Edward J. Flanagan’s life was something of a miracle itself. Born prematurely in a stone cottage in County Roscommon, Ireland, in July 1886, he was not expected to last the night. His grandfather Patrick, however, refused to accept his grandson’s fate and held him to his chest in front of the warm hearth, nursing him to health through prayer and sheer power of will.
Over the next 61 years, the man who would come to be known around the world as Father Flanagan of Boys Town changed the lives of countless at-risk boys for the better, offering the second chance that society had denied them.
Throughout his life, Father Flanagan put the needs of those who were less fortunate ahead of his own, often suffering ill health from stress and overwork. At several points, he endured death threats for his then-unpopular views that Boys Town would accept all who were in need, regardless of color or religious background.
As a lifelong advocate for society’s forgotten and displaced children, Father Flanagan is a natural candidate for Catholic sainthood. So, in March 2012, 64 years after his death, the Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska, began the canonization process of Boys Town’s founder, during which he was given the title, “Servant of God,” the first of three titles given before possibly being declared a saint by the Pope. This is known as the diocesan phase of canonization.
Once deemed a Servant of God, the Roman phase begins, during which the candidate’s life is investigated thoroughly for its various virtues and accomplishments. This research is then pored over and analyzed by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican. The cause for Father Flanagan’s canonization is currently in this phase, which began in 2015 and can take many years.
During the Roman phase, the candidate may be declared “Venerable,” meaning “heroic in virtue,” which is a determination made by the Vatican based on its investigation of Father Flanagan’s life and assertion that he is worthy of higher praise within the Church.
The next step is beatification, during which miracles attributed to him after his death in 1948 are verified, along with further investigation of his life and writings. If the Congregation deems it so, the candidate is then recognized with the title “Blessed” and given a feast day to be celebrated in his/her home diocese.
If two more posthumous miracles are verified by the Congregation after beatification, then the candidate may finally be recognized as a saint, upon which he/she is given a feast day to be celebrated by Catholics around the world, and his/her physical remains are deemed holy relics.
In our hearts, we hope that Father Flanagan may one day will be recognized as a saint. Keep checking back with us here at Boys Town. We’ll keep you up to date on any news regarding Father Flanagan’s cause for canonization.