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John Paul II and the Communion of Saints

In case anyone missed it on Friday, the Vatican announced the official opening of the cause for beatification of Pope John Paul II on June 28, the Feast day of Saints Peter and Paul, the patrons of the Holy See. John Paul’s dedication to clarifying doctrine and his ceaseless travels bringing that message to the world partakes of the legacy of both of these great saints. No doubt he is with them now, resting in the Lord after his efforts on our behalf. It can be said that many, many lost individuals would not have found their way home without John Paul’s heroic virtue as a beacon. That is certainly true of this inconsequential blogger.

The cause for beatification, like many of the seemingly rote protocols and corporate actions of the Church, reveals an awesome truth when a moment is taken to consider it. A potential saint must be thoroughly checked out, and in John Paul’s case this process admits of rapidity simply because his life and work were so public. But the process also requires two intercessory miracles attributable to the candidate after his death. Petitions to the late pope undoubtedly began within moments of his death, and though I have not heard of any yet, I am sure there are already many possibilities. But any such miracle requires the extraordinary default certainly that we communicate meaningfully with the dead.

Of course, this makes perfect sense in the context of Catholic doctrine. As St. Jerome said, “If the Apostles and Martyrs, while still in the body, can pray for others, at a time when they must still be anxious for themselves, how much more after their crowns, victories, and triumphs are won!” But the thought gives resonance to the doctrine of the communion of saints. All of the faithful among the living, together with the souls on purgatory and those in heaven are a part of the mystical body of Christ. Even those outside the Church share in it to the degree that the state of their will and soul allow. This, it strikes me, is the only mechanism by which a soul converts. An earthly condition is ultimately a meaningless detail in the ongoing communication between God and his creatures, and between those creatures looking out for each other. John Paul, even without sainthood, is as real to us now as he ever was. As St. Jerome points out, he simply has a lot more time to continue the endeavors he pursued among us. And as his beatification progresses, we can be assured of a prayerful advocate very close to the Lord’s heart.

So, we talk to dead people. A revelation of the obvious, perhaps, but a revelation nonetheless. I’m glad this wasn’t the first topic of conversation when I was converting.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 13, 2005 3:42 PM.

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