The Communion of Saints
from various sources
The Communion of Saints is the Spiritual Solidarity which Binds-together the Faithful on Earth, the Souls in Purgatory, and the Saints in Heaven in the Organic Unity of the same Mystical Body under Christ, its Head, and in a Constant Interchange of Supernatural Offices. The Participants in that Solidarity are called Saints by Reason of their Destination and of their Partaking-of the Fruits of the Redemption. The Damned are thus Excluded-from the Communion of Saints.
The Living, even if they do not Belong-to the Body of the True Church, Share-in it according to the Measure of their Union with Christ and with the Soul of the Church. Saint Thomas teaches that the Angels, though not Redeemed, enter the Communion of Saints because they come-under Christ's Power and Receive-of His Gratia Capitis. The Solidarity itself implies a Variety of Inter-relations: within the Church Militant, not only the Participation in the same Faith, Sacraments, and Government, but also a Mutual Exchange of Examples, Prayers, Merits, and Satisfactions; between the Church on Earth, on the one hand, and Purgatory and Heaven on the other, Suffrages, Invocation, Intercession, Veneration. These Connotations belong here only in so far as they Integrate the Transcendent Idea of Spiritual Solidarity between all the Children of God. Thus understood, the Communion of Saints is Dogma (Apostles Creed), commonly Taught and Accepted in the Church.
Pope Paul VI treats the Doctrine of the Communion of Saints
in an Instruction dated January 1, 1967:
By the Hidden and Kindly Mystery of God's Will, a Supernatural Solidarity Reigns among Men. A Consequence of this is that the Sin of One (1) Person Harms other People, just as One (1) Person's Holiness Helps others. In this way Christian Believers Help each other to reach their Supernatural Destiny. We can see Evidence of this Solidarity in the fact that Adam's Sin is Passed-on through Propagation to all Men. But the Greatest and Most-perfect Source, Foundation and Example of this Supernatural Solidarity is Christ Himself. God has called us to Communion-with Him.
Indeed, Christ "Committed no Sin", "Suffered for us", "Was Wounded for our Transgressions, He was Bruised for our Iniquities ... and with His Stripes we are Healed".
Following in Christ's Steps, those who Believe in Him have always tried to Help one another along the Path which Leads-to the Heavenly Father, through Prayer, the Exchange-of Spiritual Goods and Penitential Expiation. The more they have been Immersed-in the Fervor-of Love, the more they have Imitated Christ in His Sufferings. They have Carried their Crosses to make Expiation for their own Sins and the Sins of Others. They were Convinced that they could Help their Brothers to obtain Salvation from God Who is the Father of Mercies. This is the very Ancient Dogma called the Communion of Saints. It means that the Life of each Individual Son of God is Joined-in Christ, and through Christ by a Wonderful Link to the Life of all his other Christian Brethren. Together they Form the Supernatural Unity of Christ's Mystical Body so that, as it were, a Single (1) Mystical Person is Formed (1Corinthians 12:12-13).
All who Belong-to Christ and are in Possession-of His Spirit, combine to make One (1) Church with a Cohesion that depends-on Him (cf. Ephesians 4:16). The Union of the Living with their Brethren who have Fallen Asleep in Christ is not Broken; the Church has rather Believed through the Ages that it Gains Strength from the Sharing-of Spiritual Benefits. The Great Intimacy of the Union of those in Heaven with Christ, gives Extra Steadiness in Holiness to the Whole Church ... and makes a Manifold Contribution to the Extension of Her Building (cf. 1Corinthians 12:12-27). Now that they are Welcomed in their own Country and at Home with the Lord (cf. 2Corinthians 5:8), Through Him, With Him and In Him, they Intercede Unremittingly with the Father on Our Behalf, Offering the Merit they Acquired on Earth through Christ Jesus, the One (1) and Only Mediator between God and Man (cf. 1Timothy 2:5), when they were at God's Service in all things, and in their Flesh were Completing what is Lacking-in Christ's Afflictions for the Sake of His Body, the Church (cf. Colossians 1:24). Their Brotherly Care is the Greatest Help to our Weakness.
The Catholic Catechism on
"The Communion of Saints"
CCC #1475: In the Communion of Saints, a Perennial Link of Charity exists between the Faithful who have already reached their Heavenly Home, those who are Expiating their Sins in Purgatory and those who are still Pilgrims on Earth. Between them there is, too, an Abundant Exchange of all Good Things. In this Wonderful Exchange, the Holiness of One Profits others, well beyond the Harm that the Sin of One could cause Others. Thus Recourse-to the Communion of Saints lets the Contrite Sinner be more Promptly and Efficaciously Purified-of the Punishments for Sin.
CCC #1476: We also call these Spiritual Goods of the Communion of Saints, the Church's Treasury, which is not the Sum Total of the Material Goods which have Accumulated during the Course of the Centuries. On the contrary, the Treasury of the Church is the Infinite (∞) Value, which can never be Exhausted, which Christ's Merits have before God. They were Offered so that the Whole of Mankind could be set-free from Sin, and Attain Communion with the Father. In Christ, the Redeemer Himself, the Satisfactions and Merits of his Redemption, Exist and Find their Efficacy.
CCC #1477: This Treasury includes as well the Prayers and Good Works of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are Truly Immense, Unfathomable, and even Pristine in their Value before God. In the Treasury, too, are the Prayers and Good Works of all the Saints, all those who have Followed-in the Footsteps of Christ the Lord and by His Grace have made their Lives Holy, and Carried-out the Mission the Father Entrusted-to them. In this way, they Attained their own Salvation and, at the same Time, Cooperated-in Saving their Brothers in the Unity of the Mystical Body.
CCC #1478: An Indulgence is Obtained-through the Church Who, by Virtue of the Power of Binding and Loosing, granted Her by Christ Jesus, Intervenes in Favor of Individual Christians and Opens for them the Treasury of the Merits of Christ and the Saints to obtain from the Father of Mercies the Remission-of the Temporal Punishments due for their Sins. Thus the Church does not want simply-to come to the Aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to Works of Devotion, Penance, and Charity.
CCC #1479: Since the Faithful Departed, now being Purified, are also Members of the same Communion of Saints, one way we can Help them is to obtain Indulgences for them, so that the Temporal Punishments due for their Sins may be Remitted.
Every Good and Perfect Gift comes to us from God. Often He uses Created Instruments in giving us His Gifts. For example, He Created each one of us through the Ministry of our Parents. He Heals us when we are Sick through the Ministry of Doctors and Nurses.
He urges us to Pray for one another, especially for our Fellow Members of the Body of Christ, the Church. He is Pleased, when in Humility, we ask another to Pray for us. This Divine Economy is not Interrupted by Death. We ask our Mother Mary and our Brothers and Sisters, the Saints in Heaven, and the Angels -- especially our Personal Guardian Angels -- to Pray for us. It is their Ministry to us.
Saints who have lived Exceptionally Virtuous Christian Lives are Held-up by the Church as Models for our Imitation. These are the Canonized and Beatified Saints to whom we pay Public Veneration. But we may also Pray to anyone who we Hope is in Heaven to Intercede-for us with God. We also Pray to God and His Saints to Shorten the Pains of Purgatory for our dear Departed, that they may enter Heaven Sooner.
This enduring Communion of Saints is a Great and Necessary Comfort and Source of Strength for those who have Lost Loved Ones through Death. Actually, because of this Christian Truth, no one need say that a Departed Loved One is Gone. We are still in-Touch. We can find in the Communion of Saints a Powerful Help in our Ministry to His People.
We need our Saints. Maintaining Friendship with them and the Angels Unites us more-Closely and more-Quickly to Jesus and the Trinity, than Ignoring them does. They are His Chosen Ministers in Tightening the Bond of Union among us all.
I recommend Reading the Lives of the Saints. They are Attractive, and to know them is to Love them and to Grow in Admiration and Praise for God Who has Glorified Himself so Wonderfully in them.