Today, November 1, is the Solemnity of All Saints.
I love the saints! I have come to learn about a number of them over the years, many in fact. Some of their stories are inspiring, some are humorous, some are sad, some are amazing. But, all of them are encouraging.
What does that word, encourage, mean? It means to inspire with courage. I once read that the characteristic that all saints possessed was courage — the courage to live the faith boldly, whether in the face of persecution, martyrdom, ridicule, or even in the face of their own doubts and failings. They faced all of these obstacles with courage. Now, by their example and their prayers, they inspire us to live our faith with courage, as well.
The dogma of the Communion of Saints is a beautiful truth. Think about it: all those who are members of the Body of Christ are saints, including us still here on earth!
The Communion of Saints is made up of three communities: the saints glorious, the saints suffering, and the saints militant.
The saints glorious are those members of the Body of Christ who are in heaven, who have received their heavenly reward, who “have fought the good fight, … have finished the race, … [and] have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).
The saints suffering are those members of the Body of Christ in purgatory, who are suffering the hot love of God that burns away the temporal punishment for their sins that was not adequately addressed during their lives on earth. They are the saints who will be saved “as if through fire” (1 Cor. 3:15).
The saints militant are those members of the Body of Christ still here on earth, who continue to work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Phil 2:12) and who are still fighting the good fight, still running the race.
But, and this is the key: we are all members of the Body of Christ! We are united in the Body. And, just as the various members of the human body are not separated from each other, so the members of the Body of Christ cannot be separated from each other. Any apparent separation is just that — apparent, not real. In reality, we all make up one Body in Christ. Wherever we are — in heaven, in purgatory, or on earth — we are members of the one Body of Christ.
As members of the one Body of Christ, we are in relationship with each other. So, those saints in heaven are genuinely concerned about their brothers and sisters who are in purgatory and who are still on earth. Those saints in purgatory can genuinely benefit from the prayers and sacrifices offered by those in heaven and on earth. And, those saints on earth can benefit from the prayers of those in heaven and assist those in purgatory with their prayers and sacrifices. We are one Body in Christ.
How could it be otherwise? How can we imagine that those saints who have gone before us in faith are truly separated from us, unconcerned about our salvation, and disinterested in what’s going on in the lives of their brothers and sisters in purgatory or on earth? It simply doesn’t make sense! It makes no sense at all that the saints in heaven don’t care about us and are powerless to help us in our faith journey.
As brothers and sisters in Christ here on earth, we help each other, don’t we? We encourage each other, don’t we? We pray for each other, don’t we? Why would it be different for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in heaven? Can they not pray for us, inspire us, encourage us? No? Why not? Because they’re dead? If you think they’re dead, then where is your hope in eternal life in Christ? Jesus reminds us that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Mk 12:27). If you think they’re disinterested, then where is your faith in the one Body of Christ and in the joy in heaven when one sinner repents (Luke 15:7, 10)? If you think they are powerless to help us, then where is your faith in the powerful prayers of the righteous (James 5:16-18)?
Today is a day to celebrate and rejoice in the mystery of the one Body of Christ!
Below is a marvelous presentation by Fr. Mike Schmitz of Ascension Press. Fr. Schmitz speaks of how the saints encourage us to run the race, to keep the faith, to the finish line. It isn’t very long and it’s well worth the time.
A Blessed and Happy Holy Day to all!
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.