Communion of Saints

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Etymology of the word

  • Saint comes from "sanctified," (Latin, sanctus, Greek, hagios) which means "made holy by God."
  • "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the holy ones and faithful brothers in Christ in Colossae: grace to you and peace from God our Father" (Eph 1:1-2).
  • "Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you" (Phil 4:21).

Every Christian is called to be a saint.

  • "To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours..." (1 Cor 1:2).

We are members of one Body

We are members of one Body. The part of the Body that is on this side of death cannot say that it does not need the part of the Body that is on the other side of death. We may count on the intercession of the saints in our life on earth.

God is glorified in the glory of the saints

  • We know that the saints are creatures, not the Creator. We know that they are "sinners redeemed by grace." We worship God alone; we honor what He has done in the members of the Body of Christ.
  • God shares His glory with the saints — especially those who take up their cross and earn the crown of martyrdom.
    • Cf. rewards in Revelation 2-3.
    • "By your stubbornness and impenitent heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself for the day of wrath and revelation of the just judgment of God, who will repay everyone according to his works: [We are judged by our WORKS!] eternal life to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in good works, but wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness. Yes, affliction and distress will come upon every human being who does evil, Jew first and then Greek. But there will be glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good, Jew first and then Greek" (Rom 2:5-10).
    • "Honor thy father and thy mother." Honoring the excellence of others does not take any glory away from God.
    • Degrees of glory. Jesus encourages us to want to be great in His Kingdom.
  • Paul says that we will judge the world: "Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts?" (1 Cor 6:2).
  • God Himself will praise the saints: "Therefore, do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God" (1 Cor 4:5).

The saints have the greatest gifts: faith, hope, and love

  • The saints in Heaven intercede for those who are suffering on earth. Vision in the book of Revelation.
  • Matthew's story of people being raised from the dead on Easter and testifying to others about Jesus. The saints are alive and active now. "God is the God of the living."
    • "The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised" (Mt 27:52).
  • Mark 2: Seeing the faith of the four men who broke through the roof to bring a paralytic to Jesus, Jesus said to the man, "Your sins are forgiven."

Imitation of Saints

The saints show us how to follow Jesus. We learn how to walk and talk by imitating people around us. We learn how to be Christian by imitating the virtues of other Christians.

  • "Imitate me as I imitate Christ" (1 Cor 11:1).
  • "Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers, and observe those who thus conduct themselves according to the model you have in us" (Phil 3:17).
  • "Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you" (Phil 4:9).
  • "And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the holy Spirit, so that you became a model for all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia" 1 Thess 1:6-7).
  • "For you know how one must imitate us. For we did not act in a disorderly way among you, nor did we eat food received free from anyone. Not that we do not have the right. Rather, we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us" (2 Thess 3:7-9).
  • "I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, so that you may learn from us not to go beyond what is written, so that none of you will be inflated with pride in favor of one person over against another" (1 Cor 4:6).
  • "Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith" (Heb 13:7).
  • "Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock" (1 Pet 5:3).
  • "We wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us" (2 Thes 3:9).
  • "Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity" (1 Tim 4:12).
  • "Urge the younger men, similarly, to control themselves, showing yourself as a model of good deeds in every respect, with integrity in your teaching, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be criticized, so that the opponent will be put to shame without anything bad to say about us" (Titus 2:6-8).

The saints exhibit the fruits of the Spirit. We can nourish our hearts and minds on their goodness. They are our soul mates and their lives provide soul food.

The saints are types of Christ.

Imitate wisely

Fr. John J. Hugo, quoted by Dorothy Day
One could go to hell imitating the imperfections of the saints.
Michele Arnold, "Saints Now."
Saints are not perfect, just holy.

God makes saints; the Church recognizes them

  • Canonization means placing the saints on a list of people whom we venerate. Only God can make people holy. The Church's action of listing ("canonizing") saints comes after God has transformed them into masterpieces of grace.

Some are greater than others

"For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct" (Matt 16:27).

"The one who plants and the one who waters are equal, and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor" (1 Cor 3:8).

"Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully" (2 Cor 9:6).

Some will be first; some will be last. Jesus tells us what it takes to be first: be last and least here on earth.

One of the joys of Heaven will be to admire what God has accomplished in those who are our superiors and to reveal to all what He has accomplished in us. It will be the best reality TV show ever produced!

Matthew 18:1-5, 10

1 At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"

2 He called a child over, placed it in their midst,

3 and said, "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

5 And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.

10 "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.

The more, the merrier

During a presentation in Buffalo on September 28, 2012, Dale Ahlquist said, "My conversion to Catholicism began when friends objected to the idea of canonizing G. K. Chesterton. I saw in a flash that saints don't come between us and Jesus, but draw us closer to Jesus."

I saw what he meant. When I love two people, I want them to know and love each other, too. I want my friends to be friends with each other. That multiplies the pleasures of friendship. It is anxiety and fear (I speculate) that makes us think that one friend could rob us of another friend's affection, so that we would strive to keep them apart rather than bring them together.

The Protestant argument against the communion of saints is based on the thought that love is a zero-sum game in which the love what one person receives is taken away from others. This is how it works with beer, pizza, wings, cake, ice cream, or any other finite good. God is the greatest party-giver in history. God is infinite, indivisible, and inexhaustible. The Heavenly banquet takes place in the heart of God, and we feast on the love of God. Each and every child of God receives God's full attention — God loves each one of us exactly as He commands us to love Him, with His whole heart, His whole mind, and all His strength.

Adding guests to the heavenly banquet does not water God down or nor deprive the first guests of His attention. The feast of love is increased, not diminished, by the arrival of more guests. The first cause of our joy is knowing God as He is; the second cause of our joy is seeing how much He loves His sons and daughters.

Grace co-operates with nature

  • It is not either-or. God acts so that we can act.
  • The only reason Mary was not a sinner like us was that she was redeemed by Her Son's death on the Cross at the moment of her conception. That is what is "Immaculate" about the "Immaculate Conception." We celebrate the Immaculate Conception of Mary within her mother's womb on December 8 and then celebrate her birthday nine months later — September 8. "Immaculate" means "without sin," not "without sex."