top of page

The Catholic Defender: November 1 All Saints Day - Communion of Saints

I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) wrote:

“The saying about the Communion of Saints [Communion Sanctorum] refers,

first of all, to the eucharistic community, which through the Body of the Lord binds the churches scattered all over the earth into one church.

Thus originally the word sanctorum (of the holy ones) does not refer to persons but means the holy gifts, the holy thing, granted to the Church in her eucharistic feast by God as the real bond of unity.

Thus the Church is not defined as a matter of offices and organization but on the basis of her worship of God: as a community at one table around the risen Christ, who gathers and unites them everywhere.

Of course, very soon people began to include in this idea the persons who themselves are united with one another and sanctified by God’s one, holy gift.

The Church began to be seen, not just as the unity of the eucharistic table, but also as the community of those who through this table are united among themselves.

Then from this point a cosmic breadth very soon entered into the concept of Church: the Communion of Saints spoken of here extends beyond the frontier of death, it binds together all those who have received the one Spirit and his one, life-giving power.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reads:

“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” (No. 956). The Catechism, in that same paragraph, quotes St. Dominic: “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.”

Someone described the saints in heaven as akin to a relative or friend who lives far away; you may not see them often, but they stay in touch and are always willing to help you.

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 communion of saints exists in the three states of the Church, the Churches Militant, Penitent, and Triumphant.

The first is His doing, He saved us as we responded to His call.

Although we stand in His finished work of salvation at the cross, the second is our partnership with the Holy Spirit in changing us into His likeness. The third step is when we enter into His Presence for all Eternity!

As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12: 12-13

The concept of the communion of saints is linked with Paul's teaching, as in Romans 12:4–13 and 1 Corinthians 12:12–27, that in Christ Christians form a single body.

The phrase is first found in the 5th-century version of the Apostles' Creed by Nicetas of Remesiana. The original Greek phrase has been translated both as a sharing of the benefits of membership in the church and as a communion with the saints (in the biblical sense of all who have been baptized).

The concept of the communion of saints is linked with Paul's teaching, as in Romans 12:4–13 and 1 Corinthians 12:12–27, that in Christ Christians form a single body.

Every time Christians say the Apostles' Creed, we profess belief in the communion of saints. One common explanation of the the term “communion of saints” is that it refers to the whole community of faithful followers of Christ, living and dead, past, present and future.

Sin has been called the great tragedy of our life. When we sin, we impact not only ourselves but all those who constitute the Communion of Saints. In the confessional when we pray our act of contrition, we are promising God and pledging to others of the Church that we will make amends and try to sin no more. In the early Church, for a time, confessions of mortal sin were made public so all fellow Christians could pray for and support the sinner. Penances were severe, often including exclusion from the Eucharist, and the penitent was well known to others in his church. St. Paul tells us: “If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy” (1 Cor 12:26)

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, the communion of saints is the Church. "The term 'communion of saints' ... has two closely linked meanings: communion in holy things (sancta) and among holy persons (sancti)" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 948).

The Church is made up of the Lord's disciples. Some are on pilgrimage on earth; others, already deceased, purify themselves in purgatory; while others already contemplate God in the joy of heaven.

In the Holy Mass, we are united with our brothers and sisters "scattered throughout the world" (Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer III) and also with those who are being purified and those who are glorified in heaven, so as to see in them the face of God. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 954-959, 1354, 1370-1371)



bottom of page