What is the Communion of Saints?

Through the communion of saints, we are united in such a way that our actions and intentions can influence the faithfulness or unfaithfulness of our brothers and sisters in the Faith at present, in the past, and in the future.

Newsroom (01/11/2021 21:30, Gaudium Press) Saint Therese of the Child Jesus was honored by the Popes as the patroness of the Missions, however, she never left Carmel, which seems like a contradiction… However, if we know what the communion of saints is, we will see that this title was, in fact, an authentic act of justice.

This saint said in her autobiography that she wanted to be at the same time apostle, martyr, crusader, priest, catechist, cloistered nun, help the sick… she wanted to be everything for the benefit of souls. This will to do good to all, could not be applied in a natural way, but accomplished by supernatural means. At a certain moment of her life, educated about the doctrine of the communion of saints, she understood that her role in the Church would be like the “heart” that influences all the members by the sanguine influence of the love of God.

The Communion of Saints is a Dogma of Faith

“I believe in the communion of saints” is what we pray every Sunday at Mass or as we begin the recitation of the rosary. The communion of saints is a dogma of Faith made explicit since the first century of Christianity. It allows us, for example, to offer spiritual help to Christians who are in other countries, thousands of miles away. The doctrine explains that the members of the Church throughout the earth, although they know little or nothing about each other, especially at a distance, are united by a spiritual bond that transcends distance and even time. By the communion of saints, we are united in such a way that our acts and intentions can influence the faithfulness or unfaithfulness of our brothers in the Faith at present, in the past, and in the future.

Through the communion of saints, an act of virtue, of self-denial or generosity, can become a help to a young man who is rushing down the paths of sin, just as a sinful act can have consequences for the members and, in a way, for the mystical body.

The Communion of Saints applies to the Church Militant, the Church Triumphant, and the Church Suffering

However, the communion of saints does not apply only to Christians on this earth, members of the Church Militant, for all those who are already saved in heaven, those who constitute the Church Triumphant, are also part of the Church. By the communion of saints, it is explicit the help we can receive from those who have already died and been saved, and enjoy divine glory. They can intercede for us, for just as a person who loves Jesus and Mary wants to provide material and spiritual benefits to his brothers and sisters in the Faith, so those souls in Heaven want to help people on earth. As if they were eager for us to ask for their intercession so that they can continue in Heaven to help those on pilgrimage on earth[1]. For this reason, the Church believes and confesses this relationship with heaven in the devotion and intercession of the saints. Thus, we too have the hope that, when saved, we will be able to help our relatives and friends on the paths of goodness and truth. The root of the communion of saints is that the virtue of charity “is kindness and not selfishness” (Cf. 1 Cor 13:4-5). Already the first Christians had all spiritual and material goods at their disposal, “everything in common” (Acts 4:32). The communion of saints also has a material aspect, whereby Christians must be willing to help their neighbor with their material goods by putting them at the service of those in need.

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Furthermore, the communion of saints applies to those in the church suffering, those enduring the heat of the blessed flames of purgatory, for these souls hope to be purified of their faults and enter into eternal fellowship with God and Mary Most Holy. By the communion of saints, we can help them to purify themselves more readily, and thus join the saints in Heaven.

What is the best way to Benefit Souls through the Communion of Saints?

The Communion of Saints is the most powerful means of apostolate. As much as we may feel we have no gifts to do good to the souls of our neighbor, if we live a holy life of fervent love for God we can be of valuable help to Christians all over the world, for by the practice of virtue we preserve the state of grace and the fulfillment of the divine commandments. The practice of virtue keeps us away from sin so that we are not a reason for the universal Church, or a particular group of believers, a country, a city, a neighborhood, etc., to be deprived of divine grace. On the contrary, the practice of virtue makes us true “lightning rods” of God’s grace, thus benefiting the whole universal Church.

However, there is also an active way to help our brothers in the Faith: the reception of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. In fact, the communion of saints is not only the union among the saints but also the communion of holy things. In Latin, communio sanctorum has this double meaning, “communion of saints” or “of holy things”. That is why the Liturgy, using this play on Latin words, teaches: Sancta Sanctis, that is, “the things holy to the saints.

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Offering prayer and sacrifice to God

In this way we can offer a prayer to God for the souls most tempted in the world, for Christians who are persecuted because of their faith, that they may be more holy and faithful to the vocation God has called them to, thus offering our supplications for the Clergy and the Pope.

It also pleases God to offer a sacrifice, bodily or moral suffering that we are obliged to endure, or a voluntary privation of some legitimate pleasure, such as eating something delicious or resting for a longer time. However, there is still a more pleasant, and more sublime act: receiving the sacred host. Explicitly and fervently offering the intentions of Eucharistic communion for Christians in the world, and for the souls in purgatory, makes us actively use this means of fraternal charity. The prayer and merits acquired by us in the Eucharist can benefit the whole world, because of the “common fund”, all the merits of the saints, the Blessed Virgin and the Passion of Christ on the Cross. This common fund, which attracts God’s graces, benefits all the souls on earth and in purgatory[3].

What is the Biblical basis for belief in the communion of saints?

This dogma of Faith that the Catholic recites in the creed is founded on one of the most beautiful passages of St. Paul (1 Cor 12), where the Apostle compares the Church to the human body: “Just as the body is one whole having many members, and all the members of the body, though many, form one body, so also is Christ. […] The body does not consist of one member, but of many. If the foot said: I am not the hand, therefore I am not of the body, would it cease to be of the body? […] So there are many members, but only one body. The eye cannot say to the hand: I have no need of you; nor the head to the feet: I have no need of you. On the contrary, the members of the body that seem the weakest are the most necessary. […] If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; and if one member is glorified, all the others rejoice over it. But you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a member of Christ” (1 Cor 12:12-27).

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Since the beginning of the Church, Christians have interpreted this passage of Saint Paul in the sense of the communion of saints. This is why the Fathers teach that the “Church is the communion of all the saints”[5], from heaven, earth, and purgatory from every corner of the planet, of all languages and peoples.

The communion of saints makes the Church universal, and therefore Catholic. Whoever lives in full possession of this article of Faith can work wonders in the order of grace, convert peoples, help the saints and the persecuted Christians… Faith in the communion of saints puts the true “helm of history” in the hands of the Catholic.

By Marcos Eduardo Melo dos Santos.

[That is why Saint Theresa exclaimed: “I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth”. TERESINHA OF THE CHILD JESUS. Story of a Soul. 24th ed. São Paulo: Paulus, 2005.

[2] The sacraments bring about the communion of saints. The Eucharist consummates this union. S. Th. III, q. 73, a.2c.

[3] The Roman Catechism. Published in the 16th century.

[4]On the way to martyrdom, a disciple of St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Polycarp of Smyrna (70-160) said to his brothers: “Do not weep, for I will be more useful to you after death and will help you more effectively than during life”. In Martyrium sancti Polycarpi 17, 3: SC 10bis. 232 (Funk 1, 336).

[5] St. Nicetas of Remesiana (335-414) Instructio ad competent 5, 3, 23 [Explanatio Symboli, 10]: TPL 1, 119 (PL 52, 871). Koinonia


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