St. Paul’s understanding of the body of Christ was formed by his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. He recounts his conversion in the Acts of the Apostles…

“While I was on my way and approaching Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Then he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.’” Acts 22:6-8 (emphasis added)

Undoubtedly, Paul thought of his conversion every day for the rest of his life. Why did Jesus say “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Paul tells us “we, who are many, are one body in Christ” (Rom 12:5). This includes all the saints in heaven and on earth. When one of our brothers or sisters in Christ is persecuted, we are all persecuted. We are all connected in this one body, both the living and the dead. This connection gives us both the opportunity and the duty to pray for each other in our needs.

St. Gregory the Great relates the story of a poor woman whose husband was kidnapped by barbarians. She thought he had been murdered, so she had Mass celebrated every Monday for him. Every day that mass was offered, his prison chains were loosened a bit and he received a little more freedom of movement. Eventually, the chains fell from his hands and his feet; he was a free man, released from bondage.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the greatest prayer of the Church. At every Mass, the communion of saints in heaven and on earth are united in the one sacrifice Christ offered on the cross at Calvary for the forgiveness of our sins. St. Leonard of Port Maurice, OFM (1676-1751) said, “How much the more should we believe that a sacrifice so tremendous and holy must be most efficacious in releasing us from the spiritual chains…which keep the soul…imprisoned, and prevent it from acting with that liberty and fervor with which it would have acted if it were not for such impediments?”[1]

There are people right now in heaven and on earth that are praying for you. They can see what you need and they are taking that before God in prayer. Pray for these souls as they pray for you. Many of you have family members that are in spiritual bondage. The prayers of the communion of saints are efficacious in loosening their chains of bondage. Jesus at the beginning of his ministry read in the temple these words from the prophet Isaiah and said that he was the fulfillment of these words…

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19 (emphasis added)

We are organically connected; our prayers – especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – for each other will loosen chains of bondage. You may be feeling that some of your family members are lost but in Christ, we have the power to loosen the chains of sin, alcohol, drugs or whatever binds them. Praise God for the marvelous gift of prayer and the communion of saints!

pray always without becoming weary. Luke 18:1

[1] Blessed Leonard of Port Maurice, OFM, The Hidden Treasure: the Immense Excellence of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, (Dublin: James Duffy, 7, Wellington-quay, 1861), 21.