Edmund: Recently I was at this award ceremony for my sister. As I was sitting in the crowd with my family watching my sister go up on stage and accept the award, I felt so happy and proud of her. I mean, I didn’t win the award, but it really felt like our whole family was being awarded, you know. In a lot of ways it felt better than if I had won the award myself.
Emily: That’s so special, and I can totally relate. And it actually kind of reminds me of the Church.
Edmund: What about the church?
Emily: Well, in the creed we say we believe in the “communion of saints”. The Catechism says “the communion of saints is the Church.”
Edmund: I’ve always wondered what exactly that means… I mean, I understand what saints are but what is the communion bit?
Emily: The Catechism also says “since all the faithful form one body, the good of each is communicated to the others.” In the same way that the good of your sister was shared throughout your family at that moment, the Church is a communion of the family of God with Christ as the head. That means we are in communion with one another and share in the goodness of one another.
Edmund: So we share in this group of saints… but what exactly are we sharing?
Emily: There are two major meanings of this communion of goodness: There is the communion of holy things, and the communion among holy persons.
Edmund: Okay, I guess I’d want to share some holy things.
Emily: We believe in the Communion of spiritual goods. This means we share in the faith, the sacraments, we share in each other’s charisms, and we share charity among one another. All of these goods belong to Jesus and he has given them all to his Church. So the Church has them at her disposal and dispenses them to us.
Edmund: So because the Church has these things, and shares them with us, we all share in these common spiritual goods. So this means we can say the Church is the communion of God’s family.
Emily: Yes, and all of these are the work of the Holy Spirit, who binds us together and who ‘makes’ us the Church. We become a part of this communion of saints.
Edmund: Okay but wait a minute I’m definitely not a saint.
Emily: Well, we believe in the communion of saints, meaning the communion of all persons who are part of the family of God. You can’t be considered a saint, yet, because you haven’t died yet.
We’re already united with those who are part of the family of God. This means EVERYONE who is a part of the family of God. Those who are in heaven are saints. That includes saints who we know are in heaven, as declared by the Church, and everyone else who is in heaven, too. This also means those on earth who are part of the Church. As well as those who have died and are on their way to heaven, or what is known as purgatory.
Edmund: So we have this shared special relationship with the Church, the family of God on earth and in heaven. What does this really mean for us though, practically? Like, how does this change my life?
Emily: Jesus, by the power of his Holy Spirit, unites us all together into the family of God. Jesus is the head of the Church, and we are the body. That also means that we can help one another. We can pray for one another, and the saints pray for us constantly! The saints aren’t just passively up in heaven uninterested in us. Just like you and your sister, this communion of saints means the saints are rooting us on. Imagine the effect that a crowded sports stadium with cheering sports fans has on the game. How much more do the saints impact our life! They enjoy our holiness and our goodness and pray and intercede for us.
Edmund: So we all are united because of our shared connection with Jesus.
Emily: We all share Jesus’ goodness and communion. And because of that we are connected in a special way to each other. In a way, it’s a closer connection than even to a family member or a spouse. This is why we believe in the communion of saints. Because the Church is the communion of God’s family.