Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Saints Alive!

Saints Alive!

A word about Saint Silvia found in the archives of history and then a word from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Church history on the fraternity of The Church on both sides of eternity. Lastly, some thoughts from us on the sacred monopoly of the "cloud of witnesses" that intercede for humanity before God for all eternity.

Saint Silvia
(c. 592)

The Second Vatican Council teaches that "the family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the Faith to their children..." (Lumen Gentium #11). From the earliest days of the Church, mothers and fathers have endeavored to hand on to their children what they themselves have received. Silvia is one such mother.

We know few details of Silvia's life. She married Gordianus, a Roman senator, bore him two sons, and, after her husband's death, retired to a small cell for prayer and penance (self-purgation or self-denial).  Silvia's son Gregory grew to be a man of decisive worldly action and unremitting prayer, one of the three popes to be proclaimed "the Great." We can see in Gregory's own holiness a reflection of his parents' "lofty Christian sentiments" (Pope Benedict XVI).

During his pontificate (service to the Catoholic Church as pope), Gregory had a portrait of Gordianus and Silvia installed on the wall of Saint Andrew's monastery on the Caelian Hill in Rome. The monastery no longer stands, and the mosaic is gone, but a detailed description written by John the Deacon remains. John tells us that Silvia's face was wrinkled, yet radiantly fair. Her large eyes betrayed her irrepressible joy. In the 17th century a new church dedicated to saint Gregory the Great was built on this site. An oratory (a small private devotional room) in the entrance of the church honors Silvia.

Loving Father, through the intercession of Saint Silvia, grant to all mothers and fathers a desire to proclaim your truth to their children with unquenchable joy.

The Communion of Saints

Remembering who we are and what we are called to be is summed up in the answer to a question from the Westminister Catechism. "What is the chief end of man?"  "Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever." The Catechism of the Catholic Church expounds on this truth.

Catechism of the Catholic Church on the Communion of Saints:


The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides insight into the Communion of the Saints in other sections of the Catechism, we've chosen to copy and paste them here:

GUIDES FOR PRAYER (Intercession of the Saints)

The Cloud of Witnesses
2683 The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom,41 especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were "put in charge of many things."42 Their intercession is their most exalted service to God's plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world.
2684 In the communion of saints, many and varied spiritualities have been developed throughout the history of the churches. the personal charism of some witnesses to God's love for men has been handed on, like "the spirit" of Elijah to Elisha and John the Baptist, so that their followers may have a share in this spirit.43 A distinct spirituality can also arise at the point of convergence of liturgical and theological currents, bearing witness to the integration of the faith into a particular human environment and its history. the different schools of Christian spirituality share in the living tradition of prayer and are essential guides for the faithful. In their rich diversity they are refractions of the one pure light of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit is truly the dwelling of the saints and the saints are for the Spirit a place where he dwells as in his own home since they offer themselves as a dwelling place for God and are called his temple.44


IV. "You Shall Not Make For Yourself a Graven Image . . ."  
2129 The divine injunction included the prohibition of every representation of God by the hand of man. Deuteronomy explains: "Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a graven image for yourselves, in the form of any figure...."66 It is the absolutely transcendent God who revealed himself to Israel. "He is the all," but at the same time "he is greater than all his works."67 He is "the author of beauty."68
2130 Nevertheless, already in the Old Testament, God ordained or permitted the making of images that pointed symbolically toward salvation by the incarnate Word: so it was with the bronze serpent, the ark of the covenant, and the cherubim.69
2131 Basing itself on the mystery of the incarnate Word, the seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea (787) justified against the iconoclasts the veneration of icons - of Christ, but also of the Mother of God, the angels, and all the saints. By becoming incarnate, the Son of God introduced a new "economy" of images.
2132 The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, "the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype," and "whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it."70 The honor paid to sacred images is a "respectful veneration," not the adoration due to God alone:
Religious worship is not directed to images in themselves, considered as mere things, but under their distinctive aspect as images leading us on to God incarnate. the movement toward the image does not terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is.71


Cyprian of Carthage
"Let us remember one another in concord and unanimity. Let us on both sides [of death] always pray for one another. Let us relieve burdens and afflictions by mutual love, that if one of us, by the swiftness of divine condescension, shall go hence the first, our love may continue in the presence of the Lord, and our prayers for our brethren and sisters not cease in the presence of the Father's mercy" (Letters 56 [60]:5 [A.D. 253]).
Cyril of Jerusalem
"Then [during the Eucharistic prayer] we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition . . . " (Catechetical Lectures 23:9 [A.D. 350]).
Ephraim the Syrian
"You victorious martyrs who endured torments gladly for the sake of the God and Savior, you who have boldness of speech toward the Lord himself, you saints, intercede for us who are timid and sinful men, full of sloth, that the grace of Christ may come upon us, and enlighten the hearts of all of us that so we may love him" (Commentary on Mark [A.D. 370]).
The Liturgy of St. Basil
"By the command of your only-begotten Son we communicate with the memory of your saints . . . by whose prayers and supplications have mercy upon us all, and deliver us for the sake of your holy name" (Liturgy of St. Basil [A.D. 373]).
John Chrysostom
"When you perceive that God is chastening you, fly not to his enemies . . . but to his friends, the martyrs, the saints, and those who were pleasing to him, and who have great power [in God]" (Orations 8:6 [A.D. 396]).
"You say in your book that while we live we are able to pray for each other, but afterwards when we have died, the prayer of no person for another can be heard . . . But if the apostles and martyrs while still in the body can pray for others, at a time when they ought still be solicitous about themselves, how much more will they do so after their crowns, victories, and triumphs?" (Against Vigilantius 6 [A.D. 406]).
"A Christian people celebrates together in religious solemnity the memorials of the martyrs, both to encourage their being imitated and so that it can share in their merits and be aided by their prayers" (Against Faustus the Manichean [A.D. 400]).
"There is an ecclesiastical discipline, as the faithful know, when the names of the martyrs are read aloud in that place at the altar of God, where prayer is not offered for them. Prayer, however, is offered for the dead who are remembered. For it is wrong to pray for a martyr, to whose prayers we ought ourselves be commended" (Sermons 159:1 [A.D. 411]).
"At the Lord's table we do not commemorate martyrs in the same way that we do others who rest in peace so as to pray for them, but rather that they may pray for us that we may follow in their footsteps" (Homilies on John 84 [A.D. 416]).
"Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ" (The City of God 20:9:2 [A.D. 419]).
Pope Leo I
"Let us rejoice, then, dearly beloved, with spiritual joy, and make our boast over the happy end of this illustrious man in the Lord [the martyr Laurentius] . . . By his prayer and intercession we trust at all times to be assisted . . ." (Sermons 85:4 [A.D. 450]).

The Monopoly of Martyrs and Saints

We live our lives this side of eternity as if the Monopoly game is the rule of life!  We base our judgements, our goals, our sense of worth on the visible reality found in horizontal living, round and round we go.  Humanity is mostly oblivious to the invisible reality that we were created for a purpose much loftier than acquisition of earthly power and possesions. 

 If saints and martyrs could talk?  They existed in the Monopoly game of this life with their eyes fixed on heaven.  We glimpse their reality in the vision of St. John's revelation of eternal life where heaven and earth become one. Where man's chief end to glorify God and to enjoy him forever is revealed.  It's as if a curtain is drawn back on reality and there we see those who lived their lives glorifying God and now continue to enjoy God forever by worshipping him through intercession for those who are still trying to find their way around the Monopoly board of the earthly economy. The saints are called so because they are the paragons of the chief end of man.

Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are 
restless till they find rest in Thee.  --St. Augustine  

The only thing separating us from this "cloud of witnesses" is our focus. We center the focus of our lives on the visible kingdom around us.  The saints and martyrs rest their focus on the Triune God.

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