The Church has three distinct praying communities: the Church militant, the Church suffering, and the Church triumphant. Prayer is the common language and bond between us all.
The Church militant is us: those still on earth. The “military”portion of it is the daily battles we face to avoid temptation and to endeavor to follow God’s will. There are many battlefields, not just one. Our soul is spirit, so one battle is in the spiritual realm. Another is in the realm of thoughts and actions. Having a mind that can think and ponder is both a blessing and a challenge. Good thoughts are just as easy to think as negative ones, but because we are human, we are often swayed by our emotions and attitudes. Those are yet another challenge. We might be compassionate towards others or we might want to take justice into our own hands. By far the most difficult battlefield for most of us is our body, we can choose to use it to help others or to indulge in our own pursuits and escapes. It is upon all these battlefields — soul, mind, emotions, and body, that we apply the language of prayer. We pray for one another and for those who have gone before us. We ask the intercession of the saints to help us in all our battles.
The Church suffering sounds rather miserable, but the root of the word suffer, is to submit or endure. It also means to feel keenly. These are the souls in purgatory. They are often referred to as the holy souls in purgatory because they are on their way to heaven, but need the opportunity to purge the last vestige of impurity before they see God. After being divested of our bodies in death, purgatory gives us the opportunity to let go of the spiritual baggage. Time, space, and the physical realm can affect our souls; in purgatory, we can concentrate on what is holding us back from a full relationship with God. The souls in purgatory are destined for heaven, but our prayers can aid them on their way. And their prayers for us, can aid us in our earthly struggles to follow God’s will.
The Church triumphant consists of the souls in heaven. They have completed their earthly battles, purged the residual taints of sin, and are now experiencing the beatific vision in heaven. While they no longer need prayers for themselves, they want to pray on our behalf. Their prayers are intercessory; they ask God for the graces we need in our various battles. While God alone is the one who makes miracles, we often attribute the good deed to the fervent prayer of a particular saint.
Prayer is the language of God. It spans across life and death. It is a language that we share across the realms, praying for one another and praying with one another. It is a unity we participate in whenever we think, feel, say, or do good. We are not on the journey alone, and it only takes a prayer to be spiritually linked to a vast community seeking to do God’s will.