The communion of saints is, if nothing else, a communion of persons. In the forward of her translation of Pinckaers’ The Source of Chirstian Ethics, Sr. Mary Thomas Noble, O.P., summarizes the author’s views of virtue-based morality, as opposed to casuistic legalism: “Father Pinckaers describes how the Christian develops connaturality with the true Good. This occurs only within a communion of persons where individuals are shaped by the truth of divine and evangelical law.”[iii] Virtue must be practiced in a community, and nowhere should it be more evident than in the communion of believers. We learn love by acting justly toward others. We learn hope by requesting intercession and praying for each other. We learn faith by learning through each others’ struggles.
The communion of saints is essentially a school for virtue. In those who have gone before us, we have models of faith and struggle, people who exemplify the virtues we seek to develop. In the Christian faithful on earth, we also have such models, but we also have the environment in which we need to develop the discipline and practice of virtue. Our life in the communion of saints, our living with each other allows us to live for each other and serve each other, “so that what each one does or suffers in and for Christ bears fruit for all” (CCC 961).
i. Benedict Ashley, “Moral Theology: Lecture 8b—Lesson Sixteen,” International Catholic University, 17 April 2010,
ii. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Edition (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vatican, 1997), 871.
iii. Servais Pinckaers, The Sources of Christian Ethics, (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1995), xiii.