Three Parts of the Church
Nov 3, 2019
As we enter into the month of November, the minds of many probably begin to focus on Thanksgiving, and all of us are forced to think about Christmas as sales, advertisements, and décor will more and more become Christmas oriented. However, November is an important month in the life of the Church, as it is, in a sense, focused on the Church. This focus on the Church in November comes from the fact that we celebrate the great Solemnity of All Saints on November 1, followed up by the Commemoration of All Souls Day on November 2.
All Saints Day and All Souls Day challenge us to think of the Church as more than an institution or simply those on earth. Traditionally, the Church has been viewed as having three parts: the Church Triumphant, the Church Suffering, and the Church Militant. The Church Triumphant is the communion of saints in Heaven; the Church Suffering is the communion of holy souls in Purgatory; the Church Militant is the communion of holy ones here on earth fighting against sin and evil and living as soldiers for Christ.
Perhaps this understanding nudges us to view the Church as a communion of saints and holy ones, even if we know that we here on earth are weak and sinful. This vision of the Church reminds us that even those who have passed on are still connected to us: the Church Triumphant, sitting around the Throne of the Lamb, intercedes for us and for the souls in Purgatory. We, the Church Militant, pray and fast for those members of the Church Suffering, and we look at the members of Church Triumphant as examples and as reminders for what our ultimate goal in life is—to be saints (remember, humans don't become angels when they die!!).
Looking at the saints clarifies what our lives should be about: lives centered on Jesus Christ. Their lives remind us that we're meant to be more than just “good people.” Pope Benedict XVI once stated in an address to young people, “The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” God has given each of us the ability and opportunity to do great things for Him and for others. Our Lord calls and invites us to live heroically. The saints in Heaven are people who love God and neighbor perfectly. The holy souls in Purgatory are those being perfected in love by God. With the help of God's grace, we seek to love perfectly here on earth. All saints, all holy men and women, pray for us!