Pretty straight forward question. Catholics believe in it, us Anglicans do as well and staunchly might I add. How can you not believe in the unbroken chain of Christ’s followers and faithful past, present and future? I am curious to hear from those who do not believe this way and would like to know what precisely they do believe in regards to what happens after this life.
First off, I would note that as a Confessional Lutheran, I do indeed believe, teach, and confess the Communion of the Saints. In some sense, even in oither communions with which I’m familiar, there is some appreciation for the unity of the Body of Christ in this world the next.
Perhaps, if I may clarify the intent of your question, are you attempting to distinguish what others believe about the role or function of the Communion of the Saints, both on earth and in heaven?
If this is your direction for the query, I’ll add my two cents.
Lutheran theology recognizes that the Scriptures speak very little about what the Saints do when they are brought into the presence of Almighty God in Christ. We have a few glimpses in St. John’s Apocalypse, and a few in the OT, and perhaps a couple more peppered throughout the NT and Apocrypha. Lutherans will generally confess that since there is no particular command or promise of Scripture regarding how we relate to our brothers and sisters who have entered the Church Triumphant, we generally do not bind consciences in this regard. By and large, it is a matter of private piety.
Some Lutherans will squirm with the idea of intercession by the Saints on our behalf… or petitioning our Blessed Mother and the Saints to pray for us to the Lord. I do not-- I think there is plenty of Church history and tradition to back up this pious practice, and I think it helps teach humility among the faithful. However, prayer is an act of faith, as should be all the Christian life… so I would never presume to make forced dogma out of a pious opinion. I know, however, from personal experience, that the prayers of Our Blessed Mother and the Saints have been heard and answered by our Lord, and I will not surrender my piety for the squeemishness of my other Lutheran friends (though I wouldn’t flaunt it to their distress, either.)
Grace and peace.
A very gracious post and thank you for it.
I do believe it myself. I heard from my Non- catholic friends that
it is not clearly stated that we can pray to them for favors.
They said that nowhere in the Bible mentions about this
practice by the apostles/early church. They do believe in
praying for each other though. bcause of Tim 2:1-4.
I would bet that if you polled enough non-Catholics who do not accept this doctrine, there would be three main reasons given.
First, they have never been taught it.
Second, it is too Catholic.
Third, it is not important to salvation.
It is Biblical, it was part of the Jewish Tradition, and even if you do not ask their intercession, it does not change the chain linking us together.
Good points, Ralph.
I might add another protest by some of my Protestant friends… the idea of perceived idolatry.
Anything to which we lend our hope, faith, and trust can become for us a false god-- and I think this is shown clearly when St. John falls on his face before the angel to worship him, and is told in no uncertain terms that worship is for God alone. It is a point equally emphatic in the 1st Commandment, and the Shema.
Our Protestant friends tend to make broad observations about what worship and prayer are, without the subtilty of the catholic tradition. To them, praying to a saint can cripple their conscience, because in their mind it is idolatry… for them, it is sin, because it is not of faith, as St. Paul has said.
We must be gentle with the consciences of others, even if we recognize that their fragile conscience is unneccessarily burdened. For instance, though I carry a rosary and pray with it often (though not nearly often enough…) I don’t go out of my way to wave it under the nose of my Protestant friends, who would likely make false assumptions or observations, and create disharmony in the Body of Christ.
What I would like to add is that if you only accept the basic model of the Communion of Saints, that those who are dead on earth but joined to Christ and are alive in heaven and aware, I can not think of any reason that this would offend anyone.
I think it is largely due to an un-nuanced definition of what prayer is. To the average Protestant, prayer is what you do when you close yours eyes, fold your hands, and speak to God. Prayer and worship are intimately tied together for most Protestants (keep in mind that they usually do not have a sacramental theology, so their weekly worship service is usually a cobbled together form of prayer, song, and preaching.)
One must also remember that most Protestants work on observations… and that goes way back to the Reformation. Some (but certainly not all) of the Reformation complaints were rooted in an observational critique (i.e., if it looks wrong, it can be injurious to faith) which ran amok turning into rampant iconoclam in some quarters. But the modern Protestant mind is still very wary of appearances, and for them, closing one’s eyes, folding one’s hands, and talking to anyone other than God feels/seems/appears to be mis-directed worship.
I’ll confess that I struggled with this myself for many years. It’s a tough nut to crack, even with all the training and education available to the average person… observation and emotion create an awful lot of inertia.
I was born and raised in the Protestant tradition, and I can tell you the notion of praying to saints was anathema to my parents and their generation. To me as well, for years. My ideas have changed somewhat over the past few years though. My only remaining objection to the practice has to do with 1) WHERE are the saints; 2)WHEN are saints; and WHAT are the saints concerned with? I accept that my deceased father, who never ceased praying for me in this life, would continue his habit in the next if he could.
I would describe the location problem thus: are Nature and Supernature really parallel realities, or are they separate dimensions that rarely converge? I accept that the Incarnation is a dramatic example of convergence, but God did that, not man. God is not bound by dimension as we are now, or possibly may be in the next life. Lewis describes the problem best in Miracles.
The temporal issue is simple: why should we assume that time means in the next life what it means in this, and even if it does, why should the two be synchronized? NT Wright and John Polkinghorne both believe that the dead in Christ are just that: dead. They will be raised first on the last day, but we will all face judgement on the same day. St. Paul, Judas, and Moses will all be judged on the same day as you and I.
The last problem is focus. If the saints are not ‘asleep’, but aware, I rather think that their interest would be occupied with beholding the beatific vision instead of attending to the cares of this seedy world.
Now, these are not necessarily my views, but problems I wrestle with in considering the communion of saints. I would love to think that the faithful who have gone before me are interceding on my behalf.
We love God, thus we should love others; Could God allow the Saints love Him so much to the point that they should not care about the rest of us still being here?
Does love remain or change completely once the Saints are in Heaven or does this Love become more union with God?
I am sure the Saints are praying for you.
Ah, and that returns us to the original posit of the communion of the saints.
At root, we are really talking about a continuation of the Incarnation through the Church of Christ. Christ’s Incarnation at Bethlehem was a miracle… as was His life, death, ressurection, and assention. His continued existence as both God and Man in One Divine Person is an ongoing miracle, just as much as His presence in the Eucharist and sacramental life of the Church.
Further, we confess that Christ is aware of His Body, the Church-- and that we are part of His Mystical Body by grace through faith. That connection to Christ, or perhaps better stated, our incorporation into Christ is more perfectly accomplished when we have shed our sinful flesh and been brought into complete communion with our Lord in Paradise.
Given that, I don’t have much trouble making the leap that the dead in Christ live with Him where He is-- and that the ongoing miraculous intervention of God into His creation through Christ can exhibit itself through an intimate connection of all His members, since they are all part of the one, same, body… the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
Grace and peace to you.
Going on three years ago, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The experience altered my view of saintly intercession, not that I was ever one of those who condemn it. I found online a small artticle about St Peregrine, and kept it with me through my treatment, and I have it still.
I nevered actually prayed to this patron saint of cancer, but I do believe he prays for cancer victims, as I felt comfort from having this small card with me. I also no longer reject the possibility that he prayed for me personally.
Well said… and I particularly enjoy your quote from the “2nd Martin.”
Jon, I know that saints were and are praying for you, and that your card of St. Peregrine comforts you by reminding you of the prayers in heaven on your behalf. But why do you think think a specific saint is interceding for you if you did not ask? I would understand if St. Peregrine promised, before he died, to pray for all cancer patients, but I don’t think he did.
Oh, I don’t think a specific saint alone interceded for me. Perhaps St. Peregrine is the figure I focused on because of his designation. What I’m saying is I cannot any longer reject out of hand the possibility that the Church Triumphant is aware, in some way, of events here, including individual, personal events.
Welcome to the Forums!
I would describe the location problem thus: are Nature and Supernature really parallel realities, or are they separate dimensions that rarely converge?
The temporal issue is simple: why should we assume that time means in the next life what it means in this, and even if it does, why should the two be synchronized?
Are you familiar with Lewis’ illustration of the line on a piece of paper? It answers both these questions, for me.
He drew a line on a sheet of blank paper. The line has a beginning, a middle, and an end. This is our time, as illustrated all around us in the natural world.
The paper is God’s “time.” He is there at our beginning, our middle, and our end, but He does not have a beginning, middle, and end Himself.
I believe that, when we die, our souls go into the “time” that is God’s. So the “dead” souls can see all of our life at once. They can also see all of the other lives at once - or perhaps, only the lives of those who pray to them for intercession. (Jon, I think your carrying of the card was an unconscious prayer.)
I hope this helps you.
As for the main question, I know that some Protestant sects believe that, when we die, our souls go to sleep until the Second coming. So, to them, the Communion of Saints takes place between living people only.
God bless all people,
Hadn’t thought of it that way, Ruthie. Something to ponder. Thanks,
Amen to that. This is one belief that in a general manner Catholics and Anglicans are pretty much spot on together. The one difference is that we do not recognize patron saints who are assigned a specific quality and too, we do not have a canonization process anywhere near as involved as yours.
Ours used to be easier, until the Church realised that Italians would cannonize anyone who did not die in prison. Even the ones who did were considered.