Creed 101 (1:41) — What is the Communion of Saints?
Communion of Saints
All Saints Day
Bishop Joseph J. Gerry, O.S.B., Bishop Emeritus of Portland, borrows from the Eastern Rite liturgies when he holds up the bread and cup just before holy Communion: “God's holy gifts, for God’s holy people!” The holy gifts, of course, refer to the bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ. The holy people refers to the assembly of faith, the people gathered to celebrate the holy mysteries. We are indeed a holy people before the face of God!
The communion of saints proclaims one of the most ancient beliefs of the Christian people. From the Apostles’ Creed, we claim that we believe in the communion of saints. This does not mean that the saints are lined up to receive Communion from the Lord in heaven! Communion here means fellowship or sharing in the gifts given by God to those whom God has chosen. Those who belong to God under Christ are gathered into the body of Christ in such a way that they share in the holiness that emanates from Christ, the head of the body. All who belong to Christ are saints; all these have been transformed from sin to grace by the power of the Holy Spirit. Santa sanctis!
All Saints’ Day reminds us of this doctrine which is so dear to all of us. We have fellowship with those who have gone before us and with those who are still in this world in the body of Christ that is the Church. We share in the same faith. We gather together, even in the presence of those who are already in heaven, whenever we celebrate the sacraments. Even if only one penitent is present with one priest in the sacrament of reconciliation, the whole Church, in heaven and on earth, is present there to celebrate the mercy of the Lord. We share in the fellowship of hope for the life of heaven with God. We share in the fellowship of charity as we exchange with one another all that we have been given by God.
The saints are very important to the life of the Church and to the Catholic people. We have fellowship with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our mother. She holds priority of place among all the saints. She was the first to believe in the Son of God, the first to hope for salvation through Jesus Christ, the first to love him and to love his disciples because of him.
Saint Joseph is the protector of the Church, as he was protector of the Son of God and of Jesus’ mother.
Our own patron saints, those whose names we bear and those we have chosen to be our special intercessors before the throne of God, are our friends and a sign of what we hope to be by God’s mercy and love.