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Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Communion of Saints (1 of 4)

As we pray for All Saints on November 1st each year, I thought I might give you some information about what the church teaches about the “communion of saints.” We profess our belief in the communion of Saints each Sunday and whenever we say our creed.

The church is a community that is formed in Jesus Christ. The Lord sends the Spirit of love to us to endow us with the necessary gifts to continue Christ’s work for the kingdom. Jesus calls all Christian to lives of holiness.

We read in Paul’s letters about the saints, that is, those who have come to know Christ. His point is that these Christians were not perfect, but they were striving for holiness. Saint literally means “holy one.” Today, we therefore are called to become holy in imitation of Jesus Christ.

Who Belongs to the Communion?

The communion of saints includes those who are now living on earth (a pilgrim people), those who are being purified in purgatory (the church that suffers), and those who are blessed in heaven (the church in glory.)

We understand that we are a Eucharistic community. The church is a real communion gathered around the Table of the Lord and unified by the Holy Spirit. We encounter the Lord in the words proclaimed in Scripture and in the elements of bread and wine that we offer for consecration. We receive the gift o the risen Lord, the source of all that is holy, to redeem and sustain us. The Spirit of love that surrounds this celebration unifies us.

Why do we pray to the saints?

We, who still live, depend upon the prayers and good works of our brothers and sisters to help us through our journey of life. We know the value of prayer for our departed brothers and sisters who are being purified in purgatory. We believe that our loved ones in heaven are vitally interested in those of us who are still living or in purgatory. At each Eucharist, we come together as one – gathered by the Lord – to help one another on the journey.

We honor our saints in heaven when we petition them to intercede for us to God, our Creator Father. They already possess a deep, personal, loving relationship with God. They have proven their friendship to God and to us by the goodness of their lives while on earth.

We pray to our canonized saints too because they inspire us by the example of their lives. While they undoubtedly had flaws in life, they were real people who rose to the challenge of the Christian life and discipleship. We admire (to look towards) and are inspired by a virtue they possessed and we want to attain. We imitate their particular virtues because it speaks to us of our inner desires.

November 1st is All Saints Day. November is the month of All Souls. Let us continue to remember one another, living and deceased, in our prayers and at Eucharist. We can all benefit from each other’s prayers. We are all pilgrims moving closer to the heart of the Lord.

What’s next?

As we move closer towards the end of the liturgical year, would you like to receive a reflection on “The Last Things,” that is, judgment, death, the Resurrection of the Body, and the life of the world that is to come when Christ comes again? What else could be of interest to you?

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