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The Communion of Saints — Sanctorum Communionem — as explained by Father Connell’s ‘The New Baltimore Catechism No.3, published by Benzinger Brothers, Inc. in 1943:
…we shall study the doctrine of the Communion of Saints, which tells us that all who are united to Jesus Christ by sanctifying grace form one great society, with its members on earth, in Heaven and in Purgatory.
…By ‘the communion of saints’ is meant the union of the faithful on earth, the blessed in Heaven, and the (Holy) souls in purgatory, with Christ as their Head. The word ‘communion’ as we use it here has no reference to Holy Communion; it means here ‘union’ or ‘society’ or ‘fellowship’.
The word ‘saints’ in the expression ‘communion of saints’ does not mean only persons of extraordinary holiness; it means all those in the state of sanctifying grace.
Through the communion of saints, the blessed in Heaven can help the (Holy) souls in purgatory and the faithful on earth by praying for them.
The saints in heaven help in a particular way those of the faithful who were dear to them in life and those who ask for their prayers.
Which of the saints in Heaven gives the most help to those on earth? The Blessed Virgin Mary of all the saints gives the most help to those on earth, because she is the spiritual mother of the entire human race; and it can be piously believed that all graces given to men are conferred through her intercession, so that she can be justly called the Mediatrix of all graces.
(On the certainty) that those whom the Church has canonized, or solemnly declared saints, are in Heaven: We are certain that those whom the Church has canonized or solemnly declared saints, are in Heaven, for the Church is infallible in making such decisions.
…The Church is infallible in canonizing saints… We know… because it is a revealed doctrine that the saints in Heaven are to be venerated, and the Church could not teach this doctrine in a practical way unless she could name with infallible certainty, some particular saints in heaven.
…there are other saints in Heaven besides those who have been canonized. We know that there are many other saints in Heaven besides those who have been canonized, because the Church in her official prayers and teachings frequently refers to other saints besides those who have been canonized. The Church honors all the saints in Heaven on the Feast of All Saints, November 1st.
Should the faithful on earth, through the communion of saints, honor the blessed in Heaven and pray to them? … (We) should honor the blessed in Heaven and pray to them, because they are worthy of honor and as friends of God will help the faithful on earth… and we may in our private devotions pray to children who died after baptism before reaching the use of reason, because such children are admitted to heaven immediately after death.
On the suffering Holy souls in Purgatory: The faithful on earth, through the communion of saints, can relieve the sufferings of the souls in purgatory by prayer, fasting, and other good works, by indulgences, and by having Masses offered for them. The Church prays for ‘the faithful departed’ in the Mass and in the Divine Office, especially on November 2nd, All Souls’ Day.
Question: When we pray for a particular deceased person are we sure that our prayers will be applied to that person’s soul if it is in purgatory? Answer: … We can be sure that some soul in purgatory will be helped; and we hope that ordinarily God will apply at least some benefit of our prayers to the particular soul for which we pray if it is in purgatory, but we have no absolute certainty about the matter.
On Masses said at a privileged altar: A ‘Mass said at a privileged altar’ is a Mass to which a plenary indulgence is attached by the Church for the soul in purgatory for whom the Mass is offered.
On ‘A series of Gregorian Masses’: A series of Gregorian Masses is a (set) of Masses (prayed) over a period of thirty consecutive days for a particular deceased person, the custom originating in a revelation made to Pope St. Gregory the Great that a deceased friend had been released from purgatory after the offering of thirty consecutive Masses.
On the three branches of the communion of saints: The blessed in Heaven are called (members of) the ‘Church Triumphant’; the (Holy) souls in Purgatory (are members of) the ‘Church Suffering’; the faithful on earth (are members of) the ‘Church Militant’.
How may the faithful on earth help one another? … as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, (the faithful on earth, who are in a state of sanctifying grace) can help one another by practicing supernatural charity and, especially, by performing the spiritual and corporeal works of mercy.
Praise be to Jesus Christ! Laudetur Jesu Christus!
Now and forevermore! Nunc et in aeternum!