The Mystical Body

Last Supper by Dieric Bouts

Father Cassilly says that the children of the family of God are members of the Mystical Body of Christ, and they fall into three groups: the blessed in heaven, the souls awaiting release from purgatory, and the wayfarers on earth. Theologians call these, respectively, The Church Triumphant, The Church Suffering, and The Church Militant.

Father Cassilly writes: “From this close union with Christ, our Head, results the consoling doctrine of the Communion of Saints, by which all the members of this mystical body, the saints in heaven, the suffering souls in purgatory and the militant saints on earth are bound together under Christ’s headship.”

“There is between us all a communication of good. We mutually help and assist one another by our prayers and merits, so far as this is necessary or possible. And thus no Christian stands alone; he leans upon others stronger than himself. The sanctity of the saints in a measure is ours, to use and share, to emulate and imitate, to intercede for us in heaven. We can draw on the spiritual treasury of the Church, in which are contained the infinite merits of Christ, the merits of His blessed Mother, and the superabundant satisfaction of the saints.”

“The heritage of the Church is ours, the preaching and witness of the Apostles, the teaching and writing of the Fathers, Doctors and theologians, the glorious struggles and victories of the martyrs and confessors, the mighty works of the religious orders and missionaries, the continuous testimony of miracles, the zeal, charity and penance of countless Christian men and women throughout the ages—they all belong to us, to instruct and uplift us and help toward our sanctification. The ministry of the priesthood is ours. The priest is given us to take away our sins, to feed us with the Bread of Life, instruct us in doctrine and open for us the gate of heaven.”

“The saints in heaven belong to us. Where we are they once were, and where they are we hope one day to be. They are now our willing servants. We call upon the saints and angels and they hear us, conveying our messages before God and doing our bidding. They keep watch and ward over us, protecting us from harm, and obtain favors untold for us in our pilgrimage through life. Thrice blessed are we to be members of the great Christian family, to be part of that golden living chain of saints which reaches from heaven, wraps round the earth, and extends to the somber precincts of purgatory.”

Quotations from Francis Cassilly, A Story of Love, 2d ed. (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1917).

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