Communion of Saints

“I believe… in the communion of saints”

Apostles’ Creed

Though the members of the Church are classified by their state in life into one of three categories:

1) Church Militant – Those who struggle for the Faith on earth, to “fight the good fight” of faith (cf. 1 Timothy 6:12).

2) Church Suffering – Those poor souls in purgatory being cleansed of their attachment to sin as they are prepared for eternal glory in Heaven. (See also, Purgatory within The Four Last Things)

and,

3) Church Triumphant – Those glorious Saints in Heaven.

We are all united in communion with one another. This is known as the communion of Saints. The most common objection to this truth is the concern about Catholics “praying to Saints” and so the majority of this page will be dedicated to an apologia (defense of the faith) for intercessory prayer within the communion of Saints.

Why Pray to Saints?

The simplest answer is because prayer is good! Intercession (when we ask others to pray with and for us) is also good—it draws others into prayer, and unites us in a common goal. We ask others to pray for us on earth, so too we ask those in Heaven to pray for us as well.

Jesus Christ is our one and only mediator between us and God (1 Tim 2:5). Having the Saints in Heaven intercede for us does not take away from Christ’s one true mediation anymore than me asking you to pray for me today. When we pray (“intercede”) for one another we participate in the mediation of God’s grace, with and under Jesus Christ. We are doing God’s will (“pray for one another, that you may be healed” James 5:16). It does not take away anything from God to allow us to share in Christ’s perfect mediation. It glorifies God to demonstrate that Christ’s mediation is so powerful that we can share in it without diminishing Jesus’ role.

This chart is simple, but it demonstrates the relationship between intercession and mediation relatively clear: (“–>”=”prays/goes to”)
Me–>the Saints–>Jesus–>the Father
Me–>You–>Jesus–>the Father
Jesus is always the mediator between God and man. And of course, my primary responsibility in prayer is: Me–>Jesus–>the Father.

Asking other Christians to pray for us is never a bad thing. The more prayer the better, especially when we seek the prayers of those who have already “fought the good fight of faith” (1 Tim 6:12) and won (because “the prayer of a righteous man is very powerful” James 5:16).

The Saints are not bypassing Jesus, because their sanctity (holiness) comes from Him. They are Saints solely because of His grace. Any favors received from the Saints are graces received from God. When I pray to Our Lady and she grants me the graces I ask for—I know that those graces ultimately came from God the Father, the Author of all grace; and He, in His Fatherly Providence allows Mary and the Saints a sharing in the distribution of grace. God doesn’t need to keep everything to Himself, He’s not a selfish God. It does not diminish God or His power to allow us to share in His perfections (indeed, that’s the goal of the Christian life… “be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” Matthew 5:48). God is so powerful and great that His perfections essentially overflow, there is no limit. Mary and the Saints can pour out graces received from the Father because there is no limit to grace.

Some people will argue that the Saints in Heaven are “dead” and so they cannot hear our prayers. However, those in heaven are not cut off from us by their death, “God is a God of the living” (Mark 12:27). In the book of Revelation St. John records the martyrs crying out for vindication (Rev 6:9-11), and St. Paul says that, “just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body… As it is, there are many parts, yet one body… If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Cor 12:12-26) so those in Heaven are aware of earthly events (this is how the martyrs know they are not yet vindicated), and St. Paul tells us that “if one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together”. We are united with those in Heaven by our membership in the one body of Christ. There is a physical separation between the Church on earth, and the Church in Heaven; but we are united by the Spirit (“for by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body”). There is only one Church, because there is one Body of Our Lord. We also see the prayers of the Saints, symbolized by golden bowls of incense, being offered to the Lamb in Heaven (Rev 5:8)… and really, who is going to argue that there is no prayer in Heaven? Praise and worship, etc. are all forms of prayer. Prayer is not just about requests and petitions, though that fills up most of our earthly concerns. And some of the Psalms even exhort the Angels in Heaven to pray (ex. Psalm 103:20-21 “Bless the Lord, O you His Angels”, Psalm 148:1-2 “Praise Him, all His Angels, praise Him, all His host!”, etc.). If we can ask the Angels in Heaven to bless the Lord, then surely we can also ask the Saints as well.

 

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