Would you ever get up to sing a song if you didn’t know the words? Some people do when they’re drunk! Would you ever repeat a rumor if you didn’t know it was true? Some political spin doctors do to improve their candidate’s position! Would you ever report something as fact if you didn’t know what you were talking about? Some fools do to create a reaction or enhance their name! The saddest part is that if they repeat a falsehood loud enough, often enough and from a legitimate platform, like a credible newspaper, there are those who will believe it and carry it further; these are the ones who subscribe to the theory, if it’s in the paper, it must be true. A case in point is now in the wind and we must stop it before it’s carried further than it has already gone on the Internet, facebook, etc.
In the January 30 edition of well-known Irish paper, a staff writer named Kelly wrote the incredible headline: Beloved Saint Patrick is not officially a saint. She followed that with the statement that the Church never canonized him but Facebook might, referring to a Facebook effort by a bunch of whackos calling for a write-in campaign to canonize St Patrick! They claim that our patron is a saint in name only and then, only to the Irish. The story is starting to spread for I’ve seen it on other websites. You may see it in the run up to St Patrick’s Day so I prepared this rebuttal to use if you do hear it.
As far as I can trace this current misinformation, it began with a freelance writer for the Catholic Herald in Virginia. I haven’t been able to find the original story, so I don’t know if the repeated version of the story was taken out of context or not. However, let me say for the record that St. Patrick was canonized, no matter what you may hear to the contrary.
After 787 AD, all new churches had to have a relic before they could be consecrated so relics of recognized saints became collectible symbols of sanctity. This required verification that the relic was from a person who was, in fact, a saint. In the tenth century, the Holy See was asked to establish a procedure for ensuring recognition of sanctity. At first, only a Bishop could declare sainthood. Then in 1170, a formal decree was issued by Pope Alexander III restricting that authority to Rome. In 1173, the Pope even reprimanded a bishop for permitting veneration of a man who not a saint, saying, It is not lawful for you to venerate him as a saint without the authority of the Catholic Church. The procedure initiated by Alexander III was confirmed by a Papal Bull of Pope Innocent III in the year 1200. The process of canonization has become more elaborate over the years changing as recently as 1983 and 1997 and all of this information is available in the Catholic Encyclopedia!
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the earliest procedure for canonization was part of a process called a Solemn Translation (Latin, elevatio corporis) of relics. It was the recognition of sanctity associated with the transfer of relics from one place to another and required formal inquiries into the sanctity of the person’s life as well as papal approval.
In 1177, the Norman (Catholic) knight, John de Courcy, won control of eastern Ulster and built a new Monastery near the place where Saints Patrick, Brigid and Columcille had been buried to protect them from Viking raiders years earlier. When the bodies of the three great saints were found, deCourcy and Bishop Malachy applied to Pope Urban III for permission to remove the sacred remains, to an honorable position within the church. In accordance with the procedure established by his predecessor, an investigation was held and a Solemn Translation was approved. The procedure required verification of the individual’s sanctity and an all-night vigil before moving the remains in caskets of gold and silver. The Pope sent a Cardinal named Vivian with a commission to direct the undertaking. On June 9, 1186, no less than 15 Bishops, many abbots and high dignitaries and a great gathering of clergy and laity witnessed the official Solemn Translation of the relics of St. Patrick, St. Columcille, and St. Brigid, at Downpatrick. According to the account in the Royal Society of Antiquities of Ireland published in 1933, The ceremony was carried out with great pomp, some of the relics were enshrined and placed on the high Altar and some were brought back to Rome. Apparently the Church took this opportunity to retrieve a few relics to share with others wishing to venerate our patron saint, and appropriate shrine cases were made to house the relics. Most of St. Patrick’s remains were re-interred at Downpatrick.
So, there you have it. Documented evidence exists in many authentic sources that Saint Patrick was indeed formally canonized by the official ritual established by the Roman Catholic Church at the time! Granted that the canonization procedure has changed over the years, but I hope that no one thinks that all those who weren’t formally canonized by today’s procedure are not saints; after all what would Saint Peter say. As for the Church’s position on those earlier ‘saints’ who died before the formal procedure, the Catholic Encyclopedia notes that since we don’t pay homage to a relic, no dishonor is done to God by the continuance of reverence for a relic which has been handed down in perfectly good faith for centuries.
However, I must add, if you see articles questioning St. Patrick’s sainthood that are presently being circulated by the fools who wrote them or other amadons seeking a Paddy’s Day reaction, make a copy of this article and give it to them. And remind them all that the difference between Paddy’s Day and Saint Patrick’s Day is the same as the difference between the office Christmas Party and Midnight Mass. The only thing they have in common is the date. It’s your heritage – Defend It!