I don’t want to argue about the reality of the communion of saints, both the living and the dead. I just want to encourage believers and seekers with the thought that there are tens, hundreds, why maybe thousands of saints, most of whom we will never meet, who pray for us, who are in communion with us. The Holy Spirit is my companion, but in His Body, He has gifted me with many other faithful companions, and Agnes is one of my special friends.
Most people have never heard of Agnes Sanford (1897-1982), but she has been and, in fact still is, a dear friend of mine. She was an interesting woman who was born to missionaries in China, married an American Anglican (Episcopalian), and became mother to three children. Agnes suffered postpartum depression. The doctor finally diagnosed her as suicidal after one of her children came close to dying.
A tiny flame of hope was lit within her heart after prayer healed her son physically, and she slowly began the process of her own emotional healing. “The Healing Light”, Agnes’ first book describes her early spiritual journey, and reveals a warm, loving, wise and gentle pioneer who was an avid gardener just like me.
Just like Agnes, I let my kids play with almost anything, because I had a lot of kids and limited funds. I taught them all how to make do with whatever was at hand, much to my husband’s chagrin. Similarly, Agnes’ husband once threw his hands up in frustration, as he struggled to walk around cushions and sheet forts in his living room, and complained that she let the kids play with everything except her wedding ring and the Bible! Once again, I really likeAgnes.
One night, while struggling to centre myself in The Lord’s Presence, a crazy, impulsive thought popped into my mind. Without analyzing or questioning theological implications, I asked Agnes to pray for me. Immediately I experienced a warm, emotional embrace of love and sheer joy. I knew she was one of the saints, in communion with me, as I heard these words in my heart;
”My dear, you have my undivided attention.
No one asks me to pray for them, because I was a Protestant, you know!”
I laughed and laughed, in fact I am grinning like a fool now. We are so dense sometimes; we really do not understand the mysteries of our faith, especially something as outlandish as the communion of saints. As Saint Paul said there is a cloud of witnesses, both living and dead, cheering us on as we journey towards the Lord.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the Communion of Saints in simple terms:
956 The intercession of the saints. ”Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness. . . . They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus . . . . So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.”495
Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life.496 I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth.497
957 Communion with the saints. ”It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek, rather, that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened. Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself”498:
958 Communion with the dead. ”In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and "because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins’ she offers her suffrages for them.”500 Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.
Yes, the Church has always realized that only a thin veil separates the members of the Body of Christ who dwell on earth from those who rest in heaven. However, most of us merely give intellectual assent to the truth. We often fail to incorporate this reality into our spirituality. What a waste of prayer power!
I urge you all to whisper requests for intercessory prayer from your favorite saint. Even better, why not dig up some obscure, under employed saint and put him to work praying? Your new-found friend will be delighted, and you will surely reap the benefits both in this life on earth and in the life to come.