Thursday, November 01, 2007

Do we understand the communion of saints?

Okay, I know I said I was not going to post today, but I really quickly have to write about something that pertains to All Saints Day. A few incidents I have noticed in the past few weeks have made me wonder if Catholics really understand what the communion of the saints is. While we know that it means essentially that we are united in the Spirit with the Christians suffering in Purgatorty and reigning in Heaven (and thus there exists a fraternal bond of charity linking us all together that enables communio in sacris bewteen us all). We know also that since we cannot know who is in Heaven, Purgatory or Hell on our own, that we therefore defer to the judgment of the Church in petitioning only those who are declared saints by the process of canonization (or who have been venerated as such since time immemorial). By contrast, I think many Catholics today think it means that you can just go nuts praying to whomever you choose. Take these two examples:

A few weeks ago, I was visiting a Catholic school sitting in on a theology class (7th grade). At the beginning of class, the teacher allowed the students to petition the saints for their prayers. Some students would blurt out, "St. Dominic" and everybody else would say, "Pray for us." This went on for about three minutes. I heard lots of good ones: St. Benedict, St. Therese, St. John Bosco. But then one said, "Holy Children of Fatima." Well, I guess that's okay, I thought, since Jacinta and Francisco are Blesseds, and there is good cause to believe that Lucia will be as well. So, I guess it wasn't the best form, but it wasn't positively harmful either. Then another kid invokes "John Paul the Great." Now this really got my eye twitching. At least with Lucia, there is a precedent because her apparitions are approved and her other relatives are Blesseds as well. With John Paul II they were taking a lot more license, and in my opinion it ought not to have been done. Then the real kicker was a few moments later when another kid blurts out, "Father Jim." Father Jim happens to be the still healthy and alive parish priest of the church where the school is situated. Did the theology teacher say anything? Nope. He and the children just responded by rote, "Pray for us." I thought to myself, "This is insane."

Now, situation two: last night my family and I were at an All Saints Day vigil Mass at a parish we do not usually attend, but we went there so that our kids could go to their All Saints Day party. Anyhow, the music director quite appropriately included a rendering of the "Litany of Saints" in the liturgy. As I'm listening to the petitions, I notice something very wrong. See if you can pick it out:

Peter, Paul and Andrew, pray for us.
Timothy and Titus, pray for us.
Lawrence and Chrysogonus, pray for us.
Jerome and Augsutine, pray for us.
Cosmas and Damian, pray for us.
Hippolytus and Origen, pray for us.
Scholastica and Benedict, pray for us.

Origen! Origen? Since when is Origen a saint? How on earth did he get inserted into the Litany? How does someone who is condemned as a heretic by an ecumenical council of the Church get petitioned as a saint?

These two examples show that (1) there is a pathetic misunderstanding of what the communion of the saints is and under what conditions we can petition for the prayers of anyone who has paased on, and (2) a woeful ignorance of Church history, so much so that a heretic can make it into the Litany. It must be said that the above two mistakes were made in ignorance and good faith; these were not dissenting schools and parishes where these things happened. That makes it all the more unnerving.

Since liturgical creativity and innovation is acceptable these days, I created this litany for use in modernist parishes. It reflects the modernist belief that nobody goes to hell, that the true Church includes all men (whether they accept Christ or reject Him), and that all religions are just different ways of saying the same thing. Here it goes:

The Dissenter-Modernist-Liberal Litany of Saints (actually, saints is too archaic; let's call it the "Litany of the People of God")

Buddha and Zoroaster, pray for us.
Confucius and Socrates, pray for us.
Judas Iscariot and Pilate, pray for us.
Tertullian and Origen, pray for us.
Marcion and Arius, pray for us.
Pelagius and Sabellius, pray for us.
Mohammed and Nestorius, pray for us.
Peter Abelard and Averroes, pray for us.
John Huss and Wycliffe, pray for us.
Martin Luther and John Calvin, pray for us.
Zwingli, Cranmer and Menno Simmons, pray for us.
Squanto and Montezuma, pray for us.
Athalupa and Maimonides, pray for us.
Isaac Newton and Voltaire, pray for us.
Robespierre and Montesquieu, pray for us.
Marx, Lenin and Stalin, pray for us.
Darwin and Hegel, pray for us.
Margaret Sanger and all Eugenicists, pray for us.
Steven Biko and Gandhi, pray for us.
Martin Luther King Jr. and the Dalai Lama, pray for us.
Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton, pray for us.
Oprah Winfrey and Al Gore, pray for us.
Haugen, Hass and Joncas, pray for us.
Satan, Beelzebub and Belial pray for us.


Anonymous said...

1] You left out Haegen and Haas. Got sumptin agin their music/ :)

2] A good "protective" coating against "sticking" is called Pam. Unfortunatly the innocent "Pam" can and does change the taste, or flavor as it were, of what is being cooked for our edification.

So...... thanks for pointing out the bad flavor that has crept into the kitchen.

ST Boniface, pray for us. :)

St Bill O'Reilly .........hhmmm, pass for now.

Anonymous said...

I ran across your blog because of the exact same question that came up last night. I love the tune of that litany, but My ears stood up when I heard Origen. I think someone needs to petition the congregation for worship and see if this is a valid insertion into the litany. My problem isn't with the melody and form of the song (It's very prayerful and reflective), I just want to make sure were not inserting person's into the litany that don't belong.

In Christ

Boniface said...

Origen definitely should not be in there; though there is some debate about it, it seems that his teachings were condemned at Constantinople in 553. Anyone whose teachings are condemned as heresy should not be in the litany of saints.

David Contra Mundum said...

LOL! I share your frustrations and sarcasm, here.


Marko Ivančičević said...

No matter what teachings of any of the churchmen are, they(the churchmen) cannot be included in the litany if they are not blessed or canonized.

Also, forgot saints Giordano Bruno and Girolamo Savonarola as well as msgr. Bugnini :)