Happy feast day (All Saints). I posted about the Holy Father’s catechesis on the Communion of Saints two days ago, and it is a good read.
It was especially affirming to go to Mass today, because the expression “Communion of Saints” indicates first of all the common sharing of all the members of the Church in holy things (sancta): the faith, the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, the charisms, and the other spiritual gifts.
When I was a recent convert, I think I was rather swayed by a sense that saints were odd. I had a stuccoed image in my mind. However, the Communion of Saints refers to a communion going between the saints in Heaven, those in Purgatory and those living holy lives now. I’ve come to appreciate that more and it spurs my wanting to be with and serve others in the faith.
As the Catechism puts it, it is the communion between holy persons (sancti); that is, between those who by grace are united to the dead and risen Christ. Some are pilgrims on the earth; others, having passed from this life, are undergoing purification and are helped also by our prayers. Others already enjoy the glory of God and intercede for us. All of these together form in Christ one family, the Church, to the praise and glory of the Trinity (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 194 and 195).
Many will have heard this teaching put in the following way: the Communion of Saints consists of the Church militant (those alive on earth), the Church penitent (those undergoing purification in Purgatory in preparation for Heaven), and the Church triumphant (those already in Heaven).
Prayers for the persecuted
It is particularly apt today to raise an undoubtable trend: around the world, Christians are persecuted and suffering for their faith. We can ask for the prayers of the saints and also for their own Christian life in the midst of unspeakable suffering.
Take this news from Iran, for example:
Four Iranian Christians were reportedly sentenced to 80 lashes for drinking wine for communion, a shocking punishment meted out even as a new United Nations report blasted the Islamic republic for its systematic persecution of non-Muslims.
The four men were sentenced Oct. 6 after being arrested in a house church last December and charged with consuming alcohol in violation of the theocracy’s strict laws, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide were among several Christians punished for their faith in a nation where converting from Islam to Christianity can bring the death penalty. According to a new October UN report by Ahmed Shaheed, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, such persecution is common.
This was reported on Fox News, undoubtedly an organ which some do not prefer, but an accountable news source nonetheless, and replicated throughout the world in other journals where fact-checking takes place. In addition, this kind of persecution and the punishments for conversion are recognised by the United Nations. 80 lashes can often result in death. I think there is too little coverage of the persecution of Christians in the press. By society’s own logic of equality, if any minority group is suffering in a way that is not hypothetical, but actual and systemic, either as a result of mob violence or in a way that is enshrined in the laws of a country, something newsworthy has taken place.
The actual suffering of Christians even – we are not clearly informed of their denomination – at what could have been the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, asks for our prayers for their perseverance in the faith, and their freedom from this evil of persecution.
Fr. Z picked up on this story and reminds us how during the reign of Diocletian, at Abitina, a group of 49 Christians were convicted of celebrating Mass. The local bishop had accepted Diocletian’s anti-Christian edicts, but some Christians went worshipped on Sunday with their priest Saturninus. They were arrested, tortured – including the children – and tried in Carthage, where they were sentenced to death.
Persecution of people united with us in the Body of Christ calls for all the prayers of the Communion of Saints, and those early martyrs from the reign of Diocletian whose prayers we hope are aiding us now.