The Last Word
There are few things more vital to a civil or ecclesiastical institution than to present the proper men as heroes for their subjects. In many cities or countries, for instance, when a new party is elected, the new government starts to change numerous street names, or remove statues of previous leaders: they become out of date and need to be replaced with new ones in line with modernity. We have seen that happening, for example, in Russia in recent decades.
Hero worship, the canonization of the holy men, is a universal practice. We need an ideal to pursue, spiritual leaders who have been consistent with their principles and who lived their lives in accordance. Our liturgical calendar is replete with such Catholic heroes. Our Martyrologium, which includes the most gruesome details of their death, makes us exclaim “Deo Gratias.” We need to have them present before our eyes as objects of admiration if not of servile imitation.
Any candidate who is declared blessed is the object of veneration limited to a particular diocese or Order. See, for example, the Franciscan Ordo, which is replete with blessed as well as saints. If the blessed becomes canonized, he is included formally in the roll of the saints and becomes the mandatory object of veneration on the part of all Catholics. He is publicly on the altars as a model for veneration because of his heroic practice of the virtues. As such, one cannot dissociate the canonizations from the integration of such saints into the liturgical calendar.
And yet, because of the reigning spirit of aggiornamento, because of the radical changes made in the process of canonizations, qualitative as well as quantitative, Archbishop Lefebvre gave as a rule to rely on the Liturgical Ordo of 1962 and not to integrate any novel elements, however innocuous these would seem. His was a prudent decision, which gave a steady compass (the last pre-conciliar year), and a dike against improper encroachments. This is why, in our churches, schools and priories, you will not see your priests celebrate the Mass of St. Padre Pio. The problem with accepting the public veneration of a genuine saint like Padre Pio is that it would give the blanket placet to a highly suspicious process of canonization; it would also make it awkward the rejection of another newly “saint” whose résumé is doubtful. “Nihil innovetur”—do not innovate— is the motto of every captain in foggy weather!
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Father Jürgen Wegner