"I Believe...in the Communion of Saints"

I had a great discussion the other day with a young Christian woman I happened to meet quite randomly. With God there is no meeting that is unforeseen, and what was at first seen as coincidence was quickly realized to be Providence. We had a wonderful conversation about a whole range of different faith-based topics. Among the various ideas we covered in our brief (but inspiringly sincere) dialogue was the subject of life after death. The question was raised, somehow, of what the Catholic idea of heaven entailed, and more specifically what the Church taught about those who have already won the heavenly crown. To be totally honest, answering this question tested my knowledge of the faith, and I had to think pretty hard to formulate a good response. Obviously, this made me (as a seminarian, who should probably know these things readily) quite interested in learning more about the Catholic notion of intercession on the part of the saints in Paradise. So, I thought this investigation would make a good blog post (series?).

The Church's teaching on this issue is pretty clearly outlined. During the latter part of the Apostles' Creed, which Catholics recite at various times and during various prayers, the following text occurs:

"I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy, catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting"

There isn't much "meat" here; the prayer is a brief expression of faith, not an explanation of it. However, a quick look to the Catechism of the Catholic Church -- which is the definitive index of all doctrinal teachings -- sheds some profound light on the matter:

"When the Lord comes in glory, and all his angels with him, death will be no more and all things will be subject to him. But at the present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating 'in full light, God himself triune and one, exactly as he is.'" (CCC 954)

The question of intercession becomes: what does it mean to contemplate God in full light, as He is? Intercessory prayer must be coincidental with the beatific contemplation of the saints. However, this is a lengthy discussion and quite fit for another, separate post. And thus, it shall be.