. 70-71)
  7. Catherine cared for a woman with breast cancer named Andrea. To overcome her revulsion at the patient, against Andrea’s protestations, Catherine touched her mouth to her cancerous sores and even drank a bowl of water that had been used for washing her sores (p. 79). The next day, Catherine had a profound spiritual revelation where she was invited to drink from the side of Christ.
  8. She converted a man (Niccolo di Toldo) on death row, visited him in his cell, attended his execution and, after whispering reassurances of eternal life in his ear, literally caught his head as it fell from the chopping block. (p. 200)
  9. Her Letter to Cardinal Gerard de Puy (Pope Gregory XI’s nephew) about the Pope:

    “With regard to your first question about our love Christ on earth [the Vicar of Christ], I believe and consider that he would do good in the eyes of God if he hastened to right two things which corrupt the Bride of Christ. The first is his too great love and care for his relations. There must be an end of this abuse at once and everywhere. The other is his exaggerated gentleness, which is the result of his lenience. This is the cause of corruption among those members of the Church who are never admonished with severity. Our Lord hates above all things three abominable sins, covetousness, unchastity and pride. These prevail in the Bride of Christ, that is to say in the prelates who seek nothing but riches, pleasure and fame. They see demons from hell stealing the souls which have been put into their keeping, and are completely unmoved, for they are wolves who do business with divine grace. Strict justice is needed to punish them. In this case exaggerated mercy is in fact the worst cruelty. It is necessary for justice to go hand in hand with mercy to put a stop to such evil.” (p. 141)

  10. Her face transformed into the face of Jesus (still with Catherine’s voice) in the sight of her spiritual director, Fr. Raimondo (pp. 154-55).
  11. A quote from another letter to Gregory XI:

    “Oh, sweet and true knowledge, which dost carry with thee the knife of hate, and dost stretch out the hand of holy desire, to draw forth and kill with this hate the worm of self-love–a worm that spoils and gnaws the root of our tree so that it cannot bear any fruit of life, but dries up, and its verdure lasts not! For if a man loves himself, perverse pride, head and source of every ill, lives in him, whatever his rank may be, prelate or subject. If he is lover of himself alone–that is, if he loves himself for his own sake and not for God–he cannot do other than ill, and all virtue is dead in him. Such a one is like a woman who brings forth her sons dead. And so it really is; for he has not had the life of charity in himself, and has cared only for praise and self-glory, and not for the name of God. I say, then: if he is a prelate, he does ill, because to avoid falling into disfavour with his fellow-creatures–that is, through self-love–in which he is bound by self-indulgence–holy justice dies in him. For he sees his subjects commit faults and sins, and pretends not to see them and fails to correct them; or if he does correct them, he does it with such coldness and lukewarmness that he does not accomplish anything, but plasters vice over; and he is always afraid of giving displeasure or of getting into a quarrel. All this is because he loves himself. Sometimes men like this want to get along with purely peaceful means. I say that this is the very worst cruelty which can be shown. If a wound when necessary is not cauterized or cut out with steel, but simply covered with ointment, not only does it fail to heal, but it infects everything, and many a time death follows from it.

  12. Sigrid Undset summarizing Catherine’s views in her first letter to Pope Urban VI

    “Justice without mercy would be dark, cruel, more like injustice than justice. But mercy without justice would be like salve on a sore which should be cleansed with the red-hot iron; if the salve is applied before the wound is cleansed it only makes it smart, and it does not heal it.” (p.216)

  13. Pope Urban VI would insult the cardinals and bishops:

    “It was against Urban’s nature to show consideration for anyone, and decisions which were in themselves both good and wise led to nothing because he was so harsh and lacking in tact and the ability to understand men. It was too much for weak men, of more or less good will, who knew in their hearts that the Pope was right and that they ought to cooperate with him, when the Pope demanded, with harsh and angry words, that they should immediately change their way of life and give up all the small comforts they had grown accustomed to, in order to live in a state of self-denial suitable for the strictest ascetic. They were agreed that it was time for a reform within the Church. But if this were the reform…And the language he used when he broke into a rage! “Shut up!” he said to the cardinals. He shouted “Pazzo!”—Idiot—to Cardinal Orsini, and “Ribaldo!”—Bandit—to the Cardinal of Geneva. His electors began to regret their choice bitterly.” (p. 224)

  14. St. Bridget of Sweden (making a cameo appearance in St. Catherine’s biography) indirectly prayed for the death of her eldest son, Karl Ulfsson, since the Queen of Naples had fallen violently in love with him and both he and she were planning to abandon their spouses so they could marry each other. It would have been the Queen’s fifth marriage. St. Bridget wanted to prevent her son from falling into mortal sin. (pp. 242-43)
  15. St. Catherine:

    “Oh, we see in agony of soul how our sins against God rise and overpower us. I live in sorrow, and pray God in His mercy to take me from this dark life.” (p. 255)

  16. St. Catherine:

    “‘In Your nature, Eternal Divinity, I have learned to know my own nature,’ she whispered in one of the prayers which one of her disciples wrote down while she prayed in ecstasy. ‘My nature is fire.’” (p. 264)

catherinesiena1

The Dish-Washing Saint Bonaventure

I love the Franciscans. Poverty, simplicity, humility and joy are a few things that we need a heck of a lot more of in our time. St. Bonaventure, one of my inspirations, was considered the “second founder” of the Franciscan order. He’s a doctor of the Church, referred to as the “Seraphic Doctor.” And interestingly, he and St. Thomas Aquinas got their degrees at the same ceremony.

saint_bonaventure

Thanks to the MyHopeBox blog for putting this photo online

Late in life, St. Bonaventure was appointed to be a cardinal by the pope. In those days, the message didn’t come in a phone call. Rather the pope would send out a delegation of Vatican officials to bring the red hat to the appointee. (The red hat, the galero, which back then looked more like a sombrero, was the most important symbol of the cardinal’s office. Since 1965, the galero is no longer in use.)

Anyway, when the delegation showed up at St. Bonaventure’s friary, they found him washing the dishes. He actually sent them outside to wait for him to finish the dishes. Legend has it, he asked them to leave the red hat on a tree outside. So the saint finished washing the dishes and then came to greet the papal delegation.

Doing dishes often feels more like an annoying necessity than the substance of holiness. I think most of us would be tempted to put the dishes down gratefully for someone else to do if a papal messenger were knocking on the door. But St. Bonaventure’s commitment to his task in the life of his community, even in the face of honors from the pope, shows something very simple and yet very deep: The path to sainthood does not lie in showy ostentation, in external honors and achievements, but in the mundane, humdrum tasks of daily living. It’s the way we do these things, the level of commitment to our personal missions, that changes us. No amount of external recognition can bring about that kind of holiness. St. Bonaventure was not disrespecting the papal messengers, but deeply respecting the calling God had placed on his life at that moment: Wash the dishes!

Maybe you could think of the Seraphic Doctor next time you wash the dishes and realize that doing the dishes can be your path to holiness!

(Oh, by the way, today, July 15, is St. Bonaventure’s feast day.)

Introductions to Books of the Bible, eCatholicHub.net and Roman Martyrology

I want to tie up some loose ends in this post.

Bible Book Introductions

From 2006-2008, I was writing for a website called eCatholicHub.net. I wrote introductions to the books of the Bible and Lectio Divina meditations on the Sunday readings. I also produced a database of saints based on the Roman Martyrology for the site. In 2009, eCatholicHub closed up shop and all the content I had produced was transferred to Catholic News Agency. Their Bible page still houses my introductions to biblical books.

Roman Martyrology

Old Book

CNA already had a saint database, so I’m not sure exactly how (or if) they used the Roman Martyrology data that I provided. I should explain that I did not translate the whole 2004 Martyrology. Rather, I used the Martyrology to piece together the most complete possible list of saints and blesseds. I referred to the Martyrology project in a few previous posts: here, and here, also here. A few years have passed, so quite a few new saints and blesseds would need to be added to a new edition. As far as I know, there is no current English translation of the Martyrology.

On that note, I also wanted to straighten out exactly what editions exist. The most important one is the 2004 editio typica (official) in Latin:

  • Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Martyrologium Romanum. Rome: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2004. ISBN: 978-88-2097-210-3. 844 pp.

The Latin uses some very obscure abbreviations that took me a lot of toil to figure out. Some of that is took place in an interchange with Fr. Z and his readers.

The previous editio typica came out in 2001, but was quickly superseded by the 2004 edition. For the sake of completeness:

  • Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Martyrologium Romanum. Rome: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001. 773 pp.

English translations of older editions:

  • O’Connell, J. B. The Roman Martyrology, in which are to be found the eulogies of the saints and blessed approved by the Sacred Congregation of Rites up to 1961. An English translation from the 4th ed. after the typical edition (1956) approved by Pope Benedict XV (1922). Westminster, MD: Newman, 1962. LCCN: 62-21497. 412 pp.
  • Collins, Raphael J. The Roman Martyrology: The 3d Turin ed., according to the original, complete with the proper eulogies of recent saints and offices. Westminster, MD: Newman, 1946. LCCN: 46-6139. 352 pp.
  • The Roman Martyrology, in accordance with the reforms of Pope Pius X; in which are to be found the eulogies of the saints and blessed approved by the Sacred Congregation of Rites up to the present time, with supplements for the Carmelite, Franciscan and Servite orders, and for the Society of Jesus. London: Burns, Oates and Washbourne, 1923. 516 pp.
  • The Roman Martyrology published by order of Gregory XIII, revised by the authority of Urban VIII, and Clement X. Afterwards, in the year 1749, augmented and corrected by Benedict XIV. Baltimore: John Murphy, 1916. (Based on the 1914 Latin text.) Online at archive.org.

While not everyone reads the Roman Martyrology on a regular basis, it seems like it might be time for a complete English translation. I’d be happy to help, but I’m sure I’d need to consult some serious Latin experts to bring it to completion.

Pope Benedict XVI Resigns – What does Dante have to do with it?

Pope St. Celestine V

Pope St. Celestine V

Everyone is still shocked by the announcement made by the Pope today that he will resign, effective February 28, just 17 days from now. There are many commentators opining on the why’s and wherefores, but perhaps the most interesting strain in the commentary has to do with the last pope who resigned, St. Celestine V. Scott Hahn made an interesting post in which he mentions Pope Benedict’s two trips to pray by the tomb and relics (respectively) of Celestine V–notably the Pope left his pallium on Celestine’s tomb on April 29, 2009. (Interestingly, as Rocco Palmo notes, this pallium was the one with which Benedict was originally vested. The pope “retired” it from use and went to a smaller size of pallium. More here: Fr. Z, NLM)

St. Celestine resigned the papacy in 1294 after reigning for a mere six months. (Technically, the last Pope to resign was Gregory XII in 1415, but his situation was complicated by the Avignon papacy dispute.) St. Celestine was a Benedictine monk and hermit, who actually founded an order. He was famous for his ascetical practices. He was not a cardinal at the time of his election, but did send a letter to the conclave, which upon reading it, promptly elected him, even though he was 80 years old. It reminds me of Cardinal Ratzinger’s homily at the funeral of John Paul II in which he spoke against the dictatorship of relativism and described what the new Pope should be like. Apparently, anyone who tries to tell the cardinals how to go about the business of the Conclave becomes an immediate candidate!

Now, on to Dante! In his Inferno, Canto III, lines 58-63 (in Dorothy Sayers’ translation) we read:

And when I’d noted here and there a shade
Whose face I knew, I saw and recognized
The coward spirit of the man who made

The great refusal; and that proof sufficed;
Here was that rabble, here without a doubt,
Whom God and whom His enemies despised.

Now, Celestine is found in Hell’s “vestibule” here with the futile, who run around after meaningless banners, goaded by hornets. They are at the very “top” so to speak, of Dante’s Hell. Dante’s condemnation of Celestine V was rooted in the problematic reign of his successor, Boniface VIII, who imprisoned his predecessor. Apparently, Dante felt that Celestine should have embraced the office and out of cowardice or a faint heart, he abdicated, which led to very bad things in the reign of the next pope. Celestine died in a fetid jail cell. Interestingly, later on, Pope Clement V undid Dante’s literary condemnation and officially canonized Celestine V.

Later on, in the Inferno, Canto XXVII, lines 103-105, the character Guido is recounting Pope Boniface VIII’s words thusly:

Thou knowest I have the power to open or shut
The gates of Heaven, for those High Keys are twain,
    The Keys my predecessor cherished not.

Again here, Dante is condemning Pope Celestine V for his resignation of the papacy.

So, why would Benedict XVI identify with Celestine V?

  1. Both Celestine and Benedict practice Benedictine spirituality–Celestine as a hermit/monk and Benedict as an oblate (although I have had a hard time confirming that Ratzinger/Benedict is an oblate). Also, Benedict took on the name of St. Benedict and Benedict XV.
  2. Both hoped to retire from public life–Celestine as a hermit, Benedict to a quiet retirement with his brother in Germany.
  3. Both were elected very late in life–Celestine at 80 and Benedict at 78.
  4. Both saw themselves perhaps as short-term popes–Celestine for 6 months, Benedict now for 8 years.
  5. Both resigned–Celestine in 1294, Benedict in 2013.

I am glad, though, that Benedict XVI is able to trust in the Church’s wisdom in canonizing Celestine V rather than in the literary “wisdom” of Dante. In many things, Catholic thinkers and writers have deferred to Dante, but his judgment of Celestine V proved incorrect and may be shaped more by the travails of his era than by the actual facts of Celestine’s life. At this moment, it is best for all of us to pray for the conclave and the Holy Father’s sucessor. May the Holy Spirit guide the cardinals’ votes. St. Celestine V, pray for us!

Links on this topic:
Robert Moynihan, article
Robert Moynihan, lecture
Taylor Marshall
Mosaics

What is a Patron Saint?

Now that the saint database has launched, I’ve encountered people interested in finding what saints are patrons of what things. This led me to start searching on the internet and I found that patrons are not always official. In fact, patronage is almost always determined by what canonists like to call “popular acclamation.” That is, people in the Church say something enough that it becomes accepted as correct, even though the Church has made no official statement about it.

So from what I can tell there are three types of patrons:
1.) Unofficial patrons of occupations, activities and illnesses
2.) Official patrons of churches and other official organizations
3.) Official patrons proclaimed by the Pope

Lists of Patron Saints
Here’s some lists of Patron Saints from Wikipedia:
Patron Saints of Occupations and Activities
Patron Saints of Illnesses and Dangers
Patron Saints of Places
Patronages of Blessed Virgin Mary
And the Catholic Encyclopedia:
“Patron Saints” in Catholic Encyclopedia

So that led me to ask, “Who made Wikipedia the arbiter of truth in Patron Saints?” The answer: nobody. Since patronage is usually done by popular acclamation instead of by the official organs of the magisterium it’s anybody’s guess. Does Wikipedia get a vote in the whole popular acclamation thing? I don’t think so.

Well, are there any official patrons? Yes. For example, every Catholic place (church, monastery, college, etc.) named after a saint automatically gets the saint as an official patron. A few saints are officially proclaimed patrons of particular countries or other entities by the Pope himself. The Catholic Encyclopedia chronicles a few:

  • St. Joseph was declared patron of the universal Church by Pius X on 8 December, 1870. Leo XIII during the course of his pontificate announced the following patrons: St. Thomas Aquinas, patron of all universities, colleges, and schools (4 August, 1880); St. Vincent, patron of all charitable societies (1 May, 1885); St. Camillus of Lellis, patron of the sick and of those who attend on them (22 June, 1886); the patronal feast of Our Lady of the Congo to be the Assumption (21 July, 1891); St. Bridget, patroness of Sweden (1 October, 1861); the Holy Family, the model and help of all Christian families (14 June, 1892); St. Peter Claver, special patron of missions to the negroes (1896); St. Paschal Baylon, patron of Eucharistic congresses and all Eucharistic societies (28 November, 1897). On 25 May, 1899, he dedicated the world to the Sacred Heart, as Prince and Lord of all, Catholics and non-Catholics, Christians and non-Christians. Lourdes was dedicated to our Lady of the Rosary (8 September, 1901). Pius X declared St. Francis Xavier patron of the Propagation of the Faith (25 March, 1904).

But you’re probably thinking, like I am, ok so where’s the real list. I mean, are all patrons of various diseases and occupations just unofficial? Well, let’s parse the above list carefully:

Pope-Proclaimed Patron Saints

  • St Joseph
  • St. Thomas Aquinas
  • St. Vincent (de Paul?)
  • St. Camillus of Lellis
  • St. Bridget of Sweden
  • St. Peter Claver
  • St. Paschal Baylon
  • St. Francis Xavier

Other Pope-Proclaimed Patronages

  • Sacred Heart, as Prince and Lord of all, Catholics and non-Catholics, Christians and non-Christians
  • the patronal feast of Our Lady of the Congo to be the Assumption
  • Lourdes was dedicated to our Lady of the Rosary

I’ve been scouring Canon Law and the internet for more information that will hone in on our question, but haven’t found much. Let me know if you can find an official list of patron saints. While all the unofficial patronage things are great fun, I want to begin with the official list and then move out in a wider circle, noting the origin (and authority) of each patronage. My gut feeling is that the vast majority of patronages are unofficial and even arbitrary. Let me know what you think.

Catholic Saint Database Launch!

Edit 6/25/2013: Updated info at this post.

Okay, my friends, the database of Catholic saints which I have been working on and telling you about is finally being launched. (Hold onto your hats!) Here’s the URL: http://www.ecatholichub.net/study/saints. Click on “Saint A-Z” to see searchable javascript database. Like I told you before, you can search by multiple criteria for anyone listed in the Roman Martyrology–a saint or a blessed. Take a look and tell me what you think. This is a totally unique resource on the web and I think it promises to be a very useful one.

Catholic Saints Database To Be Released

EDIT 6/25/2013: Updated info at this post.

On October 1, the database of Catholic saints and blesseds which I have been constructing will be launched into cyberspace by ecatholichub.net. I invite you to take a look at it and let me know what you think once it gets up on the web. The database is based on the data in the 2004 Roman Martyrology which I explained in a previous post. What makes it unique and special as far as online saint databases go, is its comprehensive scope. It doesn’t leave out saints or add people who are not recognized by the Catholic Church. There are a few other saint databases online and each one has its merits and problems. But I think this new one at ecatholichub.net will really take the cake. It’s more of a reference tool, I suppose, but it provides data that no one else is providing. In that sense, I think it will be very useful for finding saints that are less well known. Right now, we’ve got 6,882 entries. Now there are still a handfull of double entries that I haven’t deleted yet. And there are some entries which include martyr groups or several people for whatever reason. This can result in double entry (when each member of the group is also listed separately) or it can result in masking the total number (for example, if there are 100 martyrs in a group, but we only have the names of three of them).

The most challenging part of putting the database together was translating Latin proper nouns which describe diocesan sees over which a saint bishop ruled or locations where martyrs were put to death. I had piles of Latin dictionaries and word lists all over my desk and I was mining the depths of the resources at Catholic University’s library trying to find various words. I got the vast majority of difficult terms and proper nouns from Latin into English, but there are still a few I left untranslated because I couldn’t find them. Hopefully, this will not bar people from figuring out who these saints are or confusing them with one another.

One of the coolest features about the database is the ability to search with multiple criteria. You can use any combination of fields to search for saints by name, title, feast day, year of death, etc. I think this should be useful for finding all saints with the name “Odo” or all saints remembers on August 24th and such like.

I really struggled over whether to uniformly translate saint names into English or vary it up a little based on common usage. For example, St. Teresa of Avila is usually spelled “Teresa” in English, but St. Therese of Lisieux is another story. Both appear as “Teresa” in Latin. Then of course, there are different spellings of Anne, Ann, Anna, Hannah and then Mary, Maria, Marie, etc. It goes on. Some saints have a Latinized “-us” on the end like “Bernardus.” In most cases, I chopped off the “-us.” The reason this is such a struggle is that many people are named after saints and take great pride in the spelling of their names because names are such an important part of our identity and self-understanding. But I judged that in the interest of saint-searchers, uniformity was the best route. I listed many saints with alternative names in the Biography field, so if people are used to calling a saint by a certain spelling or title, it still can usually be found.

I’m hoping that the database will grow over time and new saints and blesseds will keep being added. If it goes in the right direction, we may be able to set it up to take user-generated content like pictures and biographical information. Like I said, I think it will be very useful to a lot of people and it really is a one-of-a-kind thing on the Internet. Once the link is up, I’ll provide it for you here and ya’ll can have a look for yourselves.

The Roman Martyrology

EDIT 6/25/2013: Updated info at this post.

I’ve been working on a saint database for ecatholichub.net, creating a saint database that promises to be the most comprehensive, complete and well-organized saint database on the internet.

To do this, I’ve been basing the database on the Roman Martyrology. The Roman Martyrology is the Church’s official list of saints. For each day, the Martyrology lists usually about ten to twenty saints with a little phrase about where they lived, who they were or where they were martyred. Not every saint in the martyrology is a martyr. But every saint that has been officially canonized or beatified is. The process for canonization was originally set up by Pope Alexander III in 1170. Since then the process has been modified a bit, but the pope maintains the right to name saints. Before 1170, local bishops would name saints based on their lives or popular devotion.

Canonization
I’ll explain the Martyrology in a bit, but first you need to know a little about how people become saints. When a holy person dies or is killed for the sake of Christ, he or she might be named a saint by the pope. There is a 5-year waiting period after the person’s death before the process can begin. Sometimes this waiting period is lifted by the pope–as in the cases of Mother Teresa and John Paul II. If people are pushing for the person to be canonized and the Church elects to begin the process, the holy person is initially called “Venerable” or “The Servant of God.” The process cannot begin until the Church does a basic verification that the holy person in question lived a holy life and was a professing Christian.

Then there is a waiting period where people across the world pray to the holy person, asking his or her intercession for various things. This is not an act of worship, but it is a prayer. That is, Catholics don’t worship saints, but they do pray to them, asking them to pray for us. It’s like asking a friend to pray for you. Ok, so if a request is granted through the intercession of the saint–usually these are medical miracles–then the “Servant of God” can be beatified. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints (part of the Roman Curia) is responsible for reviewing cases and approving miracles. The Congregation verifies the occurrence of a miracle using evidence and witnesses. Once a miracle is approved by the Congregation and the Pope, then the person is beatified. A beatification is an event, so the person is not officially “Blessed” until after the beatification event. After the event, they carry the name “Blessed” or “Bl.” for short.

But you must be thinking, so what’s a “blessed”? Is that like a junior saint? Well, in fact, you’d be correct about that. The Church permits people to pray to Blesseds and ask their intercession. Their names are entered in the Roman Martyrology and their feast days actually get celebrated by their religious order or by their local Church. But their feast days are not celebrated in the Church universal.

People continue praying to the Blessed person and if another miracle is granted, then their case or “cause” is resubmitted to the Congregation. If the miracle is approved, then the Blessed is then canonized a “Saint.” And yes, canonization is an event too, so the person isn’t officially a saint until after the event. Then they get the little “St.” in front of their name. Oh yeah, and canonizations are technically infallible pronouncements–they can’t be revoked.

So what’s the Roman Martyrology?
The Roman Martyrology is where the names of all these people go. It’s an official list. Each saint and blessed is assigned a day. Since there’s about 6,500 saints and blesseds, each day contains several saints, about 10-20 as I said above. The entries in the Martyrology are meant to be read liturgically, but few places actually practice that right now.
The current edition of the Martyrology was published in 2004. It is only in Latin for now. But since I know a little Latin, I’ve been working on translating the index and turning it into a saint database. It doesn’t have a whole ton of information about each person, but enough to organize it. I hope we get an official translation sometime soon.

Past editions of the Martyrology have often been incomplete or kind of haphazard. Fortunately, John Paul II got serious work going on a well-researched, comprehensive one and they did quite a job. The first edition came out in 2001, but it had a lot of errors and problems, so they reworked it and republished in 2004. There were previous editions in 1946 and 1962.

Now technically a “martyrology” is a list of martyrs, so a whole lot of martyrologies were floating around the early Church. Fortunately, Rome saw to it, that these lists were verified in codified, so we’re not all using different or inaccurate lists. Some of the lists are very ancient, for example, from inscriptions in the Roman catacombs.

Well, that’s the Martyrology. Oh, and if you want to buy a copy and have $150 to spare, look here at the Vatican Bookstore, yep, it’s the official one.