In January 2014, I wrote two posts on community for Christianity Richly: Community, Part 1, and Community, Part 2. In those posts I began to explore how Our Lord used community as one of the means by which He drew me into the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. The importance of community, the degree to which it is integral to the Church, has become increasingly clear—so clear I now consider it a vitally important sixth reason why I am a Catholic Christian.
In some ways community is the visible manifestation of unity, one of the five original reasons I embraced the fullness of the Catholic faith. But community and unity go far beyond the visible unity that Christ intended for His Church on earth. Community also includes the invisible but very real unity we have with in Communion of Saints, “the greater part of the Catholic Church . . . beyond the grave where lies our ultimate destiny.”¹
We are very much part of a family that includes the Mother of God—the Mother Jesus Christ gave to be our Mother, too (John 19:26-27). We can be sure of her love and prayers for us today, just as her love and prayers were offered for the Apostle John, into whose earthly care she was given. Our family also includes the Saints of the Old and New Testaments. We are encouraged to honor them (Hebrews 11) and imitate their holiness (1 Corinthians 11:1). We are able to offer “loving and constant prayer for the departed,” our family and friends who have preceded us into eternity (2 Maccabees 12:38-46, 2 Timothy 1:16-18). All of this reflects “the truth that we are in communion with those in the world to come . . . that the Catholic Church is the one body on earth which is always adding to its members by Baptism, but never losing them by death . . . the heart of it is a community of love.”²
Should any of this surprise us? No. As Kenneth Noakes writes:
In recent decades, there has been a recovery of the sense of the Church as communion, an understanding which was prevalent in the early centuries of the Church’s life when the sacramental sense was so strongly developed. The goal of human life is communion with the Father in Jesus Christ . . . We are united with one another in Christ within His Church [those on earth and those alive in eternity], as we are united with the Blessed Trinity—we experience communion horizontally and vertically, as it were—when we share the Eucharist.³
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
Amen! Christianity Richly.
¹ From an essay by Graham Leonard titled “By Whose Authority?” in The Path to Rome: Modern Journeys to the Catholic Church, edited by Fr. Dwight Longenecker and first published in 1999 by Gracewing (Herefordshire, UK), p. 31.
³ From an essay by Kenneth Noakes titled “Echoes of the Early Church: The Testimony of the Church Fathers,” in The Path to Rome: Modern Journeys to the Catholic Church, edited by Fr. Dwight Longenecker and first published in 1999 by Gracewing (Herefordshire, UK), p. 69.