Pope Francis reflected on the communion of saints in his catechesis during the General Audience on Wednesday, 2 February: "In recent weeks, we have been able to deepen our understanding of the figure of St. Joseph, guided by the few but important pieces of information provided by the Gospels, and also by the aspects of his personality that the Church over the centuries has been able to bring to light through prayer and devotion. Starting precisely from this "common feeling" that in the history of the Church has accompanied the figure of St. Joseph, today I would like to dwell on an important article of faith that can enrich our Christian life and can also frame in the best way our relationship with the saints and with our deceased loved ones: I speak of the communion of saints".
The Pontiff assured that at times "Christianity can also fall into forms of devotion that seem to reflect a mentality that is more pagan than Christian. The fundamental difference lies in the fact that our prayer and the devotion of the faithful people is not based on trust in a human being, or in an image or an object, even when we know that they are sacred. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us: "Cursed be he who trusts in man [...]. Blessed is he who trusts in the LORD" (17:5-7). Even when we entrust ourselves fully to the intercession of a saint, or even more so to the Virgin Mary, our trust has value only in relation to Christ. And the bond that unites us to him and to each other has a specific name: "communion of saints". It is not the saints who perform the miracles, but only the grace of God that acts through them".
"What is the communion of saints?" the Pope asks. And he answers by turning to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, when he states, "The communion of saints is precisely the Church" (n. 946). "What does this mean," he continues, "that the Church is reserved for the perfect? No. It means that it is the community of saved sinners. Our holiness is the fruit of God's love manifested in Christ, who sanctifies us by loving us in our misery and saving us from it. Always thanks to him we form one body, says St. Paul, in which Jesus is the head and we are the members (cfr. 1 Cor 12,12). This image of the body makes us understand immediately what it means to be united to one another in communion: "If one member suffers," writes St. Paul, "all the others suffer with it. If one member is honored, all the others share in its joy. Now you are the body of Christ, and its members each of you has its part" (1 Cor 12,26- 27)".
Francis affirmed that "the joy and pain that touch my life concern everyone, just as the joy and pain that touch the life of the brother and sister next to us concern me. In this sense, even the sin of a single person always concerns everyone, and the love of each person concerns everyone. By virtue of the communion of saints, each member of the Church is united to me in a profound way, and this union is so strong that it cannot be broken even by death. In fact, the communion of saints concerns not only the brothers and sisters who are with me at this historical moment, but also those who have completed their earthly pilgrimage and have crossed the threshold of death. Let us think, dear brothers and sisters: in Christ no one can ever truly separate us from those we love; only the way of being close to them changes, but nothing and no one can break this union. The communion of saints holds together the community of believers on earth and in heaven".
In this sense, the Pope continued, "the relationship of friendship that I can build with a brother or sister next to me, I can also establish with a brother or sister who is in Heaven. The saints are friends with whom we very often build friendships. What we call devotion is in reality a way of expressing love based precisely on this bond that unites us. And we all know that we can always turn to a friend, especially when we are in difficulty and need help. We all need friends; we all need meaningful relationships to help us face life. Jesus also had his friends, and he turned to them at the most decisive moments of his human experience. In the history of the Church there are constants that accompany the believing community: above all the great affection and the very strong bond that the Church has always felt in relation to Mary, Mother of God and our Mother. But there is also the special honor and affection she has paid to St. Joseph. Deep down, God entrusts to him the most precious thing he has: his Son Jesus and the Virgin Mary. It is always thanks to the communion of saints that we feel close to us the saints who are our patrons, by the name we have, by the Church to which we belong, by the place where we live, and so on. And this is the confidence that should always animate us when we turn to them in the decisive moments of our life".
The Pope concluded his catechesis with a prayer to St. Joseph "to whom I am particularly attached and which I have recited every day for many years":
Glorious Patriarch St. Joseph, whose power knows how to make impossible things possible, come to my aid in these moments of anguish and difficulty. Take under your protection the grave and difficult situations that I entrust to you, so that they may have a good solution. My beloved Father, all my trust is placed in you. Let it not be said that I have invoked you in vain and, as you can do everything with Jesus and Mary, show me that your goodness is as great as your power. Amen