Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sensus Fidelium: Should Holy See consider cause for Garvan Byrne?

I don't know anything about little Garvan Byrne, other than what is in the video clip below. He went to his eternal reward in April of 1985,  just two months after that video was made.  He was born in 1973.

Since seeing that video clip, especially the part where he talks about receiving his First Holy Communion, I haven't been able to get this kid out of my mind.  I found myself praying to him while receiving Communion last night at a daily Mass, asking him to help me to grow in my love for the Eucharist. 

Fast forward to this morning and I find myself feeling a strong sense that the Church should investigate the life of the pre-teen boy, trapped in the body of a five-year old,  who shows himself to be bigger than the biggest man, and as wise as a most cherished elder. 

The Church responds to the faithful.  The Church could not ignore the young Saint Maria Goretti's case because there was such a devotion to her, and a push for her cause that was wide spread.  While little Maria died a heroic, painful and saintly death, Garvan Byrnes seems to share several things with her, among which was a profound, manifest love for Jesus in the Eucharist; faith in which flowed along with hope, and; death to self with total abandonment to the will of God with full knowledge that the end was near.

Only the Church can declare saints.  Only God can permit those who have made it to Heaven, to be involved with miracles as a testimony to their sanctity.  There are several steps to sainthood, and not everyone the Church investigates or puts before us whose life or death was exemplary is declared a saint.  Some remain at the first stage of "Servant of God"; others to the second stage, "Venerable", and fewer will gain the title of "Blessed".  When the necessary criteria has been met, which includes miracles, the Church can give them the title of "Saint" (see the basic process in this EWTN article)

I don't know if Garvan Byrnes is worthy of sainthood.  But it seems to me that the Church should consider investigating his life and death to see if he is worthy of  being named a "Servant of God."  From there, God will decide how high this young man should rise on that scale of sanctity.   It may all come down to whether God permits miracles to be permitted when people petition Garvan in the name of Jesus.


I am offering a poll here, and ask for your participation, after watching the video below.  You can find more information on Garvan Byrnes in GoogleSaying, "yes" is not a judgment on the boy's sanctity, but on the worthiness of his case to be considered by the Holy See. Therefore, I did not add a "not sure" category.  Casting a "yes" vote means it should be explored; casting a "no" vote means that the Church should leave well enough alone.   What I am looking for in this unscientific poll, is a sensus fidelium - the sense of the faithful.  

Please share this far and wide so we can get as many results as possible.


The combox is open for discussion.  I have many readers from around the world, so I ask everyone commenting to tell where you are from (at least the country, or in the U.S., the state). There are people who go straight to Heaven due to saintly lives, but are never acknowledged.  God influences the Church to elevate those who give us some kind of example to live by.  One of the things I would like to see discussed, for those who feel it is worth pursuing a cause for Garvan, is who would benefit by his example, and how.  What sets him apart from the crowd that the Church should hold him up before the world, even if only as a Servant of God (if you vote, "yes").

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Joseph Anthony said...

"Only the Church can declare Saints". That's absolutely right. The Church can declare Saints in two ways. The first is by Ecclesial Cultus, the second is by Papal Canonization. Almost all early Saints and Old Testament Saints are Saints because of Ecclesial Cultus. Many Saints of the Middle Ages (St. Hildegaard von Bingen, anyone?) have never been canonized. Even into the modern period, some holy men and women have had their cultus confirmed without every being canonized. The Pope's duty is to preserve the faith, so he determined who can be venerated at the altar and who can't. Beatification is sorta like "permission to be venerated at the altar". Canonization is more formal, because it has all the markings of an infallible decree that the person is in heaven. But what really makes a Saint, not in the sense that someone is in Heaven, but in the sense that the Church recognizes someone's sanctity, is his cultus. In modern times, that cultus has to be confirmed before the individual can be liturgically commemorated, but it is still the cultus that comes first, and the confirmation of the cultus, or the canonization that comes second.

I voted 'yes' in the poll, because I think his cause should be opened. But the real question is whether there is an ongoing veneration of him in the Church. If there is, his cause will move forward. If there isn't, it won't. Like this article said, that's related to the sensus fidelium.

I feel a deep connection to this lad. I have been praying to him. If my sense is widespread, it could indicate a working of the Holy Spirit.

In any case, I don't think we have to be shy about veneration, praying to him, or having a non-liturgical cultus surrounding him. If it is from God, those in authority in the Church will confirm it. If it isn't from God, it will die out.

Anita Moore said...

From Idaho. This boy seems to have had a wisdom and understanding far beyond his years, that is the product of an active prayer life as well as sacramental grace. It is precisely such a child as this that the abortion lobby would have us believe is better off not being born in the first place. That is why the Church should consider him as a candidate for beatification.

Konstantin said...

Here are two more video clips showing his parents

Brad said...

I'm quite stunned to see a being of such simple, easy, breezy, beautiful sanctity. My reaction reminds me of the Rilke poem about St. Gabriel's reaction to our Blessed Mother in her room.

The rapid-fire barrage of confessions this boy makes, confessions great and small, remind me that he is what is rightly understood to be a Confessor of the Church. We often confuse that term, confessor, with the priest in his confessional booth.

I feel as though I am hardly of the same species as this other human. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Matthew said...

I tend to side with Flannery O'Connor, "Stories of pious children tend to be false." These things crop up from time to time but I think the tendency of adults to read back into the words of a child some depth that the child did not intend is a huge problem in getting an accurate read on the holiness of the child. For further on this you can look up "Little Nelly of Holy God" who said similar things about God and the Eucharist. Her cause has largely been forgotten.

Anonymous said...

Used copies of the full 30min video in VHS are still available at Amazon. What I wan to know is why we never heard of this little boy before now? He died in 1981!

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

NOTE: I'm told in am email:

The cause would have to be construed where the boy died

This makes me wonder a few things, and maybe some readers can help:

1) Are there individuals in the area who have had a devotion, even privately?

2) is there any kind of organized devotion, even small? When did it begin?

3) How might social media, with it's potential to spread word quickly, affect the future of investigations?

Utah, USA Catholic said...

Little Nellie has been one of my favorite children would-be saints. If I recall, it was in researching her some time ago that I read why very young children are not made saints - of course I don't recall the reasoning.

That said, kids such as Garvan and Little Nellie have a lot to teach living children (of all ages:-) )everywhere - regardless of one's opinion of their genuine sanctity or lack of. If you read Little Nellie's story, both hers and the larger book written from extant information on her, and; viewing videos such as Garvan's interview, you find two sickly children who love Jesus, period. Having them tell even bits of their stories can only be positive influences. Not to mention, it's never a bad idea to look for more of the Church Triumphant to pray for one's specific needs!

Anonymous said...

I think this is a beautiful story, but are you sure he's a Catholic and not an Anglican? A quick Google search on the sister he's speaking with reveals that she is not Catholic, but Anglican.

Anonymous said...

The Church in her wisdom will investigate thoroughly the life of this little angel, and if there is merit in declaring him worthy of canonization, with all the steps needed, it will happen. The Holy Spirit does not err. As for "Little Nelly" I believe the local bishop investigated her cause and saw nothing to recommend her for any steps on the way to sainthood. I was very inspired by this child's story, and believe children today need to be familiar with the lives of young saints, such as St. Dominic Savior, St. Maria Goretti, and others. (California)

Rose said...

What a precious holy little boy. He has a wisdom beyond his years and a sweet, simple faith that brings tears to your eyes. Maybe he has come to our attention right now because we need him so much. How blessed are his family that he is watching over them. I pray he is declared a saint. It is clear he is one.

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

I think this is a beautiful story, but are you sure he's a Catholic and not an Anglican? A quick Google search on the sister he's speaking with reveals that she is not Catholic, but Anglican.

I did a quick check before I posted and the only thing I could find said he was born to Irish parents. I assumed he was Catholic, but if he was not, I'd like to know.

If anything, I hope my post draws attention to this kid and the faith he inspires.

James said...

In response to the person above who said that Little Nellie was largely forgotten. Nellie is as popular now as she was a century ago. Her Cause has not been opened because Irish bishops tend not to like Causes and rarely promote the ones that are in process. Indeed they largely ignore beatifications, and in 1987 when a number of martyrs were being beatified, they were apologising to the Protestants. If Nellie were Italian she would be a Saint by now and her shrine a place of pilgrimage, ditto if she was French or Spanish. However, there have been movements, and with a new type of bishop being appointed to Ireland, it is almost certain that her Cause will be opened soon.

Nick said...

Any Catholic could be canonized, but it takes a heroic act of virtue. So, did he perform one?

Anita Moore said...

I tend to side with Flannery O'Connor, "Stories of pious children tend to be false." These things crop up from time to time but I think the tendency of adults to read back into the words of a child some depth that the child did not intend is a huge problem in getting an accurate read on the holiness of the child.

Many adults have no depth. How can adults with no depth project what they themselves don't have onto a child?

Brad said...

Hi Nick, I would propose to you that a child's (this is a child, let us recall, not an adult) massive confessions (multiple, strung together like pearls) of faith in the face of not only a lifelong terminal illness but the impending end, are not only acts but heroic acts. I hear in his words the same confessions that I hear in Ignatius of Antioch's massive confessions toward the end. Or a child saint, Anna Wang.

Anonymous said...

He looks like a child until he starts to speak. He is more mature, spiritually and mentally, than most adults. That was an incredible video!

Anonymous said...

Could the " Cause " of Garvan be taken up by the Catholic Church? It would be possible but doubtful. The first step would be to determine definitely if Garvan was indeed a Catholic. The best way to determine this would be to do a search for his baptismal records which would conclude with definity that he was indeed a Catholic. The next step would to do a search for living relatives and accuaintenances. Then a group would have to be formed to " promote " the " Cause. " At this point no one should be discouraged by the Anglican influence of Sister Dominica, the founder of the Anglican children's hospice she founded. It was the only logical and available place for Garvan to go for help. As to the possibility of a " Cause " being taken up should it be found that Garvan was not a Catholic, that would be a first and certainly not likely. It has never happened and may never happen. See the following:

Ruth Ann Pilney said...

These videos of Garvan Byrne were very moving. They touched my heart. I, too, wondered whether or not he was Catholic. I hope someone can find out.

If he were to be a canonized saint I believe his example might be emulated by any child with a catastrophic illness, terminal or not.

And certainly adults can see in him a depth of faith and strive to deepen their own.

Cheryl.j.p.2@gmail,com said...

The video of Garvan is wonderful. He was a fine young man -- but I find I cannot vote yes, because of his explanation of his body being a "reflection", and "not real" -- that is not proper Catholic teaching.

Cheryl Pederson, Fargo ND, USA