Subscribe via RSS Feed

Agnes Sanford: A Friend Among the Communion of Saints

February 11, AD2014 17 Comments

\"Melanie

I  don’t want to argue about the reality of the communion of saints, both the living and the dead. I just want to encourage believers and seekers with the thought that there are tens, hundreds, why maybe thousands of saints, most of whom we will never meet, who pray for us, who are in communion with us. The Holy Spirit is  my companion, but in His Body, He has gifted me with many other faithful companions, and Agnes is one of my special friends.

Most people have never heard of Agnes Sanford (1897-1982), but she has been and, in fact still is, a dear friend of mine. She was an interesting woman who was born to missionaries in China, married an American Anglican ( Episcopalian), and became mother to three children. Agnes suffered postpartum depression. The doctor finally diagnosed her as suicidal after one of her children came close to dying.

A tiny flame of hope was lit within her heart after prayer healed her son physically, and she slowly began the process of her own emotional healing. “The Healing Light\”,  Agnes’ first book describes her early spiritual journey, and reveals a warm, loving, wise and gentle pioneer who was an avid gardener just like me.

Just like Agnes, I let my kids play with almost anything, because I had a lot of kids and limited funds. I taught them all how to make do with whatever was at hand, much to my husband’s chagrin. Similarly, Agnes’ husband once threw his hands up in frustration, as he struggled to walk around cushions and sheet forts in his living room, and complained that she let the kids play with everything except her wedding ring and the Bible! Once again, I really like Agnes.

One night, while struggling to centre myself in The Lord’s Presence, a crazy, impulsive thought popped into my mind. Without analyzing or questioning theological implications, I asked Agnes to pray for me. Immediately I experienced a warm, emotional embrace of love and sheer joy. I knew she was one of the saints, in communion with me, as I heard these words in my heart;

\”My dear, you have my undivided attention.
No one asks me to pray for them, because I was a Protestant, you know!”

I laughed and laughed, in fact I am grinning like a fool now. We are so dense sometimes; we really do not understand the mysteries of our faith, especially something as outlandish as the communion of saints. As Saint Paul said there is a cloud of witnesses,  both living and dead, cheering us on as we journey towards the Lord.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church  explains the Communion of Saints in simple terms:

956 The intercession of the saints. \”Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness. . . . They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus . . . . So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.\”495

Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life.496 I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth.497

957 Communion with the saints. \”It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek, rather, that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened. Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself\”498:

958 Communion with the dead. \”In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and \’because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins\’ she offers her suffrages for them.\”500 Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.

Yes, the Church has always realized that only a thin veil separates the  members of the Body of Christ who dwell on earth from those who rest in heaven. However, most of us merely give intellectual assent to the truth. We often fail to incorporate this reality into our spirituality. What a waste of prayer power!

I urge you all to whisper requests for intercessory prayer from your favorite saint. Even better, why not dig up some obscure, under employed saint and put him to work praying? Your new-found friend will be delighted, and you will surely reap the benefits both in this life on earth and in the life to come.

  © 2014. Melanie Jean Juneau. All rights reserved.

About the Author:

Melanie Jean Juneau is a petite wife, writer and mother of nine children who blogs at joy of nine9. When the words "The Joy of Mothering on a Hobby Farm" popped into her head as a subtitle for her short stories, it was like an epiphany for her because those few words verbalized her experience living with little people.The very existence of a joyful mother of nine children seems to confound people. Her writing is humorous and heart warming; thoughtful and thought provoking with a strong current of spirituality running through it. Part of her call and her witness is to write the truth about children, family, marriage and the sacredness of life, especially a life lived in God.

If you enjoyed this essay, subscribe below to receive a daily digest of all our essays.

Thank you for supporting us!

  • Guy McClung

    This makes perfect doctrinal sense-Thank you MJJ. It also raises some questions for me – which means this is that very good kind of writing that makes you think: How about asking God to let someome, even someone in purgatory, help you with something? Job search? bringing child back to the church? helping one overcome an addiction? And another question: how about enlisting “retired” guardian angels of your famiy members who are now in God’s presence, in a sense guardian angels whose job “guarding” their particular person’s soul is done? One more: how about a 56,000,000 “communion of little saints” army of the babies aborted in the USA since Roe v Wade? Guy McClung San Antonio

    • melanie jean juneau

      brilliant questions, especially your last one..why not ask the souls of 56,000,000 aborted babies to pray for us and stop abortion as well!

    • melanie jean juneau

      oh and thanks for addressing any lingering guilt I harboured that this is an example of sound doctrine; I had someone upset at this post on my blog

  • james

    Love it. Being much into parallelism, I would also like to add the global belief of ancestor worship which nearly all non Christian faiths practice. Here is but one excerp from African folklore.
    Ancestors also serve as mediators by providing access to spiritual guidance and power. Death is not a sufficient condition for becoming an ancestor. Only those who lived a full measure of life, cultivated moral values, and achieved social distinction attain this status. Ancestors are thought to reprimand those who neglect or breach the moral order by troubling the errant descendants,

    • melanie jean juneau

      fascinating parallels

  • John Darrouzet

    Thanks for your post.

    Have you read any of the books by the son of Agnes Sanford?

    • melanie jean juneau

      yes.. almost all of them; the books are classics now – deep, powerful and insightful and in the Spirit

    • John Darrouzet

      I have read all that I could find. Went on retreat with him when he was preparing Mystical Christianity. Visited with him in San Diego and talked about dreams. What a wonderful family of healing ministers!

    • melanie jean juneau

      Lucky man.Many of his insights on root sin, repentance and breaking entrenched patterns of behaviour with effectively renouncing inner vows were groundbreaking and revolutionized spiritual direction. Many Catholic retreats and directors used his methods and still do. Plus it is possible to apply his principles as you read because he is so clear

    • John Darrouzet

      Yes to all that you reply, but I do not believe in luck.

      I found my encounters with Jack Sanford as part of my journey in faith.

      One of the things I still appreciate about meeting with him is that when I reread his works I can still hear his voice. It is so clear, as you note, that I can he him reading to me. Thus, rather than thinking of him as an absent teacher like I do with so many other others I have not met, I realize he is still present to me.

      Were it not for his work on dreams, I would never have understood more clearly the Christian view of the figures in our dreams being forms of angels. This opened up all sorts of ancient literature where angels were written about more freely. In effect I find my dreams now as a great source of insight, inspiration and healing. I trust you pay attention to your dreams. Why? Because, as you probably know already, dreams are God’s forgotten language. [ http://www.amazon.com/Dreams-Forgotten-Language-John-Sanford/dp/006067055X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392211509&sr=8-1&keywords=dreams+gods+forgotten+language ].

      When I talked to my mom about this approach, she said to be sure to recognize the angels among us during the day as well. They appear when we allow ourselves to experience day dreams.

    • melanie jean juneau

      I could not agree more, especially about honouring our dreams as messages from God. The more we honour them, the more He speaks through them..love your mums comments on angels, I will remember her words

    • John Darrouzet

      I read your posts each time. This one has produced the opening for a deeper friendship. It is a blessing to meet you. Hope we can stay in touch as we continue to move down the journey of faith.

    • melanie

      it amazes me how powerful the written word is, powerful enough to forge connections in the Spirit

  • Pingback: AGNES SANFORD: A FRIEND AMONG THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS | joy of nine9

  • David Peters

    It’s great to have friends! Thanks Melanie for this encouraging article. I love the term “under employed”! God bless.

    • melanie

      that term was inspired, I can’t take the credit

  • Pingback: If You Don’t Need God’s Mercy, Don’t Go to Mass