Friends in High Places: Indulgences and the Communion of Saints

It is probable that there is among Protestants a more obstinate—for I really must say so—a more complete misunderstanding on this point of doctrine than on any other. I say “obstinate” for the truth on this point has been stated so repeatedly that it seems impossible that it should not have been, at least to a great extent, accepted in the Protestant world by this time, had it not been for a firm determination not to accept it, and to regard us as either deceivers or deceived regarding it.

 George Mary Searle (1839-1918),
American astronomer and clergyman
and professor at The Catholic University of America,
writing about Indulgences in “Plain facts for fair minds:
an appeal to candor and common sense”


This week:  Not one but TWO special days on the Church calendar. 

Thursday, November 1 was the Feast of All Saints.

On this day, we remembered those who have gone before us, and who now rest in the arms of our heavenly Father.  For Catholics, All Saints Day is a holy day of obligation.  That means that attendance at Mass is required unless one has a good reason to be excused from the obligation, such as illness.

Today—Friday, November 2—is the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day).

On All Souls Day, we remember those who have died but who have not yet achieved perfection, and so are not yet in heaven.  This “halfway house” where the believer is gradually conformed to Christ is called Purgatory.

The Communion of Saints

You say the words in the Creed:  “I believe in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.  Amen.”

Catholics look to the Scriptures for their understanding of the Communion of Saints.  The teaching is based on 1 Corinthians 12, where Paul compares all Christians to a single body.  The idea that there is a “communion,” a spiritual connection between believers who can pray for one another is reinforced in 1 Corinthians 6:17 and 1 John 1:3, as well as in other verses.

In Hebrews 1:12, the saints in heaven (and the departed souls who have not yet reached the state of perfection, whom the Church teaches are in purgatory) are described as a great “cloud of witnesses” encompassing Christians on earth.