Pope Francis at his general audience address in the library of the Apostolic Palace April 7, 2021./ Vatican Media.
Pope Francis said today that the communion of saints means that Christians are never alone in the darkest moments of their lives.
Speaking at his general audience this morning, the pope noted that whenever people pray they are surrounded by both hidden and canonized saints.
“Prayer is always born again: each time we join our hands and open our hearts to God, we find ourselves in the company of anonymous saints and recognized saints who pray with us and who intercede for us as older brothers and sisters who have preceded us on this same human adventure,” he said.
“There is no grief in the Church that is borne in solitude, there are no tears shed in oblivion, because everyone breathes and participates in one common grace.”
The pope gave his address, dedicated to praying in communion with the saints, in the library of the Apostolic Palace due to coronavirus restrictions.
The address was the 28th reflection in his cycle of catechesis on prayer, which he launched in May and resumed in October following nine addresses on healing the world after the pandemic.
The pope said that when Catholics pray they are “immersed in a majestic river of invocations that precedes us and proceeds after us.”
He said: “Those prayers that are good are ‘expansive,’ like anything that is good; they propagate themselves continuously, with or without being posted on social networks: from hospital wards, from moments of festive gatherings to those in which we suffer silently…”
He noted that the early Christian community buried people in gardens surrounding a church. He said this was a way of saying that “the hosts of those who have preceded us participate in every Eucharist.”
“The saints are still here, not far from us; and their representations in churches evoke that ‘cloud of witnesses’ that always surrounds us,” the pope explained, quoting from the Epistle to the Hebrews.
He continued: “They are witnesses that we do not adore — that is understood that we do not adore these saints — but whom we venerate and who in thousands of different ways bring us to Jesus Christ, the only Lord and Mediator between God and humanity.”
“A ‘saint’ that does not bring you to Jesus is not a saint, not even a Christian. A saint makes you remember Jesus Christ because he or she trod the path of living as a Christian. The saints remind us that even in our lives, however weak and marked by sin, holiness can unfold. Even at the last moment.”
“In fact, we read in the Gospel that the first saint canonized by Jesus Himself was a thief, not a pope. Holiness is a journey of life, a long or short or instantaneous encounter with Jesus. But he or she is always a witness, a saint is a witness, a man or woman who encountered Jesus and followed Jesus. It is never too late to be converted to the Lord who is good and great in love.”
Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the pope encouraged Catholics to ask the saints to intercede for them and the whole world.
“There is a mysterious solidarity in Christ between those who have already passed to the other life and we pilgrims in this one: from heaven, our beloved deceased continue to take care of us. They pray for us, and we pray for them and we pray with them,” he said.
The pope added that we gain an insight into the communion of the saints when we pray for those around us.
“To pray for others is the first way to love them and it moves us toward concretely drawing near,” he said, recommending that people pray especially for those with whom they are in conflict.
“And something changes with prayer. The first thing that changes is my heart and my attitude. The Lord changes it so it might be turned into an encounter, a new encounter so that the conflict does not become a never-ending war,” he noted.
The pope also called on Catholics in times of trouble to pray to the saint associated with their baptismal name.
He said: “The name given to us at baptism is not a label or a decoration! It is usually the name of the Virgin, or a saint, who expect nothing other than to ‘give us a hand’ in life, to give us a hand to obtain the grace from God that we need.”
“If the trials of life have not reached the breaking point, if we are still capable of persevering, if despite everything we proceed trustingly, more than due to our own merits, perhaps we owe all this to the intercession of all the saints, some who are in heaven, others who are pilgrims like us on earth, who have protected and accompanied us, because all of us know there are holy people here on this earth, saintly men and women who live in holiness.”
At the end of the general audience, Pope Francis said that he was praying for victims of floods in Indonesia and East Timor that have killed more than 150 people.
The pope also observed that 6 April was the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, established by the United Nations.
“I hope that this might set in motion once again the experience of sports as a team event, to promote dialogue through different cultures and peoples,” he said, offering a particular word of encouragement to the Vatican City sports team, Vatican Athletics.
In his message to Polish-speaking Catholics watching the audience via live stream, the pope noted that this Sunday marked the Feast of Divine Mercy.
“Let us turn confidently to the merciful Christ and let us ask for the grace of forgiveness and active love towards our neighbour,” he said.