Catholicism: the Reason for My Hope Part VI

The Saints and the Mystics of the Church

What are saints but the heroes of faith? They are declared by the Church to be holy men and women who led heroic lives to keep themselves in the state of holiness or in some cases gave their lives to defend their faith; those faithful martyrs. They are the few who are the rarest of humans; who dared to attempt in this life what Christ challenged His followers to do, “Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.”[1] Though they fell over and over in life, most of these men and women came as close as we could ever dream, to doing just what Christ had asked of us: reaching spiritual perfection.

The Catholic Church gives the proper veneration and honor to these heroes of the faith. As the world gives honor to its heroes, the Church gives honor to Hers. Our Catholic children have the most proper and appropriate heroes to hold in esteem and to guide their lives.

To become a saint is not a simple matter because the Church requires of God his stamp of approval, His seal of authenticity if you will, on the heroic nature of any declared saint of the Catholic Church. Each must have at least one miracle attributed to them before their death and another attributed to their intercession after their death. Now that is a tall order but God is up to the task, having stamped His approval on a multitude of saintly heroes over the course of these 2000 years. They have been ratified by their miracles and in some cases by the miracle of becoming incorruptible; that is, their body does not decay after death.

The biographies of these individuals and their own spiritual writings have given us a library of valuable spiritual help and encouragement. No other church has so many spiritual heroes to draw upon. Their stories give us encouragement in facing trials and what to do when we fail those trials. Their prayers help us fashion our prayers to God, leaving our needs in His hands while praising Him and praying for others. They are the warriors in the spiritual battles against evil in this world and have shaped countries, continents and the history of our Church. They have taught us how to teach the faith by living the faith as it was meant to be lived.

These are the people who walk this earth as other Christ’s; “And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me.”[2] They effectively, “. . . put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth.”[3] They are what we are all supposed to aspire to in the Christian life. They fought the good fight and ran the good race having persevered to the end and winning the crown. God loves a saint.

As Scott Hahn has said, the best way to honor an artist is admire his art. In this way God is honored when we give honor to those who are His finest handiwork of human beings. And how much more true is this of Mary, the Mother of God; The Saint among saints. She is the singular boast of our broken nature. Only she, among the history of man was found worthy to be spared the stain of original sin, won for her by the grace of Christ’s redeeming death, at the moment of her conception; she who is ever-virgin and sinless and stainless though she possessed a human nature. She was chosen by God before all ages and she gave her will entirely over to His request. She is a singularity and God is pleased when we give her the heightened honor that she deserves. For she is God’s finest handiwork of the human creature; it is to honor her to praise God for His gift of her to mankind. Without her yes, where would we now be? Would we still be awaiting the Messiah and someone who might be worthy to bear Him, care for Him and protect Him as an infant? We need not worry of such things for she used Her will to do only His will. Hail Mary, full (not just partially filled) of (God’s) grace.

The mystical saints are the few who have tried to explain to us what is unexplainable. They try to speak the unspeakable, and describe the indescribable. However mystical are their writings, one gets a sense of the mysteries that are revealed to those who are so disposed to seek God through mystical prayer. Their writings are so sublime that they fill the reader’s soul with joy and grace. You, as a reader, know that you are listening to someone who truly spoke to God and what an indescribable grace it is to see Christ through such a thin veil. They are a rare breed who reaches the level of mystical prayer which is described as spiritual union: the marriage of their souls to Christ’s. It is a bliss filled encounter that transforms these saints into love itself, just as God is Love Himself. Their writings serve as a proof that the God of our prayers is truly God and truly present to us. No protestant church has such sublime heroes to lead them to an assurance so gratifying to the ordinary soul.

So now you have my reasons for hope in Christ as found through the intellect and through the spirit. They were all delivered to me via the Holy Catholic Church who is now and will remain forever the Mystical Body of Christ (with Christ as Her head) and the future Bride of the Bridegroom (with Christ as the Head of the espoused pair). Our human marriages only reflect the Wedding Feast of Heaven where the Church becomes one with Christ: like our earthly weddings, “two in one flesh.”[4]


[1] Matthew 5:48

[2] Galatians 2:20

[3] Ephesians 4:24

[4] Genesis 2:24

The Mystical Body of Christ

Jesus Christ Crucifix

When we recognize that the Church Christ founded is not simply an organization comprised of bricks and mortar but a living organism, the Mystical Body of Christ, we start to understand how different it is from any organization that has ever been formed in history. The Church has also been characterized as a living vine, with the people as its branches. Both images bring forth an image of something alive and vital.

If the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, as scripture attests, we know that our allegiance is not with a group of people that have formed a corporate style of organization. Incredibly, this organization is our union with the One. And this One person that we belong to is Jesus Christ and this is the 1st mark of the Church; that it is One.

Because we belong to Jesus Christ and we know and believe in our hearts and minds that He is God we also belong to that which is always Holy. It can never be unholy as God can never be unholy. This is the 2nd mark of the Church: it is Holy. Though we often separate ourselves from Christ by sin or wound the Mystical Body of Christ, He is always willing to readmit us into His Body should we do penance and seek reconciliation. He grafts us back onto the Vine as St. Paul says. If not, we have severed our relationship to the only salvific means man has: Jesus Christ Himself.

Christ Jesus, though he came to the Jews, opened the gates wide and called all of mankind to Himself. It was a universal call to the world and that is why the Church will forever be called Catholic, the 3rd mark of the Church. The diversity within the Church and her presence throughout the world testifies that men from every corner of the earth have found Christ Jesus in His Mystical Body. They have eaten of His flesh and drunk of His blood and thereby find their life in the Lifeblood of Christ as a participation in His Person.

The Apostolic nature of the Mystical Body of Christ is that the Church is a living memory and living union with Christ that stretches back in history to the founding of the Church. For we are Apostolic: the 4th mark of the Church. As the Apostles were sent into the world to teach the Good News and to draw as many as would listen to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, we too are asked to do the same in every age and it is our participation in the Apostolic nature of this Mystical Body to be sent into the world and draw all things to Him. Our communion with the Lord is a participation in His love; the self-sacrificing love of a family member.

As I think about the characteristics of the Mystical Body, it strikes me that when we decided to take up membership in the Church (to be a member of the Mystical Body) and become a part of the Living God, we are called to share in His Life and in His sufferings as well. We don’t just take up membership, we take up His cross. We will take the stripes, wear the crown of thorns, be mocked for our beliefs, and ultimately carry our cross with Him and suffer agony with Him, both in body and in soul. The world will hate us as it did Him and scorn us for being a stumbling block to their worldly designs.

We sometimes forget as Christians what exactly we were called to. It is not the romanticized faith of warm and fuzzy feelings, honor, esteem and a successful and prosperous life. We know that our happiness does not reside in the world. We are called to something far greater than anything this world has to offer. In fact we reject the world and the things of this world and seek only to remain joined to our Head. If we live in Him and die in Him, we will also rise with Him and abide with Him in an endless participation in His Divinity. It is as  St. Athanasius said: “God became man so that man might become a god.”