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Blessed - Beatus - Beati

There are three degrees in the canonization process, to which severally belong the titles of venerable, blessed, and holy, - Venerabilis, Beatus, Sanctus. The "Beati," saints of the second degree, are made so by a solemn act and ceremony, securing to them a positive place in heaven, and a partial and local honor upon the earth. In some special order of monks, or some particular diocese, or some particular region or country, the Beati may have a public remembrance in prayers, but are not entitled to this throughout the Church. Before their pictures or relics can be exhibited, a special indulgence must be obtained for that purpose from the Pope.

The pageant of Beatification is celebrated at Rome; but the benefit of beatification is chiefly national and local. Three general rules seemed to be followed in 19th Century beatifications : not to accept any candidates until they have been dead for at least a century; to choose those whose lives were most obscure ; and to require an ample supply of miracles wrought, as a ground of the honor. No eminent man may expect the honor of sainthood while this policy of the Church was continued, and no redundance of virtues can supply for a candidate the lack of supernatural gifts and acts.

Beatification (Lat beatus, blessed + faccre, to make) is a solemn act in the Catholic church, by which the Pope, after scrutinizing the life and services of a deceased person, pronounces him blessed. After this he may be venerated in a specified portion of the church, and the act holds out the prospect of future canonization, which entitles him to general veneration (not worship) in the Church Universal. Beatification was introduced in the twelfth century. It may be regarded as an inferior degree of canonization.

In the preparatory inquiries carried on by ordinary episcopal authority four witnesses are required to prove that the servant of God has not already been publicly venerated. At least eight witnesses are necessary to establish the reputation for sanctity, the fact of martyrdom, and the working of miracles through the intercession of the servant of God. In ancient causes, in which there are now no eyewitnesses nor persons who have heard from such witnesses, the virtues and martyrdom can be established by hearsay evidence, public tradition, and contemporary documents or monuments recognized as authentic; but the miracles must always be proved by eyewitnesses (can. 2020).

The word 'virtue' is sometimes used to signify moral excellence in general, without distinguishing whether it be natural or supernatural, that is, whether it proceeds from ordinarily human motives, independent of Divine grace, and having a natural end for its object; or from spiritual motives, with the aid of superhuman power, and for a supernatural end. It is, perhaps, scarcely necessary to observe that the heroic virtue which is required by the Church to have been possessed by those whom she places amongst the Saints is Divine aud Christian virtue, springing from union with Christ, and infallibly tending to the attainment of eternal life.

By heroic Christian virtue is to be understood that preeminently high degree of excellence by which he who practises it acts in a more exalted way than ordinary men act in the exercise of the same virtue. This is the most general idea conveyed by' heroicity,' and which is found in all the various definitions, which theologians have given of the term. 'Heroic virtue,' writes Cardinal Capisucchi, 'is that which either because of the excellence of the work, or the presence of some circumstance which makes the work very difficult, exhibits itself in some act which surpasses the ordinary human standard of working, so that a man is then said to work heroically when he works beyond the ordinary measure even of men working virtuously.'

Such is the description of 'heroic virtue' in general: when a virtue reaches that point of superiority which marks a person off from the average altitude of others who also act righteously, it is called 'heroic;' but as there are degrees in ordinary virtue up to the point of heroicity, so there are indefinitely ascending degrees in heroicity, by which some Christian heroes differ from others in glory.

No person can be beatified unless it is shown by the most rigorous testimony that he has reached the heroic degree in all the three theological virtues, faith, hope, and especially charity. 'It is not enough,' said Benedict XIV, ' if the heroic habit of faith be proved by several heroic acts of the virtue of faith; but it is further requisite that the heroic habits of other theological and cardinal virtues be proved by other acts.' Heroicity is absolutely required in the theological virtues, because without their illumination and controlling power it would not be possible to elicit the cardinal virtues in their utmost intensity.

In respect to the cardinal virtues - prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance - heroicity is necessary in those virtues which have a distinct bearing upon the special duties of a person's state of life, but it is not requisite that heroicity should have been shown in all four equally or at all times. ' It is necessary,' said Benedict XIV, 'that the existence of the cardinal or moral virtues should be proved, not always, however, but sometimes, by heroic actions, and sometimes by ordinary ones, the necessity of heroic actions being restricted to those virtues in which the servant of God whilst he lived was able to exercise himself according to his state and condition of life; for nothing, according to St. Thomas, hinders but that a virtuous man may be furnished with the material of one virtue, but not with that of another, as a poor man has the material of temperance, but not that of magnificence.'

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