MOSAIC Spring 2017 | Page 13

Growth in charity is accomplished in a pre- eminent way by the practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Charity begins at home, and we must strive to be charitable toward our family and friends first. Growth in all three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity requires the nourish- ment of prayer, which is “the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God” (CCC, no. 2559). If we have trouble praying, we should ask the Holy Spirit to help us. As we grow in our prayer life, we will find ourselves not only praying to the Holy Spirit but also in the Holy Spirit because the Spirit dwells in us. with the souls in purgatory and the saints in heaven (cf. CCC, no. 954). Because the Church is a mystical com- munion, we must recognize our solidarity with the angels and saints, especially the all- holy Virgin Mary, who is the Mother of the Church. The Christian life is not individual but communal. We grow into Christ as members of his Mystical Body. The Second Vatican Council underlines this mystical communion we have with the souls in purgatory and the saints in heaven: Fully conscious of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the pilgrim Church from the very first ages of the Christian religion has cultivated with great piety the memory of the dead, and “because it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins” (2 Macc 12:46) also offers suffrages for them. The Church has always believed that the apostles and Christ’s martyrs who had given the su- purification in Purgatory; and those who are in the glory of heaven. This solidarity is expressed in a special way by offering prayers and sacrifices for the conversion of sinners, which is one of the main messages of the Marian apparitions of Fatima, whose one hundredth anniversary is being celebrated in 2017. The saints are not only models for us to follow but spiritual friends who pray for us and help us to grow in Christ. The angels also intercede for us, and we must remember that each of us has a guardian angel who serves as our protector and shepherd during our earthly pilgrimage (CCC, no. 336). We must also remember that Christ Help from the Mystical Body gave us his Mother as our spiritual Mother The Church is understood as the “mys- when he was dying on the cross (Jn 19: tical Body of Christ.” The Second Vatican 26–27). The beloved disciple represents all Council provides this vivid description: of us who try to follow Christ, and Jesus The Head of this Body is Christ. He is the wants us to take his Mother into the home image of the invisible God and in Him all of our hearts. things came into being. He is before all The Second Vatican Council reminds us creatures and in Him all that Mary is “our Mother things hold together. He in the order of grace” who is the head of the Body cooperates in a singular way which is the Church. He with her divine Son “in giv- “Because the Church is a is the beginning, the first- ing back supernatural life born from the dead, that to souls” (LG, no. 61). The mystical communion, we must in all things He might more we contemplate Mary, have the first place (60). the more we enter “into the recognize our solidarity with the By the greatness of His great mystery of the Incarna- power He rules the things tion” (no. 65). The Second angels and saints, especially the in heaven and the things Vatican Council teaches on earth, and with His that Mary, as God’s Mother, all-holy Virgin Mary.” all-surpassing perfection is placed by grace “next to and way of acting He fills her Son, and exalted above the whole body with the all angels and men” (no. riches of His glory. 66). The Council also teach- All the members ought to be molded preme witness of faith and charity by the es that the more we honor Mary, the more in the likeness of Him, until Christ be shedding of their blood, are closely joined her divine Son “is rightly known, loved, and formed in them. For this reason we, who with us in Christ, and she has always glorified” (no. 66). have been made to conform with Him, venerated them with special devotion, to- who have died with Him and risen with gether with the Blessed Virgin Mary and Called to Divinization Him, are taken up into the mysteries of His the holy angels. The Church has piously Growing in Christ is growing in holiness, l ife, until we will reign together with Him. implored the aid of their intercession. To which is our ultimate vocation. Although we On earth, still as pilgrims in a strange land, these were soon added also those who are poor sinners, we are called to “share in tracing in trial and in oppression the paths had more closely imitated Christ’s virgin- the divine nature” (2 Pt 1:4). He trod, we are made one with His suffer- ity and poverty, and finally others whom This process of divinization takes place ings like the body is one with the Head, the outstanding practice of the Christian through many means. Some of the most im- suffering with Him, that with Him we may virtues and the divine charisms recom- portant are detachment from sin; reception be glorified (LG, no. 7). mended to the pious devotion and imita- of the Holy Eucharist; reading Sacred Scrip- tion of the faithful. (LG, no. 50) ture, growth in charity; growth in prayer; and During this life we are pilgrims, and drawing upon the help of Mary, the angels, we seek to be molded into the likeness of We should grow in Christ by drawing and the saints. Christ, who is the head of the Mystical Body, on our communion with all the members the Church. As members of the Church on of the Church: those suffering persecution Dr. Robert Fastiggi is professor of systematic earth, however, we have a spiritual bond on earth; those undergoing post-mortem theology at Sacred Heart. 11