+JMJ+ Welcome to part 29 of our weekly series on the soul. Earlier today I was listening to a Catholic radio call-in show. The host was answering a question about the intercessory prayer of the saints, and some thoughts occurred to me. I made some notes quickly on my phone and decided to write about these tonight:
- We who are in the Church are the Body of Christ.
- We are commanded to pray for each other.
- Our souls are immortal.
- What does this mean for us as practicing Catholic Christians?
Grafted onto the Vine
First, we are adopted into the Family of God by our baptism. We are grafted onto the Vine Who is Christ. We participate in His salvific mission. We are co-workers of the truth, says St. John the Evangelist. And the truth is Christ. We are co-workers of God, says St. Paul. We are expected to help spread the Gospel.
Pray for One Another
Second, we are exhorted to pray for one another in many places throughout the New Testament. A simple web search with the terms “Praying for Each Other” led me to a long list of verses (not a Catholic site but still a useful list). Here’s the verse I hear most commonly quoted about this:
Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.James :16 RSVCE
Our Souls are Immortal
Third, our souls are immortal. (See this article by Tim Staples or part 9 in this series.) They do not die when the body dies, they continue, waiting to be reunited with the body at the resurrection. (They do not wait in the ground with the body. That’s a thoroughly non-Catholic, non-Christian notion called soul sleep. See part 27 for more about that.)
What This Means For Us
Since our souls do not die, and since we are adopted into the Family of God, the Body of Christ at baptism, and since we are to pray for each other, it follows that we are to continue to pray for each other even after death. We continue to pray for those who have died to this world and have gone on to the next, and they continue to pray for us. Of course, I’m not saying that anyone in Hell is praying for anybody. They have cut themselves off from the Vine, the Body of Christ. But the mere fact of death does not cut anyone off from the Vine. So the intercession for souls continues after death.
Now there is a further point about intercession and it has to do with a scene we see in Saint John’s account of the Wedding Feast at Cana in Galilee.
The Wedding at Cana
On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me?[a] My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.” So they took it. When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him.John 2:1-11 RSVCE
Now what kind of Catholic would I be if I neglected the famous account of the famous intercession by none other than the mother of Our Lord herself, the Blessed Virgin Mary? As a Protestant I knew nothing of this. It was in my Bible but I didn’t see it. I knew He changed the water into wine, but I completely missed that this was the beginning of faith for the disciples, and also the Blessed Virgin’s part in it (or anything else beyond the birth and raising of Jesus as a child) which was not even on my radar. But the Church has from earliest times seen much more to this story than I did (as a Methodist, then New Ager, then Buddhist). The Church saw and taught that we were to see the Blessed Mother interceding for others at the wedding, and we were to avail ourselves of her intercession.
But there’s more to it: the Blessed Virgin Mary–she who is Mother of the Savior and Full of Grace, Ark of the New Covenant, Help of Christians, Tower of David, Queen Most Admirable, Queen of Apostles, Queen of Angels, Queen of Peace–is also undoing the evil that Eve did back in the Garden of Eden. And this scene is tied to another scene in which the Blessed Mother appears, where she stands at the foot of the Cross at Calvary.
Remember, everything in Scripture is there for a reason. If you view this story at Cana as a plain rendering of an account of events, then you will miss the point entirely. All of Scripture has depths upon depths but especially anything written by Saint John. Symbols and layers and meanings and signs pointing beyond themselves—all in this seemingly simple Gospel story.
I stopped writing a moment and did a search for what the Early Church thought and taught about this scene and the one at Calvary, and found a really good post about it. I won’t try to reproduce it here. I encourage you to read it yourself. (You may know all of this already but there are those who will read this post of mine who know none of it, just like I didn’t all those years ago.) It’s about the Three Epiphanies. Yes, three.
In closing let me just say that the Lord is telling us in the Scriptures that life continues after bodily death, that we are to pray for each other, that our caring for each other and praying for each other does not stop at bodily death, and that we are to rely on the Blessed Mother’s intercession, and that she has a vital and continuing role to play in our salvation.
I want to share this video with you from the Thomistic Institute, about prayer, the Rosary, some questions and answers. I like these videos they’re doing over there, very helpful and good for study during this time of quarantine (which I hope is winding down now).
Video: Our Lady’s Sword: The Holy Rosary and the Battle for Salvation – a conversation with Fr. John Langlois, O.P. And Fr. Dominic Legge, O.P.
Thank you for visiting and reading. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, please stay safe and well, virtuous and holy. May the Lord bless and keep you, and may His peace be always with you. +JMJ+
Notes and Links
- The tradition of the Rosary and St. Dominic is dealt with in countless books, articles and blog posts on the web. Here is one that deals with the tradition and those who deny its authenticity: The History of St. Dominic, by Augusta Theodosia Drane, O.P., 1891, public domain, PDF. See chapter X. I found this via a post by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, The Rosary: The Spiritual Sword of Mary.
- Christ’s Other Two Epiphanies: Baptism at the Jordan, Miracle at the Cana Wedding, by Fr. Stephanos Pedrano, O.S.B.
- Our Lady’s Sword: The Holy Rosary and the Battle for Salvation – a conversation with Fr. John Langlois, O.P. And Fr. Dominic Legge, O.P (I had already thought about sharing this video tonight before I found the post by Fr. Calloway, about the Rosary, Our Lady’s Spiritual Sword. Neat, huh? And I do not believe in coincidences.)
Images: St. Peter, by Matthias Stom (or Stomer). Wikimedia, public domain. Wedding at Cana (Die Hochzeit zu Kana), 1606, by Hans Rottenhammer, Bavarian State Painting Collections. Wikimedia, public domain.