THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS

During the next week, we have two great days that show forth the glory and expansiveness of the Catholic faith: All Saints Day on Tuesday and All Souls Day on Wednesday, November 1 and 2. On these two days, and then continuing throughout the month of November, we especially celebrate the Communion of Saints, the Church throughout this world, in heaven and in purgatory. For the Church unites not only nations throughout time and space on earth, but in fact the souls of all people in purgatory and in heaven. This article will describe briefly the idea of celebrating the saints in heaven. After a discussion of vocations next week, the article for the weekend of November 12- 13 will then focus on prayers for the dead.

After describing the heroes of Jewish history, the Letter to the Hebrews describes the fact that “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,” who encourage us to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us with our eyes of Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith.” Heb. 12:1-2. This cloud of witnesses includes not only angels, but also the saints who have gone before us and now desire passionately that we also join their ranks. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, said in his 1977 book on eschatology, the study of the last things, the faithful departed would not, even if they could, enter into their full glory until the full complement of people are there with them to enjoy it. Thus, as Jesus says in the parable of the lost sheep, there is such great joy in heaven over every repentant sinner. See Luke 15:7.

And so, the Church canonizes certain saints, whom she knows are in heaven, are worthy of veneration, and are powerful intercessors for us. However, as the Book of Revelation says, there are countless hosts of saints from every land who worship God and pray for us. See Rev. 7:9-17. Each one of us, for example, probably knows people who have gone before us and whom we wish to ask for help. The good news is that, as they wished to assist us on earth, that time has not ended with death, but only continues in a different form. And so, the Church encourages her children to sense our union with the saints in heaven and their prayers for us as we journey together toward the greater realms.