Appreciating the Communion of Saints Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009 -- 12:00 AM

Seeing with Jesus' Eyes by Fr. Donald Lange

November invites us to appreciate the beautiful teaching of the Communion of Saints.

The Communion of Saints (in Latin communio sanctorum) is the spiritual union of all members of the Church, living and dead, those on earth, in Heaven, and in Purgatory.

They are united in Christ by a love that is stronger than death. The Communion of Saints is mentioned in the Apostles Creed and is based upon First Corinthians 12. Members share a single "mystical body" with Christ as the head. Each member contributes to the good of all and shares in their welfare.

On All Saints Day we honor members of the Communion of Saints who are canonized and uncanonized saints. Canonization does not place a person in Heaven. It acknowledges that the person is already there. On All Saints Day, we also honor the countless uncanonized saints who are in Heaven. They inspire us to imitate them and live Christ-like lives.

All called to be saints

Sometimes I ask children to name an uncanonized saintly person whom they know. Often with deep love and feelings, they mention grandparents, parents, a teacher, a neighbor, or a priest, brother, or Sister. In my eyes, the mother who told me that her vocation was to help her spouse and family get to Heaven belongs to this group.

In no. 2013 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is stated that "all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. All are called to holiness. . . . To reach this perfection, the faithful should use the strength dealt out to them by Christ's gift so that . . . doing the will of the Father in everything, they may wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of their neighbor."

We are called to be saints, by responding to the graces of our baptism. But sometimes we fall short.

In the novel The Power and Glory, during a persecution of the Church in Mexico, a priest awaits execution. He feels an immense disappointment because he will go before God empty-handed. He realizes that it would have been easy to be a saint. He would have needed just a little self-restraint and a little courage. As he faces death, he knows that being a saint is all that counts.

Honoring the dead

All Saints Day gives us the opportunity to honor the saints. The variety of saints makes it easier for us to find a saint who appeals to us. It invites us to ask the saints in Heaven to join the Blessed Mother in praying to God for us.

All Souls Day reminds us that we are connected with the Poor Souls in Purgatory through the Communion of Saints. Out of love for them we pray that they will be purified and join the saints in Heaven. Like the unborn, the Poor Souls in Purgatory cannot help themselves. We help them by praying that they will be purified of their sins and join the saints in Heaven.

In no. 1030 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is stated "All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven."

If weather permits, All Souls Day is a good day to visit cemeteries. A deceased priest whom I knew told me that every time he passed a cemetery, he prayed for those buried there. The sufferings and crosses in our life can be redemptive when we unite them with the suffering of Jesus as did Mary. We can offer our crosses for the poor souls at Mass or outside of Mass.

The Communion of Saints reminds us that we are connected with living members of the Body of Christ. Together we are called to help make Christ visibly present. Matthew 25:31-46 reminds us that we will be judged on how we minister to our neighbor in need.

Created to be in communion

The Mass readings of the month of November, the falling leaves, and the harvest of crops remind us to reflect upon last things -- death, judgment, Heaven, and Hell. It invites us to review our life and remind ourselves that each day is God's gift to us. What we do with today can be our gift to God.

In Philippians 3:14, St. Paul tells us to run the race of life for the prize to which God calls us -- life on high in Christ Jesus. In First Corinthians 2:9 it says, "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love God."

November reminds us that God created us to be happy, in communion with God, the angels, and saints forever in Heaven.

Fr. Donald Lange is pastor emeritus of the Diocese of Madison.