"1 believe in . . . the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins . .
The union of the faithful on earth, the blessed in heaven, and the souls in purgatory, with Christ as their Head, is known as the communion of saints,"
Through the communion of saints the blessed in heaven can help the souls in purgatory and the faithful on earth. They do this by praying for them.
The faithful on earth, through the communion of saints, should honor the blessed in heaven and pray to them. The blessed in heaven are worthy of honor and, as friends of God, will help the faithful on earth. The faithful on earth, as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, can help one another.
They can do so by practicing supernatural charity, especially by performing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. God has given to the Church, through Jesus Christ, the power to forgive sins, no matter how great or how many they are, if sinners truly repent.
When the death sentence was read to Mary Stuart, the unfortunate daughter of James V of Scotland, she remained calm and untroubled, and only requested that she be permitted a visit from her confessor who was imprisoned in the same castle. Her request —one which was usually granted to even the greatest criminals — was refused. Instead, the Anglican dean of Petriborough was sent to her, to try to win her over to the new religion of England. His offerings and arguments were to no avail.
"I have been born in the Catholic religion," she said; " I have been reared in it , and I will die in it . Never will I quit that blessed communion in which all the members remain united in love even in the life beyond, in which my soul will be remembered after death in prayer and sacrifice."
Courageously she ascended the scaffold, and bowed her head to the fatal blow with these words upon her lips: "Lord, into Your hands I commend my spirit."
The communion of saints means that we do not stand alone, that a continual exchange of spiritual power takes place, that we give and receive daily and support each other in prayer until we become united in our heavenly Father's kingdom. A father has three sons: one occupies a very high position; the second has passed all his examinations and has taken his degree, but he has no position as yet; the third is still going to school and faces much work that lies ahead of him. But all three brothers love, help, and encourage one another. The word "saints" means all the members of the Church. The saints in heaven have gained their victory for the Church Triumphant; those who have passed their examination, death, but have no positions yet, because they must first be purified of all earthly dross in purgatory belong to the Church Suffering; and we, for whom earthly work and struggles wait, are members of the Church Militant.
Source: Catechism in Stories, Imprimatur 1956