On the Communion of Saints

24 06 2009

juan soldado altar

image credit: Juan Soldado altar in Tijuana, Mexico

A good article from Inside Catholic. Here are some highlights:

The convert sometimes finds that he’s not completely comfortable with how Catholic the Catholic life actually is. He may come to the Church with all the slobbering, tail-wagging enthusiasm of a hungry beagle hearing table scraps hit his supper dish, but he can suddenly turn into an overfed cat when he finds out what’s in that supper dish.

It’s all too much. To be able to talk to the Mother of God, or to St. Joseph, or to the great martyrs of the early Church, or a favorite medieval theologian — that’s great. It’s simple and straightforward… But then it begins to get complicated, with the multiplication of people with whom you have a real connection. And worse, this group includes people you’ve known well. It can include people you’ve seen in embarrassing situations or whose sins you’ve witnessed. You’re a private saluting . . . other privates. At least it feels that way.

That, in my experience, is where the convert tends to balk. It just doesn’t feel right. Even after eight years as a Catholic, when someone I know says, “I was praying to X,” naming someone we’d both known, I still want to respond, “What, are you nuts? X?”

And of course, since this is my blog, I will include my own comment here:

I’m so Catholic …I pray to saints even the Pope doesn’t recognize. When we went to the cemetery as children, we used to visit the graves of my brother and sister who died a few days after birth. Because they had been baptized, my mother said they were angels (not true, but a common belief in Mexico… heck, close enough). It was kind of cool having a brother and sister who were angels.

In Latin America, it is hard not to think at times that the graves are shrines and not places of mourning. Maybe it’s “Catholic ancestor worship”, but people feel that they are helped from beyond the grave by even the suffering souls in Purgatory (there are holy cards for the “Anima Sola”, and people can seach my site for an English translation of the prayer.) Down there people have all sorts of “Catholic spiritual helpers”, some good, some bad, some not so clear: Sarita Colonia, Juan Soldado, La Milagrosa, Gauchito Gil, Pedro Jaramillo, etc.

All canonization does is say that a public cult can be celebrated for a person, and indeed it should. But I am beginning to think that, scratch the surface a bit, and PRIVATE cults are just as necessary. I pray to my deceased grandmother and some of her “folk saints”. I knew one blind woman who was a pillar of the Legion of Mary in my town who I consider a saint. Saints from long ago, reigning in glory both in Heaven and in the hearts of all the faithful, serve as an example of emulation and intercession that tie us into the mystery of the Universal Church through the ages (the Virgin, St. Jude, St. Michael, St. Joseph), but those “uncanonized” saints make it all real and tangible in the here and now. Both are very much needed, and both should be propagated both from the pulpit and in the Catholic home.



10 responses

27 06 2009
Death Bredon

And I thought Ian Paisley was just making stuff up when claimed that you guys think Mary is God!

Colour me Orange.

27 06 2009

Of course God hasn’t abdicated. The answer to both is that one shares in the Divine Life insofar as one’s will is united to God’s will. The Blessed Virgin’s will is completely that of her Divine Son’s. Therefore, she is “omnipotent by grace”.

26 06 2009
Death Bredon

Yikes — participating in Divine Life, yes; directing its course, no.

“Omnipotence by grace,” wow — I didn’t know God had addicated!

26 06 2009

What makes such direct invocation non-problemmatic is the doctrine of theosis: the Saints are participating, to a greater or lesser degree, in the Divine Life itself. Obviously, the Blessed Virgin is at the top of the list. Therefore, she is said to be “omnipotent by grace.”

26 06 2009
Death Bredon

Regarding veneration of the saints, we should remember that the symbolic article on the communion of the saints has in mind all the “privates” — because “saints” simply means “holy ones” or the “faithful.” [The Church’s charitable indulges in the hopeful anticipation that, in the end, all the faithful will end up on the right hand of the dred judgment seat and therefore can even now rightly be called “holy.” Remeber, God desires not the death of a sinner and all us are working out or salvtion (with more or less success as the case may be.)] So, in that vein, in the most catholic sense, capital-s Saints are simply regionally or universally famous small-s saints despite being “mere” privates to those that know them personally. And knowing a sinning Saint ought not stop us invoking his intercessions.

Moreover, even Prots pray to saints when they ask their friends to pray to God for the health of X, who is in the hospital, for typical Sunday bulletin example. Indeed, “pray” is simply a synonym for ask, petition, or request. It is not now, nor ever has been, except a term of esoteric theological art. So, although they may not realize it, when Anglican Prots so eloquently “beg of your charity prayers for X,Y, or Z,” they have just invoked and inveighed the saints militant (at least) for intercessory prayer to God. Once we realize this — most of the balking about invocation of the saints ought to quickly go away.

Finally, I think it is only the “direct invocation of the saints” that has ever made many balk. And rightly so. Were I to pray to St. Jude to save my hopeless cause, as opposed to asking for his intercessions with God, then God is not expressly in the equation. And even leaving God on an implicit level, which is oft the apology for direct invocation, is patient of grave error and throughly non-Christian, human-centered voodoo, save among the those most capable of keeping quit esoteric and abstract theological precepts in the forefront of their minds at all times, which is to say, save for almost nobody. This then is where the Prots are probably quite justified in insisting that they asking the communion of the saints (even if, too tragically, only the saints militant and even then not with any realization that they are behaving in a very Catholic way) to pray themselves in turn to God for X application (hopefully not a new Cadillac). So, let’s stay God centered by keeping our saintly invocations intercessory in nature and not thus not scruple about it.

26 06 2009
Death Bredon

Dear first commenter,

I think our beloved blogger, by saying that he prays to saints not recognized by the Pope, was most certainly NOT saying I am more catholic than thou, but to the contrary, that perhaps he is not more catholic than thou — just a private too. Of course, Arturo can speak for himself should he feel the need to respond to uncharitable snarky ad hominems.

25 06 2009
The young fogey

As I like to say, privately you may venerate anyone.

24 06 2009
Sam Urfer

It would be fairly difficult for the canonization process to get going if people weren’t asking the deceased for intercessions.

24 06 2009

Well, all public cults essentially started out privately, when some person or group realizes, “You know, he or she, of happy memory, really is a Saint.” Often, that realization dawns prior to the person in question reposing. So much the better.

Bob, ora pro nobis!

Teresa, ora pro nobis!

24 06 2009
Saints, Angels, and Kachinas

[…] case you missed what I was getting at in the Hopi post, over at the ever-fascinating Reditus: A Chronicle of Aesthetic Christianity, our blogger Arturo notes: I’m so Catholic …I pray to saints even the Pope doesn’t […]

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