On the Communion of Saints
Every time Catholics recite the apostolic creed they will say “I believe in the communion of saints“. What does communion of saints mean? Catholics understand that the Church is communion of saints. Who are those saints, literally means “the holy ones”? The Catechism of the Catholic Church # 962 declares: We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always [attentive] to our prayers. Most, even Catholics, might think that in Catholicism the title saint is only applied to already deceased persons who have been known to lead exemplary holy life, have a number of miracles attributed to them and their sainthood will be declared solemnly by the Church. They, in fact, are the canonized saints – they serve as role models and intercessors, the latter may scandalize some Protestants. However all members of the Church are saints. The Church, then, is ‘the holy People of God’, and her members are called ‘saints’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 823). Saint is not the opposite of sinner – in fact ‘All members of the Church, including her ministers, must acknowledge that they are sinners (ibid, # 827). As long as we are still on earth we are both saints and sinners at the same time.
Catholic’s belief that saints in heaven can intercede for us may scandalize some Protestants and “Bible only” Christians. Some may even accuse Catholics of practising necromancy, a practice condemned in Deuteronomy 18:10-11. Others says asking saints in heaven to intercede for us is robbing Christ’s position as the only mediator between God and us (1 Timothy 2:5). Protestants and “Bible only” Christians have no problem in asking other saints on earth to pray for them and vice versa – Scripture says “pray for one another” (James 5:15). Asking somebody to pray for us requires communication. We can communicate with saints on earth orally (directly or via telephone) or through letter, email, SMS etc. Protestants and “Bible only” Christians avoid communication with the dead – as scriptural proof usually they quote 1 Samuel 28:8-19 where Saul, through a medium, communicated with (what is supposed to be) Samuel. What Saul did was necromancy – he consulted the dead to get information of his future. The Catholic Church forbids such practice – all forms of divination are to be rejected; recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2116). From Scripture we know that it is possible to communicate with saints in heaven. John of Revelation was able to talk with one of the twenty-four elders who are in heaven (Revelation 5:5, 7:13-14). If communication with saints is heaven is forbidden then Christ gave bad example when He talked with Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:3). Christ said “he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). Thus Catholics believe all saints, whether they are alive on earth or alive in heaven, are able to communicate with us. We can ask saints, on earth or in heaven, to pray for us and their prayers will go through Christ, the only mediator, to God. Our communication with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 957). Keep in mind that Catholics do not pray to the saints in heaven – we ask them to pray for us, just like we ask saints on earth to do the same. It is God who ultimately answers their prayers – those saints; whether they are on earth or in heaven, only intercede for us. In necromancy it is the dead whom we expect to provide us with information, usually about our future (life, marriage, business, investment etc.) Finally Catholics also can pray and intercede for saints who are also alive and are being purified in purgatory (ibid # 958).