Yesterday I sat down to write a post about the communion of saints because my understanding of it helps answer the question, “why share my spiritual journey through writing on a blog?” As I began to write I found myself stopping to pore over theology and etymology, look up passages from my favorite saints, and cross-reference the Catechism to make sure I wouldn’t be labeled a heretic after two posts. What I ended up with was a fairly fine essay about the doctrine of the communion of saints. I sat back exhausted and tried to quell the small, still voice inside telling me that my artichoke heart had just produced something much more academic than authentic. Weary and uncertain, I turned to my Friend for help. God gently reminded me that a big part of my spiritual journey has been a strenuous pilgrimage from the head to the heart. So, today I begin again about the communion of saints in order to answer my own why question on the subject.

As Catholics we profess that we believe in the communion of saints. People get kind of freaked out when we talk about saints. Catholics and non-Catholics alike tend to think of saints as those who’ve been formally canonized – their old, waxy bodies displayed in glass coffins in cold, stone churches throughout Europe, or a finger or bit of nose in a reliquary somewhere. Sometimes to the horror of non-Catholics, the faithfully devout pray to particular saints for a little favor, or in some cases a big miracle. “Good St. Anthony, look around, something’s lost and can’t be found.” Others in the Catholic tradition have been taught that we are supposed to become saints, but throw their hands up in exasperation when they compare their lives to the imaginary idol of a pious nun in rapture. While the communion of saints includes canonized saints and their intercession is a rich blessing from God, I believe that at its core the communion of saints refers to something profoundly fundamental. God didn’t leave us alone – he gave us one another to be in communion with each other and with him. In short, we are on this journey together.

In his first letter to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul teaches that we are one body in Christ. He says, “if part [of the body] suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.” In 1992, when he was the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of the Church as Understood as Communion.” In the introductory paragraph Ratzinger says that the “communion of saints” is a suitable expression for the, “core of the mystery of the Church.”[1] This piece of theology, along with many others, systematically, academically, and quite laboriously expounds on Paul’s teaching, but eventually circles back to the plain-faced fact that we are a human family – inextricably intertwined, bound to one another, hitched, linked, conjoined.

“But wait!” you might say, “we believe in the communion of saints. Most humans aren’t saints!” I know, I already mentioned that people get freaked out when we talk about saints. Formally, the Catholic Church teaches that “the Church, then, is the ‘holy people of God,’ and her members are called ‘saints.’”[2] Additionally, the Church canonizes some saints as Saints, which means the Church solemnly proclaims that, “they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace….”[3]  My favorite definition of saint, however, belongs to St. John Paul II.  He said, “The saint is the person who is most truly himself.” In other words, a saint is a person living an authentic life. God calls us each to live an authentic life. Our sanctity rests within us, often hidden behind our tough artichoke leaves. Our sanctity blossoms through humility and courage, suffering and triumph. Our sanctity is our authentic identity. Our sanctity is the image of the person God created us to be.  And, thanks be to God, we are all in this together! To me, this is the meaning of the communion of saints.

Many blogs create “communities” of followers by allowing people to sign up to become a member. By becoming a member of the community, the blog owner will communicate whatever the blog is about to the members of the community.  Sharing my writing publicly has more to do with communion than community and communication. If you are reading this blog you are most likely either related to me, know me, or were looking up a recipe for artichoke dip and clicked on this blog. Except for the last group, you have already been a part of my communion of saints. When I’ve suffered, you’ve suffered with me, and when I’ve triumphed, the joy has been as much yours as mine. I could not have made it without you. Therefore, writing my spiritual journey belongs as much to you as it does to me.  As part of my communion of saints, I invite you to journey with me through writing my story.

[1]

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_28051992_communionis-notio_en.html

[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) § 823

[3] CCC § 828

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