VIII. A Vast Company of Witnesses: The Communion of Saints

The author makes the bold claim that all Christians should desire to be saints but that often our goals fall far below that universal call to holiness that Vatican II discussed and that our faith professes. In examining this call to holiness, the author examines four examples of holiness as seen in the lives of four saintly women: St. Katherine Drexel, St. Therese of Lesieux (The Little Flower), St. Edith Stein (aka Teresa Benedicta) and Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
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1. The Communion of the Saints

a. These “Hall-of-Famers” / All-Stars stand as role models in our striving for holiness. They are God’s friends in heaven and on earth. They exhibited heroic virtue in life and their souls are now in heaven. They found a way, as St. Paul put it, to allow Christ to live in them. Like St. Peter, the saints learned to become fishers of men and women through “the invasion of God’s grace”. When we allow Jesus to “get into our boat” we bear fruit.

2. Examination of four lives: Katherine Drexel, Therese of Lisieux, Edith Stein and Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

a. These are just four snapshots of grace alive in the souls of unique individuals with their own unique personalities. However, a wise man once said that, “the saints are to be emulated not imitated”. In other words, each saint is an unrepeatable and unique gift to the world placed in the context of a certain culture, history and crisis. You are not called to be another St. Teresa or St. Francis. You are called to become a St. (fill in your own name) with you own gifts in your own time and place and in a way that no other person past, present or future could do.

b. Individual examples of holiness are like fractured white light that, once passed through a prism, produces a variety of colors. This diversity and variety is necessary in order to try to communicate the infinite goodness of God.

3, What does the Catechism have to say about saints?

a. The holiness of the saints help to manifest the presence and work of the Holy Spirit within the life of the Church (686, 688). They form “the cloud of witnesses” spoken of in scripture, also known as the communion of saints ((946-959).

b. The saints serve as worthy companions and as a cloud of witnesses in our prayer life. They do this as both intercessors and as role models (956, 1717, 2030, 2683-2684)

c. The saints also serve as patrons of worthy causes and for the faithful in their striving for holiness (“poster children” or sponsors of a spiritual sort because a particular cause or circumstance is directly related to the victory and virtue of their lives) (2156).

4. The Canonization of Saints

a. “By canonizing some of the faithful (i.e. by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace) the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors.” (828)

b. The Magesterium uses its authority to pronounce on areas of faith and morals under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to definitively say that the souls of the saints are in heaven in a way similar to how it chose which books belong in the canon of sacred scripture. The Church uses the sense of the faithful in its devotion to the saints, a detailed investigation into the virtue of the person’s life and the presence of miracles to help it make this determination.

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