Let me begin to answer your questions by explaining why we include the phrase “we believe in the communion of saints” in our Creed.
As Christians, we regard our relationship with God as both a personal AND communal. We are all connected to one another. As St. Paul says, “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself” (Romans 14:7). Also, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:26-27).
We believe that this “connection” exists not only among our family, relatives, friends and all other Christians who are now alive, but also with those who have passed away and have moved on to the next life. You and I have felt the lost of a loved one, and we know that we just do not dis-connect with him or her when he or she passes away. We continue to remember, pray for, and ask for prayers from those who have died.
It is in this context that we understand the phrase “communion of saints.” The Church has identified certain people who she believes are with God – the saints. “Communion of saints” mean that we continue to be connected with them spiritually. Those who have gone ahead do not simply forget about those who live in this life, but we believe that precisely because they are closer to God, then “they do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they offer the merits which they acquired on earth through Jesus.” (LG, 49 and 1 Timothy 2:5).
I hope you don’t look at this as a “heavenly bureaucracy” whereby our prayers first go to a saint who then passes it on to Jesus, and who then passes it on to the Father. Instead look at it as an expression that all of us – both living and those in the next life – continue to be united and related to one another because we have one God as our Father. We continue to care and pray for one another: we pray for those in purgatory, we pray to those in heaven to intercede for us, and those in heaven pray and intercede for us. We are one family, now and forever, with Jesus as our head.
In this communion of saints, Mother Mary holds a special place for being the mother of Jesus. She leads the faithful to a deeper faith in Christ and greater love for the Father through the Holy Spirit by her unique personal relationship with the Son exemplified in her life of faithfulness and perfect obedience.
Two Gospel stories can enlighten us on Mary’s faithfulness, her perfect obedience to God, and her unique relationship with Jesus.
Remember the Annunciation? No teenager dreams of becoming pregnant without a husband. But imagine the greatness and certainty of Mary’s faith in God when she bowed in humble respect to God’s will for her to bear a child while barely in her teens.
Also, in the miracle at Cana, the uniqueness of Mary’s special relationship with Jesus is shown in how he performed his very first miracle even if it was not yet time for him to start his public ministry. This, because of the request of his beloved mother.
Regarding the intercession of the saints in miracles, we should note that they do not bring us the miracles. Miracles are God’s work and not the saints’ doing. Seeking for intercession of the saints means that we ask the saints to pray for us and with us, as we seek for God’s favorable answer to our request. Again, please take this in the context of the “communion of saints” discussed earlier.
- Written by Chris Mallion, MA (Religious Education, Loyola School of Theology) and Manny Blas II, MA (Religious Studies, Maryhill School of Theology).
Source: CFC, 155-159; CFC, 1540; CFC, 1429 in addition to sources cited within the article.