On the Communion of Saints

I’ve tried twice to write the present article.  Neither scribbling quite satisfied me, and so I just decided to ramble and hope for the best.  Through the prayers of St. Ignatius of Loyola, whose natalis we celebrate today, may this ramble on the Communion of Saints benefit my dear readers!  Speaking of my dear readers, thanks to those who commented on my last article and made me think more deeply about the points I tried to make.  Your thoughtful observations rendered the comments section more interesting than the article itself!

All-Saints

At any rate, how are Christians benefited by the Communion of Saints?  And who makes up the Communion of Saints?  All the Faithful make up this body, whether on Earth, in Heaven, or in Purgatory.  (Protestants and Orthodox included, as to be baptized is to be made one with the Body of Christ.)  The Communion of Saints forms a bulwark against worldliness.  Meditation on the example and desires of the saints insulate us both against worldly desires and the despair which often threatens us during grave trials.

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That the Communion of Saints keeps our eyes fixed on the King of the Saints, Our Lord Jesus Christ, may especially be seen in the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola.  Those familiar with his life know that chivalric literature influenced St. Ignatius as a youth to seek military glory.  His brave career as a soldier ended at the Battle of Pamplona, where a cannonball wounded him in both legs.  This led to a long period of recuperation and agonizing surgery, which he endured most manfully.  While convalescing,  he wished to read more books on chivalry, but was told by his caretakers that they place where he stayed only had the Bible and the Lives of the Saints.  He read these and soon found himself fired by the love of God and the desire to imitate the saints.  He wrote down the words of Jesus Christ in a red pen and the words of St. Mary in blue in order to make them a constant meditation.  Upon recovery, he forsook a life in the world in order to pursue one of prayer, fasting, and poverty.  Eventually, St. Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus, whose members, the Jesuits, stand as one of the most prominent religious orders in the Church.

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We, like St. Ignatius, are born into the world and find ourselves influenced by it.  It is very easy for us to become enmeshed in mere daily living and worldly desires.  The end result is losing all taste for religion.  After all, does not BIBLE stand for Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth?  Heaven can wait.  We have decades before we need to meet our Maker!  We can put off prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for later.  A person with such attitudes has already been enmeshed in the world, and stands the chance of losing eternal life.

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After St. Ignatius’ conversion, he never looked back.  The reason is because he took up the desires of the saints.  The saints’ desire for holiness and eternal life replaced his desire for worldly glory.  Though the latter part of his life was spent in society (Ignatius lived as a hermit for a short while), keeping mindful of God and the Saints preserved him from adapting the desires of secular persons.  As he writes in his Spiritual Exercises:

Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.

The other things on the face of the earth are created for man to help him in attaining the end for which he is created.

Hence, man is to make use of them in as far as they help him in the attainment of his end, and he must rid himself of them in as far as they prove a hindrance to him.

Therefore, we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed free choice and are not under any prohibition. Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life. The same holds for all other things.

Our one desire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we are created.

Ignatius always remembered that he was a child of God with an eternal inheritance.  In comparison to eternal life, all else is dross.

Though intimate with the King and noble society, St. Thomas More valued riches and status as nothing compared to God and the Truth.  A great example of living in the world but not being of it.

Though intimate with the King and noble society, St. Thomas More valued riches and status as nothing compared to God and the Truth. A great example of living in the world but not being of it.

The whole trick to living in the world but not being of it resides in remembering to which community we belong.  Though we love and respect our secular friends and wish for them to gain the same end we hope for, it is necessary for us to avoid falling into the same errors as they do–especially the error that religion holds no relevance to everyday life.  The words and deeds of the saints–and indeed the saints themselves–can be brought into our daily lives.  In our imitation of the saints, the charity and virtue we show may even be instrumental in drawing secular persons to our society.

May St. Ignatius pray that we all arrive where he and the other saints praise Our Lord through the ages of the ages.  Amen.

The Importance of the Holy Spirit

While reading Yvain: the Knight of the Lion by Chrétien de Troyes, the more numerous references to the Holy Spirit than to any other person of the Trinity struck me.  As a matter of fact, the author seems to refer to the Holy Ghost 90% of the time when referring to a Person of the Trinity, even a Mass is held “for the honor of the Holy Ghost.”  Modern Christians do not as often ponder the relationship they have to the Holy Ghost as much as the kind we have with the Father or the Son.  Medievals seem more attuned to the role of the Spirit in their lives than moderns.

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Once when St. Ignatius of Loyola pondered why he prayed to the separate persons of the Trinity since all the prayers went to same God, he received a miraculous understanding that praying to the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit was like playing three beautiful notes which came together in a brilliant harmony.  We ought to recognize the role of each Person of the Trinity in our lives so that we might cultivate a stimulating and beautiful understanding of God.  Nothing higher, more sublime, more beautiful, more virtuous, more noble, or more holy may be thought that God Himself.  When I consider the role of God the Father in my life, I imagine that He works mainly through Providence: leading me away from physical and spiritual harm, providing my daily necessities, and in other ways guiding the course of my life.  God the Son stands the model of the most perfect life, the highest wisdom, and the example of and source of mercy.  Our Crucified Lord gives me the grace to turn away from sin and be made into His image and likeness.  The Holy Spirit I view as the Person inspires us to every good deed and invigorates us with every virtue.

Holy Trinity

We can only live our Christian lives through the indwelling and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  I once read an atheist’s vexation with Christians, because Christians attribute every good deed to God and refuse to take credit themselves.  There is credit in saying yes to God, but we could not even have thought to do any good work without God’s grace.  We can neither fear God nor believe the most basic precepts of the faith without the Holy Spirit.  Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them…” (John 6:44).  At the same time, the agency of the Holy Spirit draws men to the Truth.

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Not only does the Holy Spirit act through Christians, in whom the Spirit acts to bring us “to the whole measure and fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13), but also in people ignorant of the True Faith.  The gifts of the Holy Spirits are fear of God, piety, knowledge, fortitude, counsel, understanding, and wisdom.  Whenever these are manifested in a human being, I cannot but believe that the Holy Spirit produces these effects.  We can only pray that the Holy Spirit will find the conditions right to add faith to these persons now living outside the fold.

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If anything has made our relationship with the Holy Spirit less evident in modern times, I would say that it is due to the emphasis on justification over sanctification.  The modern man is so burdened by sin that he feels like he cannot overcome vice, but Jesus Christ must save him from the very mouth of hell.  It is true that we require God’s salvation lest we perish everlastingly, but part of our salvation is to see the divine likeness growing in us every day.  The Holy Spirit through the merits of Christ and under the Providence of the Father accomplishes this without fail in those that seek Him.  Here are a couple of prayers to the Holy Spirit which you might find useful this Lent in considering the action of the Holy Spirit in your life.

St. Augustine’s Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.  Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.  Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.  Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.  Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.  Amen.

St. Bonaventure’s Prayer for the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit

O Lord Jesus,
through You I humbly beg the merciful Father
to send the Holy Spirit of grace,
that He may bestow upon us His sevenfold gifts.
May He send us the gift of WISDOM,
which will make us relish the Tree of Life
that is none other than Yourself;
the gift of UNDERSTANDING,
which will enlighten us;
the gift of COUNSEL,
which will guide us in the way of righteousness;
and the gift of FORTITUDE,
which will give us the strength to vanquish
the enemies of our sanctification and salvation.
May He impart to us the gift of KNOWLEDGE,
which will enable us to discern Your teaching
and distinguish good from evil;
the gift of PIETY,
which will make us enjoy true peace;
and the gift of FEAR,
which will make us shun all iniquity
and avoid all danger of offending Your Majesty.

To the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit
be given all glory and thanksgiving forever.
Amen.