Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter motu proprio on Tuesday, July 11, 2017, by which he created a new category, distinct from martyrdom, under which a Servant of God may be declared Blessed: oblatio vitae, or “the free offering (i.e. “oblation”) of [one’s] life”.
The Letter, Maiorem hac dilectionem, takes its title from the words of Our Lord as recorded in the Holy Gospel according to St. John, “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends, (Jn 15:13)”.
The Letter creates a new category – a facti species in technical language – called, oblatio vitae, and distinguishes it from the facti species of martyrdom, by five (5) criteria:
a) The free and voluntary offering of one’s life, and heroic acceptance propter caritatem of a certain and soon-to-come death;
b) A nexus – i.e. close relation – between the offering of one’s life and the premature death of the one who offers it;
c) The exercise, at least in ordinary degree, of the Christian virtues before the subject’s offering of his or her life and, afterward, perseverance in those virtues unto death;
d) The existence of fama sanctitatis – i.e. the reputation for holiness – on the part of the subject, and of signs [in confirmation thereof], at least after death;
e) The necessity, for beatification, of a miracle, one that occurred after the death of the Servant of God, and by said Servant’s intercession.
The oblatio vitae of the Servant of God, in order that it be valid and efficacious for beatification, must respond to all of the aforementioned criteria.
The positio prepared by the diocesan inquest into the Cause of the Servant of God must respond to the following question: An constet de heroica oblatione vitae usque ad mortem propter caritatem necnon de virtutibus christianis, saltem in gradu ordinario, in casu et ad effectum de quo agitur, which is, “Does [the case of the Servant of God] consist of [an] heroic offering of his/her life up to death for the sake of supernatural love of God (propter caritatem) and also of the Christian virtues, at least in the ordinary degree, on the occasion and to the effect for which [the subject’s offering of his/her life] was made?”