The Communion of Saints!

Baruch 3:4

O Lord Almighty, God of Israel, hear now the prayer of the dead of Israel and of the sons of those who sinned before thee, who did not heed the voice of the Lord their God, so that calamities have clung to us.

It is not uncommon to hear the notion bruited that whole idea of our relationship with the dead was something introduced to Christianity from paganism long after the apostles were dead. Today’s verse shows the falsehood of this. Pre-Christian Judaism had various and sundry fuzzy notions of the afterlife and of what it all might have to do with us. Among them was the notion (reflected here) that the dead might still somehow pray to God and the twin notion (also reflected here) that our prayers and theirs (not to mention we and they) might still be related somehow. That is practically all you need in order to have all the essential elements for what Catholic teaching calls the doctrine of the communion of saints. And you can arrive at it without any help from pagan belief (though pagans, being sensible, also arrived at similar notions, just as they sometimes arrived at belief in one God, in the cardinal virtues, and in lots of other important spiritual and moral insights). The New Testament likewise reflected this belief when Jesus remarked that all are alive to God, when it recorded the appearance of Moses at the Transfiguration, and when Paul declared that we are all “members of one another” (Romans 12:5) and that neither life nor death can separate us from God (Romans 8:38-39). Because of this, we can pray for (and ask prayers of) members of the body of Christ whether their zip code is on Earth or in Heaven. Today thank God for the riches of his inheritance in the saints and seek his grace for your sins, for your neighbor’s, and for those who have died.

Mark Shea


Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog and regularly blogs for National Catholic Register. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.

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  • Guest

    Thank God for the Communion of Saints!

  • Guest

    In response to Devil Talk on 1-2-07:
    When Jesus addresses a specific group of Jews as vipers or of their father, the devil, or as being of the synagogue of Satan, He is speaking to them directly. He is not addressing all Jews or merely speaking to all of mankind in general. Christ knows that they do believe that He very possibly is the Messiah and is pointing out to us that they represent those whose earthly mission, first exposed in Genesis, is to stamp out the Seed of God so the Evil One can take His place on the mercy seat.
    The Word of God recorded in the Bible does require diligent study but once discerned can be expressed succinctly