Baltimore Catechism 3

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The Communion of Saints and Forgiveness of Sins




 * Q. 170. What is meant by "the communion of saints" in the Apostles' Creed?
A. By "the communion of saints" is meant the union of the faithful on earth, the blessed in heaven, and the souls in purgatory, with Christ as their Head.


 * The blessed in heaven comprise the Church triumphant; the souls in purgatory, the Church suffering; and the faithful on earth, the Church militant.

 * > "It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins" (2 Machabees 12:46).

 * > "In him (Christ Jesus) the whole structure is closely fitted together and grows into a temple holy in the Lord; in him you too are being built together into a dwelling place for God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:21-22).

 * > "... Rendering thanks to the Father, who has made us worthy to share the lot of the saints in light" (Colossians 1:12).

 * > "But you have come to Mount Sion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to the company of many thousands of angels, and to the Church of the firstborn who are enrolled in the heavens, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the just made perfect, and to Jesus, mediator of a new covenant" (Hebrews 12:22-24).


 * Q. 171. Through the communion of saints, what can the blessed in heaven do for the souls in purgatory and the faithful on earth?
A. Through the communion of saints, the blessed in heaven can help the souls in purgatory and the faithful on earth by praying for them.


 * The prayers of the blessed in heaven are always efficacious because they are always in accord with God's will.

 * > "When thou didst pray with tears, and didst bury the dead, and didst leave thy dinner, and hide the dead by day in thy house, and bury them by night, I offered thy prayer to the Lord" (Tobias 12:12).

 * > "And there was given to him much incense, that he might offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which is before the throne" (Apocalypse 8:3).


 * Q. 172. Should the faithful on earth, through the communion of saints, honor the blessed in heaven and pray to them?
A. The faithful on earth, through the communion of saints, 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.


 * Many saints have special feast-days. All the saints are honored on the Feast of All Saints, November 1.


 * > "Let us now praise men of renown, and our fathers in their generation" (Ecclesiasticus 44:1).


 * Q. 173. Can the faithful on earth, through the communion of saints, relieve the sufferings of the souls in purgatory?
A. 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.


 * Mass can be frequently offered for the repose of a soul. There are special Requiem Masses for the day of the funeral, the thirtieth day after death or burial, and the anniversary of the death or burial. On All Souls' Day, November 2, Masses are offered for all the souls in purgatory.

 * Most indulgences granted by the Church are applicable to the poor souls in purgatory. A plenary indulgence can be gained by the celebration of Mass at a privileged altar. This indulgence can be applied only to the soul in purgatory for whom the Mass is offered.

 * Bishops and other prelates designated in the Code of Canon Law can determine and declare one altar, in churches specified by law, as privileged daily and perpetually, under the conditions prescribed by the Sacred Canons.

 * All Masses celebrated at any altar on All Souls' Day, and during its octave, and during the Forty Hours' Devotion enjoy the same privilege as those offered on a privileged altar, but only in favor of the soul for whom the Mass is said.

 * > "It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins" (2 Machabees 12:46).


 * Q. 174. Can the faithful on earth help one another?
A. The faithful on earth, as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, can help one another by practicing supernatural charity and, especially, by performing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.


 * Prayer, one of the spiritual works of mercy, is of value not only for the living but also for the dead. The other spiritual works of mercy and most of the corporal works are concerned primarily with the living.

 * > "Then the king will say to those on his right hand, 'Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; naked and you covered me; sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the just will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and feed thee; or thirsty, and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger, and take thee in; or naked, and clothe thee? Or when did we see thee sick, or in prison, and come to thee?' And answering the king will say to them, 'Amen I say to you, as long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it for me' "(Matthew 25:34-40).

 * > "By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).

 * > "I urge therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all men" (1 Timothy 2:1).

 * > "Pray for one another that you may be saved. For the unceasing prayer of a just man is of great avail" (James 5:16).


 * The Mystical Body of Christ


 * This picture shows the Communion of Saints. The assembly of the Angels and Saints in Heaven, the faithful on earth, and the souls in Purgatory are all shown.

 * On top, the Angels and Saints adore the three Persons of the Trinity and pray to them for the faithful who still live on earth. In the middle, the faithful on earth assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, where they invoke the Saints in Heaven, pray for each other, and ask for the deliverance of the Poor Souls from Purgatory. At the bottom are the souls in Purgatory. The refreshing waters which two Angels pour upon them symbolizes the relief which the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass obtains for them.


 * Q. 175. What is meant in the Apostles' Creed by "the forgiveness of sins?"
A. By "the forgiveness of sins" in the Apostles' Creed is meant that God has given to the Church, through Jesus Christ, the power to forgive sins, no matter how great or how many they are, if sinners truly repent.


 * The Church exercises the power to forgive sin when sins committed before the reception of Baptism are forgiven by that sacrament; but especially does the Church exercise this power in the sacrament of Penance.

 * > "He therefore said to them again, 'Peace be to you! As the Father has sent me, I also send you.' When he had said this, he breathed upon them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained' " (John 20:21-23).




 * We all desire, particularly in times of sorrow, to have loving friends. The Catholic doctrine of the communion of saints teaches us that we can have many good friends at all times. The word "communion," as we use it in this connection, has nothing to do with Holy Communion. It means "society" or "union." And the word "saints" does not mean merely those who are in heaven with God. It means all who are joined to Christ by sanctifying grace. In a word, the Catholic doctrine of the communion of saints means that we have millions of' friends, bound to us by the supernatural ties of sanctifying grace and divine charity flowing from Jesus Christ, the Head of this society.

 * These friends are: first, those living on earth with sanctifying grace and charity in their souls; these make up the Church militant, so called because its members are still engaged in the spiritual warfare against the world, the flesh and the devil, hoping to be victorious and to win the crown of eternal life; second, the souls in purgatory-those who have left this world in the state of grace but must still make atonement to God for a debt of temporal punishment; these make up the Church suffering; third, the saints in heaven, called the Church triumphant, because they have won the victory and are now enjoying their triumph with God for all eternity.

 * These friends aid us in our needs, especially our spiritual necessities. There are many devout persons on earth who pray for us every day, even though we have never met them. The saints in heaven, particularly those to whom we pray, aid us also by their prayers. Above all, the Mother of God, the Queen of Saints, is praying for us before the throne of her Son, because she loves every soul for which He died, since she loves Him so much. The souls in purgatory probably pray for us also, although this is not entirely certain. The Church never prays publicly to the suffering souls, asking for their prayers, but she allows her members to do this privately, if they wish.

 * There are millions of saints in heaven, but only certain ones have been canonized, or officially declared by the Church to be in heaven. When the Church canonizes a saint, we have absolute certainty that this person is in heaven, for the Church is infallible in canonizations. We can also be sure that baptized children who die before they reach the age of reason- perhaps members of our own family-are in heaven, and we can invoke them in our private devotions. The saints in heaven help in a particular way those who were dear to them in life and those who ask their prayers.

 * But if the communion of saints brings us advantages, it also brings us obligations. We should pray to our friends, the saints in heaven; we should pray for our friends, the souls in purgatory. Toward those members of the communion of saints who are still in this world we must exercise charity, not only by praying for them but also by assisting them whenever they are in need either of body or of soul, especially through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. We must not consider their natural traits, which may be unpleasant, but must rather view them as sharers in the divine life that flows from Christ, and as persons who are destined to be our companions for all eternity in His kingdom. If we put into practice in this manner the doctrine of the communion of saints, we shall never be lonely or sad, even though all our worldly friends turn against us.

 * RESOLUTION: Resolve to remember the suffering souls in purgatory after every Holy Communion, especially the souls of your deceased relatives and friends.

 * Complete Exercises For Lesson 13





 * (Check each of the following statements as either true or false. The correct answer can be found in the previous portions of this lesson).


 * The blessed in heaven compose the Church militant.

 * The indulgence of the privileged altar means that the Church grants a plenary indulgence to the soul in purgatory for whom the Mass is said.

 * It is a truth of the Catholic faith that the souls in purgatory pray for those on earth.

 * All Saints' Day is celebrated on November 1.

 * All persons in sanctifying grace can be called saints.

 * It is possible that some canonized saints are still in purgatory.

 * We are allowed to pray privately to a baptized child who died before reaching the age of reason.

 * The saints in heaven pray for the souls in purgatory.

 * Some sins are so grievous that the Church cannot forgive them.

 * All the spiritual works of mercy are concerned with the living.





 * (Answer the questions orally or write them as your teacher may direct):


 * Abigail, an elderly Catholic lady, laments the fact that she is practically friendless in the world. Write a short note to the poor soul, wherein you remind her that no Catholic is really friendless who has a lively faith in the communion of saints. Explain that truth in your note.

 * What spiritual bonds unite the three classes of saints that form the Church Triumphant, the Church Suffering, and the Church Militant?

 * Why is our branch of this union, or communion, called Militant?

 * Anastasia's wealthy parents are very generous to foreign missionaries. Their little girl is apt to be vain and boastful of the fact that her family is being prayed for by these grateful missionaries in all parts of the world. After studying this lesson, Theodora, a poor child, concludes that her family is being prayed for also in every part of the world. Is Theodora correct? Why?

 * Silvia wonders is anyone in heaven praying for her and her family. Give her your answer.

 * Placida, a child in the fifth grade, has difficulties with her lessons. She studies faithfully enough, but her memory of things is not very good. Sabina, her sister in the seventh grade, urges Placida to pray to the souls in purgatory whenever her memory fails her. What do you think of Sabina's advice?

 * What obligations have we as members of the union, or communion of saints?

 * Can you name five canonized saints? Can you name two saints canonized by Pope Pius XII? Can you name anyone who died in America and may one day be a canonized saint?

 * Roberta hears her parish priest announce that on All Souls' Day he will celebrate three Masses. On what two days of the year may every priest offer the Holy Sacrifice three times?

 * In which sense of the word "saint" as used in this lesson are only extraordinarily holy men and women and children meant? Explain.

 * Explain to Cleopatra, a Protestant neighbor about your own age, what is meant by the title we Catholics confer on our Blessed Mother: "Mediatrix of All Graces." Though not a Catholic, the young girl has a tender regard for the "Virgin," as she calls her.

 * For the benefit of Liborius, a Lutheran boy in your neighborhood, distinguish between All Saints' and All Souls' Day. Tell him what you know about them and what good Catholics must do, or are expected to do, on both days.

 * Paula, a popular switchboard operator in a downtown office is drowned while on vacation. Her fellow workers collect $100 to buy flowers for the funeral. Then one of them suggests that instead of giving flowers they use the money as stipends for Masses for the repose of Paula's soul. Which plan is the better? Would you suggest a different plan?


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