All the souls in heaven are members of the Church Triumphant. Their mission is to intercede for the salvation of sinners and to assist the faithful on their journey to heaven.
The souls in heaven have finished their journey of faith by persevering in the love of God until death. They “ran the race” and won the prize of eternal life (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
They are traditionally called the Church Triumphant. With God’s grace they overcame their enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil.
They have now reached their final perfection as saints. Christ has completed the work of their sanctification and made their souls perfectly pure and holy.
THE SAINTS REIGN NOW IN HEAVEN
The saints in heaven are called triumphant because they now reign with Christ as the reward for their labors.
What does this mean?
St. Robert Bellarmine uses Scripture to demonstrate that Christ the King shares His throne with the saints:
[Heaven is a kingdom] because all the Blessed in heaven are kings…
For although the saints in heaven serve God … yet at the same time they reign also … they are servants because they were created by God, to whom they owe obedience, and from whom they receive their being … they are kings, too, because they have received the dignity from the King of kings …
The just, therefore, will also be kings in the kingdom of heaven, because they will be made partakers of the royal dignity, and power, and riches, etc. of that kingdom.
This is what the Holy Spirit clearly teaches us, especially in three passages from the Scripture, the first of which occurs in St. Matthew: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
In another part: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
The third passage is from [Revelation}: To him that shall overcome I will give to sit with me on my throne: as I also have overcome, and have sat down with my Father in His throne.”
What can be clearer than these words? … we shall have a seat on the royal throne of the Son of God, and of His Father, our eternal King …
How great will the glory be for that just soul to be placed with such
an infinite multitude of angels, on the very throne of Christ and of God! And by His just judgment to be proclaimed a conqueror over the world, and the rulers thereof, and all invisible powers!
And how will this soul exult with gladness, when, delivered from every toil and danger, she shall behold herself gloriously triumphant over all her enemies!
THE SAINTS ARE OUR MEDIATORS
As joint rulers of the kingdom of heaven, the saints reign over the Church Militant on earth. God has established that, in the order of grace, the saints are our mediators. They intercede with Christ to bring souls into the kingdom.
… according to St. Thomas [Aquinas], the order of the divine law requires that we mortals should be saved by means of the saints, in that we receive by their intercession the help necessary for our salvation.
… although God only is to be prayed to as the Author of grace, yet we are bound to have recourse also to the intercession of the saints, so as to observe the order which God has established with regard to our salvation, which is, that the inferior should be saved by imploring the aid of the superior.
… the saints, in proportion to the merits by which they have obtained grace for themselves, are able also to save others … (St. Alphonsus Liguori)
It is God’s will that the saints in heaven help us pilgrims on earth reach our heavenly goal. That is why the Church teaches with infallibility that we can turn to the saints for efficacious help in all our necessities.
… the saints who reign together with Christ offer up their own prayers to God for men. It is good and useful suppliantly to invoke them, and to have recourse to their prayers, aid, and help for obtaining benefits from God, through His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, Who alone is our Redeemer and Savior [Council of Trent].
The saints are powerful intercessors because they possess the treasure of grace and merit which they obtained while they lived. They share these with us out of their charity. They are able to supply what we lack when we struggle to live out our faith, just as we supply what the Church Suffering lacks.
Although the saints are not in a state to merit for themselves, when once they are in heaven, they are in a state to merit for others, or rather to assist others … for while living they merited that their prayers should be heard after their death (St. Thomas Aquinas).
WE CAN GO TO THE SAINTS FOR ANY NEED
We can go to the saints daily to help us endure the trials, sorrows, and necessities of everyday life. They lived in the world just as we do now, and they endured the same hardships.
The saints conquered by carrying the unique crosses that God sent them in order to build up particular virtues in their souls. Therefore they merited particular rewards that are especially effective for those who endure those same trials on earth. This is for the benefit and sanctification of the whole Mystical Body. The saints in heaven have suffered every imaginable hardship that we face in this life – that is why they can help us with any suffering that we bring to them. They understand (having had personal experience of such crosses) and are eager to help us.
For example, we can go to St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Bernadette of Lourdes for help in time of sickness, because they endured sicknesses to a heroic degree in their earthly life.
We can go to St. Benedict and St. Padre Pio in times of temptation because they triumphed in their spiritual battle with the devil.
We can also go to the saints to help us accomplish the ordinary duties of our state in life. For example, we can turn to St. Anne and St. Monica, the patron saints of mothers, for help in raising saintly children – whether those children are born holy like Mary, or notoriously sinful like St. Augustine.
St. Joseph is the patron saint of fathers and families because he provided for the Holy Family and protected them in times of danger.
There are countless saints in heaven that we can turn to for help with every vocation, ailment, or circumstance.
How do we pray to the saints?
We simply direct our attention to them with devotion in prayer, and ask them to assist us with any particular problem or necessity. The saints will intercede with Christ to obtain an answer to our prayer.
Their answers may come to us in obvious ways – for example, through a solution to our problem. Or their response could be more subtle – it might mean that we receive the strength we need to persevere, or consolation in our suffering, or interior light in times of darkness.
The help they give us will be stronger if we show them special devotion, in the same way that we develop closer relationships with certain friends in this life. We can develop this special devotion by learning more about their life and the virtues they exemplified, honoring their feast day in a special way, and recommending their intercession to family and friends.
Our prayers to the saints, and their prayers for us, help us conform ourselves more perfectly to the will of God for our lives.
THE SAINTS ARE OUR EXAMPLES
In addition to the help they give us, the Church Triumphant is also a testimony for all the world that heaven is indeed achievable. These saints are our older brothers and sisters in the faith and are there to cheer us along the path of salvation. Their unique examples offer us encouragement that holiness is not merely possible – it is for everyone, and it is worth it.
The Second Vatican Council beautifully described the exemplary role of the saints in heaven:
In the lives of those who, sharing in our humanity, are however more perfectly transformed into the image of Christ, God vividly manifests His presence and His face to men. He speaks to us in them, and gives us a sign of His Kingdom, to which we are strongly drawn, having so great a cloud of witnesses over us and such a witness to the truth of the Gospel…
For just as Christian communion among wayfarers brings us closer to Christ, so our companionship with the saints joins us to Christ, from Whom as from its Fountain and Head issues every grace and the very life of the people of God.
It is supremely fitting, therefore, that we love those friends and coheirs of Jesus Christ, who are also our brothers and extraordinary benefactors, that we render due thanks to God for them and “suppliantly invoke them and have recourse to their prayers, their power and help in obtaining benefits from God through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is our Redeemer and Savior.”
For every genuine testimony of love shown by us to those in heaven, by its very nature tends toward and terminates in Christ who is the “crown of all saints,” and through Him, in God Who is wonderful in his saints and is magnified in them. …
… for our own greater good and that of the whole Church, we seek from the saints “example in their way of life, fellowship in their communion, and aid by their intercession” (Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic Constitution of the Church).
MARY IS OUR GREATEST MEDIATOR AND EXAMPLE
Of all the saints in the Church Triumphant, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the most glorious, both in the power of her intercession and the holiness of her example. She is the Queen of the Kingdom of Heaven and our Mother in the order of grace. We must recommend ourselves first and foremost to her:
Mary is justly called our Mother, because she cooperated by her charity in the birth of the faithful to the life of grace, by which we become members of the Jesus Christ, our head … Therefore, as Mary cooperated by her charity in the spiritual birth of the faithful, so also God willed that she should cooperate by her intercession to make them enjoy the life of grace in this world, and the life of glory in the next; and therefore the Church makes us call her and salute her … by the names, ‘our life, our sweetness and our hope’ (St. Alphonsus Liguori).
The Second Vatican Council presents Mary as our supreme intercessor and our model of perfect faith:
By her maternal charity, [Mary] cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers … until they are led into the happiness of their true home.
… while in the most holy Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she is without spot or wrinkle, the followers of Christ still strive to increase in holiness by conquering sin. And so they turn their eyes to Mary who shines forth … as the model of virtues. …
Seeking after the glory of Christ, the Church becomes more like her … and continually progresses in faith, hope and charity, seeking and doing the will of God in all things.
Hence the Church … justly looks to her … that through the Church [Christ] may be born and may increase in the hearts of the faithful … just as the Mother of Jesus, glorified in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come, so too does she shine forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come, as a sign of sure hope and solace to the people of God during it sojourn on earth. (Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic Constitution of the Church)
The Church will not remain in three separate states (Militant, Suffering and Triumphant) permanently. One day, Christ will return to gather all the just into the Church Triumphant.
Original Source: Good Catholic - The Four Last Things