“The beauty of belief in the Communion of Saints is that it serves to remind us of our basic connectedness to one another as human beings, a spiritual connection that transcends death.”
Life can be very lonely at times. It is also true, however, that we are never really alone. Something common to many religions is that they have certain men and women whose lives of faith stand out in such a way that they serve as examples for others. Some religions call them saints, while other religions do not, but most have their great men and women whose lives inspire those who read or hear about them.
There are also people found in many faith traditions whose life stories, though less well-known than saints, whose lives nonetheless are an inspiration to the faithful. These may be authors, speakers, clergy or lay people. They may simply be caring, courageous people whose life stories serve to lead others on their own spiritual journey. There are people we have known personally, living and deceased, including family members, friends, coworkers and acquaintances, who have helped and taught us in the way of faith. The point is that the lives of others, the famous and the well-known, as well as those in our everyday lives, touch and influence us in deep and meaningful ways.
One of the things I find most beautiful about the Catholic faith is the belief in what is called the “Communion of Saints.” While I am not a theologian, I will simply share with you what the teaching means to me, and how I integrate this belief into my own spiritual life. The beauty of the Communion of Saints is that it serves to remind us of our basic connectedness to one another as human beings. The Communion of Saints, however, goes a step further by saying that this connectedness is not bound or limited by the power of death. The wonderful message of this teaching is that our love and unconditional regard for one another transcend space time, and even death.
This personal story describes how I found comfort in this teaching in my own life. One day I was sitting in the hospital chapel, praying about something that was worrying me. As I sat there, feeling kind of sorry for myself, I began thinking about the lives of such well-known biblical figures as Moses and Abraham. It occurred to me that they, too, had to live their lives by faith, just like me.
We tend to see such biblical figures as larger than life and living with some mysterious advantage that we don’t have. We may not see them as having the same human limitations with which we live. When we fail to see them as regular people, we limit how helpful their lives and stories can be to us. We sometimes see them as having an inside track to God, kind of like having “the God card” hidden in their back pocket to use when they need it. In reading about them in Scripture, it can seem like God broke through the clouds during their times of crisis to speak with them directly, giving them just the advice they needed. We ignore the fact that God has ways of speaking with us, too, offering the same guidance in our lives. What really set these biblical heroes apart is how receptive (open) they were to Gods message.
The value in the biblical people we look up to is that they were human, that they had to walk in our shoes, really walk our path. The realization that living a life of faith was just as challenging for them as it is for me caused me to feel a connectedness with them. I found myself calling upon “their faith” to come into my being. I literally said these words in a prayer, “Faith of Abraham and Moses, come unto me. Faith of Mary and Joseph, come unto me.” I immediately felt a connection that was both consoling and comforting and that has remained with me. It is a peace that transcends time and space and the separation of religions, a spiritual connection.
Many people, myself included, feel a connection with loved ones or special people who have gone on before us in death. There is a knowledge that comes to us, helping us to know that the love and guidance we enjoyed with these special people did not end with death. Because of physical death, however, the way we experience the relationship changes.
It is not uncommon when talking with people to hear them say that their deceased loved ones live on in their hearts. In our daily lives we help, console, comfort, and pray for one another all the time. The teaching on the Communion of Saints acknowledges that the bonds of love, support and connectedness we have with others in this life are not limited in any way. The teaching on the Communion of Saints brings to our conscious awareness that in a transcendent yet very meaningful way, we are all connected. We are already one.
Connecting Point: Is there a person, living or dead, young or old, whose life of faith you admire? Or is there someone whose life has been a source of wisdom and guidance that has provided you with direction? Realize and take comfort in knowing that they, like you had to truly live their life by faith. They had no special assistance from God that is not made available to you according to the unique circumstances of your life. Know that the God they prayed to is the same God that hears your prayer today.
Prayer: God of all the holy men and women who have ever lived, help me to realize that love never dies. Help me to feel connected with you and with all of your children. Help me to live in the awareness of the bond of love that exists between you and all people. Help me to know in my heart that we are already one. Amen.
This is an excerpt from “Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time” written by Charles W. Sidoti