Friday, November 14, 2008

Testimonies to the Communion of Saints

The Communion of Saints is one of the hardest doctrines for non-Catholics to accept -- even though everyone who recites the Apostle's Creed professes to believe in it. Being united with Christ, we are also united with each other in Christ. This union is not broken by death: if it were, this would be a pretty poor testament to the omnipotence of the God Who is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Matthew 22:32; Mark 12:27; Luke 20:38).

And so, just as we ask others on earth to pray for us, we also ask the saints in Heaven to intercede for us. That the saints are able to hear our prayers and answer us presents no difficulties, because it is God who makes it possible. And, as St. Thomas More points out in his Dialogue Concerning Heresies, God demonstrates His approval of the practice of praying to the saints by working miracles through their intercession. With some exceptions (e.g., martyrs for the Faith, such as St. Thomas More), the Church requires miracles attributable to the intercession of candidates for sainthood as proof that these candidates are actually in Heaven before she will canonize them. They must be miracles of the highest order (such as a complete and instantaneous cure from an extremely grave and life-threatening illness, unexplainable by medical science); and they must withstand minute and relentless scrutiny in order to be passed as miracles. Although it is possible for individuals or groups within the Church to be taken in by frauds, it must be acknowledged that the Universal Church has been the greatest debunker of hoaxes and deceits in human history; she does not prop up fakes for veneration.

In her Diary, St. Faustina comments that the saints have God as their first Love, but they also bear a tender and heartfelt love for us. So we know that we may ask the saints for their intercession, and they will obtain for us what is for our good. But sometimes -- and perhaps more often than we think -- the saints take the initiative. Early in the life of this blog, I told the story of my own encounter with Bl. Margaret of Castello. Yesterday, The Redoubtable One posted the dramatic account of a Serbian abortionist whom St. Thomas Aquinas, of whom he had never before heard, visited in his dreams.

This put me in mind of a story from St. Thérèse of Lisieux's autobiography (The Story of a Soul), where she recounts the intervention of a saint of whom she had thitherto taken very little notice:

The very next day -- it was May 10th -- just as the dawn was breaking, though before I was awake, I found myself walking in a gallery with our Mother. Without knowing how they got there, I suddenly saw three Carmelites in their mantles and long veils. I knew they had come from Heaven. Then I thought: "If only I could see the face of one of these Carmelites! I would be so happy!"

As if she had heard me, the tallest of these Saints advanced toward me. I fell on my knees, and then to my joy she raised her veil, or rather, cast it all about me. I recognized her at once; it was the Venerable Mother Anne of Jesus, the Foundress of Carmel in France. How lovely she was; there was an unearthly beauty about her face, and though the heavy veil enveloped us, it seemed transfused with a gentle light I cannot describe. It seemed to be shining from within, but it did not cast any rays.

She kissed me tenderly, and when I saw how much she loved me, I took courage and spoke to her. "Tell me, Mother, I beg of you, is God going to leave me here much longer? Will He come and fetch me soon?" She smiled most tenderly, and said, "Soon...yes, soon...I promise you."

"Answer me something more, Mother; does God want anything more from me than the little things I do for Him, and my desires? Is He pleased with me?" A new light seemed to suffuse her face at once, and her expression appeared to me incomparably more tender. "God asks no more of you," she said, "...and He is pleased with you; very, very pleased." She took my head between her hands, and I cannot possibly express how tender were the kisses that she showered on me. Gladness filled my heart, and remembering my Sisters, I was about to ask for favors for them too, but I awoke.

I cannot say how lighthearted I was! Several months have gone by since this wonderful dream, yet the heavenly charm of it has lost none of its freshness. I can still see her loving gaze, her loving smile; I still seem to feel the touch of all her kisses....On waking, I not only believed that Heaven existed, I knew it; and I knew too that it was full of souls who loved me as their own child. The impression of it all remains in my heart, made all the more dear by the fact that until then I had been, I will not say indifferent to the Venerable Mother Anne of Jesus, but forgetful of her unless she happened to be mentioned, which was not very often, and I had never invoked her aid.

Yet now I know and realize that at any rate she had never forgotten me; and this not only makes me love her all the more, but also increases my love for all the Blessed in Heaven.

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