Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.

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One of the most fundamental and most consoling truths of Catholicism is the Communion of Saints. Anyone who does not appreciate the streams of grace, love and vitality that are constantly flowing through the Communion of Saints does not understand Catholicism.

The basic fact of creation is that it is all of one piece, nothing exists alone. If you go to Epcot at Disney World you will see an exhibit called The Land. Its theme is symbiosis. No plant or animal, no matter how small can exist alone. Particularly is this true of man who is made in the image of God. God also is a community, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three distinct persons, each sharing equally in the divine nature, perfect unity in diversity.

The basic fact of redemption is the same. Jesus died for all. He wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. The first two words of the prayer he taught his disciples, Our Father, defines this interdependence very simply and clearly. God is our Father and we are his children, brothers and sisters of the same family of God. God loves each one of us personally and intimately but as members of his family. Paul compares the Mystical Body of Jesus to the human body in which each part is essential and all work together for the good of the whole. In Christianity to believe is to belong.

This is also the basic fact of our experience. We do not exist alone. A fact that is quite obvious in the beginning and the end of life. And in between the entrance and the exit there is more of the same. Assisted living is a fact of our whole lives. It is through our relationships with other people that we identify ourselves and grow into the unique person we have the potential to become. Not even death can destroy this solidarity, this union, this interdependence.

The Communion of Saints is composed of three branches: the Church Triumphant, those who have finished the race and are already enjoying the Kingdom, the Church Suffering who have finished the race and are undergoing further growth and purification, and the Church Militant, those who have not finished the race and are fighting to keep the faith. There is a constant interchange between these three branches.

We celebrate the Communion of Saints every day in the Mass. In the Mass we honor the saints, pray for the souls in purgatory and pray for one another. Because of the different time zones in the world several Masses are offered every minute of the day. As members of the Communion of Saints we participate in and benefit from every one of these Masses. And long after we are gone and everyone else has forgotten about us the Church will still be praying for us.

Shakespeare tells us that life is a stage and we are all players on this stage of life. We all have our parts to play, our entrances and exits. And then at the end of the play all of the players assemble on stage to receive flowers, applause and perhaps a standing ovation. So it is with the Communion of Saints. We are all players in the drama of life. We all have our parts to play, our entrances and exits. And then at the end, at the General Resurrection we all assemble to hear our Lord say, “Come ye blessed of my Father and receive the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

The Communion of Saints is diametrically opposed to the culture in which we live, a rat race of rugged individualism, do-it-yourself, stand on your own two feet, I’m #1 and survival of the fittest. No wonder loneliness is the most universal complaint today. How strange it is that loneliness is so common today when we are concerned about over-population and have the greatest means of communication the world has ever seen.

Catholics are never alone and find in the Communion of Saints the greatest support group in the world. Streams of grace are continually flowing and there is no action, no matter how private, that does not affect the whole body. What a wonderful world it would be if the Communion of Saints was not just an abstract truth we profess in the Creed on Sunday, but a living reality that permeates our lives every day.


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