Pope Francis issued a Motu proprio earlier this week in which he declared a new category of Christian life which will now be suitable for consideration of beatification – the “offering of life, or oblatio vitae, which occurs when a person dies prematurely because they have offered their life for love of God and neighbor.
According to Rome Reports, Pope Francis issued the Motu proprio entitled, “Maiorem hac dilectionem,” which means “greater love than this” which will recognize the free offering of one’s life for the Gospel and others and who dies as a result of this offering.
For example, this would apply to a person who dedicates himself to caring for lepers, and then becomes infected and dies by the same disease.
“Up until now, there were three ways by which a person could be declared blessed or saint: martyrdom for those murdered by an act of hatred of the faith; a faithful practice of the heroic virtues; and, finally, ‘equivalent canonization,’ meaning proof that a devout devotion already exists toward the candidate, as well as a solid fame for his/her miraculous intercession,” writes Rome Reports.
This new category represents a “halfway” between martyrdom and heroic virtues.
Several criteria must still be met before a Servant of God in this category can be beatified.
First, the person must make a “free and voluntary offer of life and heroic acceptance” of certain death with a clear connection between this offering of life and premature death.
Second, the person must exercise at least an ordinary level of Christian before offering up their life.
Third, there must be a confirmed miracle springing from the intercession of the Servant of God after his or her death for beatification, and another miracle for canonization.
The responsibility for proving all of the above qualifications will remain with the diocese or eparchy which is submitting the documents required for opening a cause for sainthood.
In the apostolic letter, Pope Francis wrote that persons who fulfill these requirements “are worthy of special consideration and honor, those Christians who, following in the footsteps and teachings of the Lord Jesus, have voluntarily and freely offered their lives for others and have persevered until death in this regard.
“It is certain that the heroic offering of life, suggested and supported by charity, expresses a true, full and exemplary imitation of Christ, and therefore deserves the admiration that the community of the faithful usually reserves to those who have voluntarily accepted the martyrdom of blood or have exercised in a heroic degree the Christian virtues.”
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