Project Canterbury

Locust Street Letters

By Frank Lawrence Vernon

Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.




The sum and substance of all the arguments against the doctrine of the Communion of Saints seems to be that people on earth do not need the Saints. They have God. God knows what they need. God only can give them what they need. Therefore, they need no one else but God. They need no one to pray for them. They need no one to help them. Even if they did, the Saints would not be able to help them. Because the Saints are dead. The dead neither know, nor care, nor pray. That makes grim reading, doesn't it? But that is what denial of the doctrine of the Communion of Saints results in, if it is carried to its logical conclusion. As a matter of fact few people are willing to cling to such a desolating denial. On the contrary, most people believe in the Communion of Saints because they believe in the life everlasting. They know that the life which lasts forever is the life of relationship which is a life of love and loyalty and sympathy and service.

A person who is bound in the bundle of life with other persons does not need to be told that their friends love them no less five minutes after death than they did five minutes before death. Such a person remembers the second great commandment of the Law: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Death does not repeal that law. The Communion of Saints means that they who live in the seen world are the neighbors of those who live in the unseen world.

Doubtless God could have left us independent of any human aid or comfort. Doubtless God did not. God willed that men should live in a Divine Society in which each member should be an ally to every other member. He said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another.”

It was the beloved disciple of Our Lord who wrote “he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” Doubtless the love of God is all sufficient. Doubtless the love of God ordains that His children should love one another.

God hears the prayers of each one of us. God leads us to pray for each other. God has knit us into an interdependent life in which we need each other's. prayers, in which we need to pray for each other, in which our prayers for each other avail much. If our prayers for each other have become a really serious business, we shall never cease those prayers until with our own eyes we have seen the people for whom we pray, pass safely through the Gates of Heaven.

The Saints know well the sorrows and the perils of this world. They know the uncertainties of life in this world. Their own experience in this world has taught them much. Their experience in the next world has taught them more. Their prayers in this world were of value. Their prayers in the next world are of unimagined and untold value. The Communion of Saints means to us, who are battling our way through this life, that we really are “compassed about with a great cloud of witnesses.” It is this knowledge of the reality of the Communion of Saints which inspires us “to run with patience the race that is set before us.”

Affectionately in Our Lord,

Project Canterbury