Wednesday, September 26, 2012

‘Venerable’ Does Not Mean ‘Old’

When Father Michael McGivney was declared “Venerable” in March 2008, many asked what exactly that means. We know the title “Blessed” or “Saint,” but “Venerable” sounds like a way station for old souls, a sort of limbo for those hoping for canonization. Nothing could be further from the truth, so we need to look at the title a little more closely.

We don’t use the word “venerable” often in daily speech, and when we do it is usually in reference to a practice that is kept more for its age than its relevance, as in “venerable tradition,” or a “venerable old man” who is respected more for longevity than activity.

Yet these dusty concepts are not what the Church means when it uses the title “Venerable” for Servants of God. In the Catholic context, Venerable means not something antiquated or past its prime, but something bold and dynamic. Far from the notions of “old and dated,” Venerable denotes “heroic and virtuous.” When the Vatican bestows the title of “Venerable” upon a Servant of God whose cause for sainthood is being studied, it means that the candidate’s “heroic virtue” has been recognized by the Holy Father based on all  of the best information on the person’s life and reputation. The Venerable person has lived a life of virtue above and beyond the normal Christian calling, and is a model for others today, with a way of life that should be studied and emulated by all, especially the young.

Far from old and stodgy, Venerable Michael McGivney is a man for our times, a priest worthy of recognition and imitation, a visionary ahead of his time who empowered the laity to take leadership positions in the Church through the Knights of Columbus. We will look at all these virtues as we develop this blog, “A Saint in the Making.”

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