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Communion of Saints and Mary

Communion of Saints and Mary

– Answered by Father Johann Roten, S.M.

Q: What is the Communion of Saints, and Mary's place therein?

A:  The expression "Communion of Saints" is part of the Apostle's Creed and constitutes an interpretation of the meaning "Holy Catholic Church": the Church is the Communion of Saints.

Since all faithful form one body, the good of each (and so the lack of good) is communicated to all others.

We believe thus that there is communion of good in the Church: head and body; church of this time, church of eternity.

The source of all good is Christ, the head of the Communion of Saints. The riches of Christ are communicated to all members through the Spirit of Christ which governs (should govern if only we let him!) the Church.

How does this occur? "Sancta sanctis"! Meaning "in holy things" (sancta: Sacraments Sacramentals, Word of God, works of charity, etc.), and "among holy people" (sancti: faithful). Saints, as we commonly understand this term (Mary and the Saints) are particularly sensitive conductors of holy gifts both in the act of receiving and in the act of sharing with other members of the communion. Saints thus have a certain regulatory and compensatory function for the whole body: they ensure the contact and open access to the source, always understood as greater sensitivity and receptiveness, as well as assuring compensatory distribution of spiritual goods (the saint promotes sanctity of the Church-Body).

In more existential terms Saints are special helpers with and representatives of the spiritual life which is expressed in the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. Saints point out the radical importance of faith (decision for God thanks to His grace), the necessity of hope (the perseverance and fidelity in God's way thanks to his grace) and the ultimate triumph of charity (understood as progressive and ultimate union with God and fellow human beings thanks to God's grace). Saints are high visibility agents of the communion of faith, the communion of sacraments, the communion of charisms and the communion in charity. Faith, hope and charity are essential elements of creative spirituality; they stand for our radical dependence on God. Mary and the Saints are champions of faith, hope and charity and so in no way substituting for God.

Intercession needs to be read in this context. It is an expression of communion beyond space and time. Enjoying a more intimate presence and immediate knowledge of divine reality, the saints receive God's gifts more plentifully for themselves and for others since everything in Christianity is for sharing. It does not happen against the will of God. The very idea of incarnation and redemption is based on sharing: the Trinity shares Christ with us; Christ is sharing the Father with us; the Spirit as expression of love between Father and Son and perfector of Christ's saving (sharing) mission. Practicing intercession we are practicing Christ's very attitude of sharing as people who need His grace, and we fulfill His will to make the Church a place of sharing. We also know that whatever the result of our petition it will always have its origin in the one who is the fountain and head of all grace.

There are (Catholic and Protestant) misconceptions about intercession, among them the (too) close connection between intercession and miracle. The Saint is not in the first place a miracle (= money) worker but a sharer in spiritual goods. He/she is not in the first place a specialist for fertility problems but one who works at augmenting the level of faith, hope and charity. Our requests for special personal favors should be expressed within the broader context of greater intimacy with God, perseverance in His way and unity among believers.

Mary's role in this context is multifaceted but it may be subsumed under the title: mother of the Church. Mary was wholly united with her Son during His and her lifetime; she is so also in her assumption as singular participation in her son's Resurrection and anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians. Thus she is our mother in the order of grace. Her cooperation by obedience, faith, hope and charity in the Savior's work continues. Her primary work as mother of the Church is the restoration of supernatural life to souls, always as the Spirit's temple, masterpiece and faithful "instrument." The Blessed Virgin's salutary influence on us "flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it" (LG 60).

All About Mary includes a variety of content, much of which reflects the expertise, interpretations and opinions of the individual authors and not necessarily of the Marian Library or the University of Dayton. Please share feedback or suggestions with


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