THE CHURCH IS HOLY, that means set apart. The creed calls her “the communion of saints”. Saints does not mean the opposite of sinners; saints means saved sinners.
All Christians are “saints”, “holy ones”, by virtue of their baptism. We are made holy not by anything we’ve learned or done, but by the indwelling of almighty God. We are holy because we are temples of the Holy Spirit. It is God who has set us apart as holy, not ourselves. He has set us apart for himself.
Holiness—sainthood—is simply our common Christian vocation. We, the saints on earth, are united to the what St. Paul calls the “saints in light” (Col 1:12), what Catholic devotion has called, respectively, the “Church militant” and the “Church triumphant”.
To the saints on earth who share our calling, we give our love. To the saints in light, we give a special honor called veneration, much like the profound respect we give our parents and grandparents; and just as we ask our parents for prayer, we should not hesitate to ask our ancestors in faith for theirs.
The saints in glory are part of the great family of the Church from the earliest times, and her cry goes up constantly to the saints in heaven: “pray for us””.
Adapted from Scott Hahn, Signs of Life (New York: Doubleday, 2009). and, Petter Kreeft, Fundamentals of the Faith (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998). Used with permission