Saturday, July 18, 2009

Is the Communion of Saints the same as necromancy?

One writer posted a comment on the Communion of Saints and voiced her concern that it is necromancy. I responded briefly in the comments section, but promised to write more as time permitted. Because there is such a stark and serious difference between these two practices (one a practice being holy, sacred to Christians, and thoroughly supported by Sacred Scripture and Catholic Teaching; and the other being a serious and grave sin and rooted in a desire to be God, to know what God knows, but devoid of living the life of grace), I have posted some passages from Catholics United for the Faith which are excellent and a trustworthy response to the writer's questions. I encourage readers to check out CUF for more information on Catholic apologetics. God bless you, Maidei, and God bless all who sincerely come to Him with the heart of a true seeker.

First, a definition on the Communion of Saints and then some comments from Catholics United for the Faith on necromancy.

The communion of saints is the intimate union that exists among all the disciples of Christ. This communion is known as the Mystical Body of Christ: the Family of God consisting of the faithful on earth (the Church Militant or pilgrim Church), the holy souls in purgatory undergoing spiritual cleansing (the Church Suffering), and the saints in heaven (the Church Triumphant). This union of believers joins us in Christ, our source of grace and life, and calls us to love and pray for one another as members of His body. Therefore, we can ask for the prayers of the saints in heaven, and we can also pray for people on earth and those in purgatory (Catechism, nos. 946-62).

The doctrine of the communion of saints was taught by the apostles, both in the Scriptures and the Tradition they handed down in words and practice. It is explicitly contained in the Apostles’ Creed. The Church reaffirmed this teaching at the Second Council of Nicea (787) and further addressed it at the Councils of Florence (1438-45), Trent (1545-63), and Vatican II (1962-65).

This communion refers to the bond of unity among the followers of Christ. Such a bond is possible because, as believers in Christ, we become children of God (1 Jn. 3:1), members of His family (Rom. 8:14-17), with divine life bestowed on us through Baptism (Jn. 3:3-5). The apostles teach us that through Baptism we become “fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17) and “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4). Saint Paul states that this union of the faithful, brought about by the Holy Spirit in Baptism, is so complete that we are actually members of a single body, Christ’s own body (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-27).

Some object that the Catholic position on intercessory prayer is the same as necromancy, that is, calling upon the spirits of the dead to find out the future or obtain other information. Necromancy is a grave sin that, far from fostering communion, shows a lack of faith and trust in God. Necromancy was punishable by death under the Mosaic law (Lev. 19:31, 20:6). Some of the early Israelites practiced necromancy, including Saul (1 Sam. 28:3, 8-14), and they were punished severely for doing so (1 Sam. 28:17-19). This practice offended God (2 Kings 21:6) and led to the destruction of Israel.

Catholics do not practice necromancy, which is explicitly forbidden by the Church (cf. Catechism, nos. 2115-17). Rather, they ask for the prayers of the saints to foster communion in the Family of God.

Seeking the intercession of the saints is not necromancy for two reasons. First, necromancers are usually trying to receive information that they do not have, such as what will happen in the future. Asking the saints to pray for us, however, is not a form of divination or fortune telling.

Second, necromancers are also trying to bring back and control the souls of dead people. Catholics, on the contrary, believe that those who have died in God’s grace are not dead but truly alive, and are able to help us by their prayers. As Jesus says, “[Moses] calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him” (Lk. 20:37-38).

According to Jesus, death cannot separate the faithful—such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—from God. And, if they are alive to God, they must be alive to us through Him as members of His one body. Otherwise, contrary to what Saint Paul says, Christ’s victory over death was incomplete, and His body is not truly one (cf. Jn.17:21; 1 Cor. 12: 12,13; 15:14 et al).


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