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Friday, August 12, 2005
Prayer to Saints

I found a question posted on the Catholic Community Forum asking why should we pray to saints instead of focusing our time on praying to God. This is a good question concerning the Catholic faith and deserves a good response.

First, we never pray to a saint as the end but rather ask them to pray along with us - they are intercessors (CCC 956). I'm sure many of the readers here have asked one of their friends to pray to God for them, and when we ask Mary (who we consider the greatest saint) or the angels and saints to pray for us we are asking them to join us in praying to God. These men and women in Heaven are very close to God and it makes sense that asking them to pray for us can only cause good.

Likewise, whenever we pray to a saint we recall God's saving power through them. Without God all of us would not be worthy of Heaven, and that is precisely the definition of a saint - someone that is in Heaven. Saints don't have to have been priests or sisters but anyone that loved God and now is in Heaven. For if we do not have love then we can't be a Saint since we will be judged on one thing - Love (CCC 1022, reference to St. John of the Cross).

Also, when we pray in the presence of statues or pictures of saints we are not praying to the statues. Rather, these icons help us "see" who we are speaking with. Icons help us see our faith since some will, unfortunately, say that "seeing is believing". They help us adapt from the outside world and see a small, very small glimpse of what the glory of Heaven appears like. However, when we pray in the presence of these images it is like we are speaking on a telephone with a friend when looking at their picture. We are never actually praying to the picture.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph #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 a fountain and head issues all grace and the life of the people of God itself. (There is a footnote here referencing the Vatican II Document, Lumen Gentium and also Ephesians 4:1-6).

The Cathecism further states, “The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship” (CCC 971).

I'd like to conclude with scripture I recently found:

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful." -- James 5:16.

For more information please see a webpage from Living Catholicism as well as one from the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church on why to pray for saint's intercession (.pdf)

Image Source: Believed to be in the Public Domain, Title Unknown


del_button August 15, 2005 at 8:32 AM
Christine said...

Very nicely written! :)

del_button August 15, 2005 at 10:40 AM
Moneybags said...

Thank you for commenting :)

del_button October 16, 2006 at 12:30 AM
Anonymous said...

The writer of Hebrews goes through great pains to point out that Christ is our high priest, mediator and
makes intercession for us. We're told to pray to God, no one else. We're told Christ is the one who makes intercession, not a "saint".

del_button October 16, 2006 at 5:41 AM
Moneybags said...

I disagree.

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful." -- James 5:16.

del_button October 16, 2006 at 6:12 AM
Moneybags said...

Hebrews 12:1 (based upon the topic in Hebrews Chapter 11) is referring to the saints!

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us 2 and persevere in running the race that lies before us"

del_button April 4, 2008 at 12:56 AM
hallwal said...

<<"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful." -- James 5:16>>
This simply means ask each other for help, since you are believers and can pray for each other.

"One another" refers to your Christian friends and family.

It is quite a stretch to imply that "one another" could include saints who have already died (or angels, for that matter).

del_button April 4, 2008 at 12:59 AM
hallwal said...

The "cloud of witnesses" in Hebrews 12:1 may refer to saints, but it says nothing about praying to them or through them. There is zero basis in scripture for this practice.

In fact, I Timothy 2:5 says "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."

del_button April 4, 2008 at 7:46 AM
AquinaSavio said...

In Romans 8:38, St. Paul says “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels…..will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Well, God is love. So nothing can separate us from Him, except our own rejection of Him. Even then, He still loves us, but we do not return that love. But death cannot separate us from God. The saints and angels are conscious of our trials on Earth. In Luke 16:24-31, the rich man calls out to Abraham to have mercy on him. Praying to a saint? I think so. But you may answer that this is merely a parable. However, none of Christ’s lessons are “merely” anything. They are precise and accurate, with everything in the story representing a certain thing. Also, it is very likely that this was not "just a story," because it is the only lesson when Christ specifically names two people.

In Psalm 148, David calls upon the angels and saints. In Zechariah 1:12, the angel intercedes for the people of Jerusalem. Revelations 5:8, the saints offer their prayers to God as incense.

There are many more verses referring to the communion of saints.

del_button April 18, 2008 at 3:48 AM
hallwal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
del_button April 18, 2008 at 4:02 AM
hallwal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
del_button April 18, 2008 at 4:05 AM
hallwal said...

aquinasavio, I must say that was by far the best-looking support on this page. I must confess that it looked so good at first glance that I initially did not look up the scriptures you referenced. I just looked them up, though, and I have a couple of questions now, so please bear with me and thanks for your patience. :)

1) Your first paragraph-and-a-half (down until we get to "The saints and angels are..."), while I agree with them totally, has nothing to do with the topic, so I'm confused as to why you include it; it may confuse the issue for others and make your answer seem artificially longer.

2) Your first point is the parable in Luke 16:24-31. Whether literal or not, (a) they could see each other and they were also both dead, so thats not applicable to us, and (b) there was absolutely nothing Abraham could do to help him, so it doesn't prove calling out to a saint is helpful, and (c) this was a lost man in eternal damnation of hell, so I wouldn't think he would be a good basis on which to say that his actions were a good example for us to follow.

3) Your 2nd reference, Psalm 148, is David praising God. True, he says the angels and saints should praise God, but he equally says the sun and moon and sea creatures and mountains should praise God! Now, if we follow your interpretation, was he praying to all those things? Is this a basis on which we should pray to the moon and sun, and mountains, and fish?

4) Your 3rd reference, Zechariah 1:12, is an angel voluntarily asking God about Israel. Zechariah did not ask him to do this, and there is no mention that anyone else did either, so this too cannot be a very good basis for praying to angels or saints.

5) Your 4th and final reference is Revelation 5:8. This is of course a revelation of the future and describes "4 beasts and 24 elders," and they are holding vials which have the scent of the prayers of saints. However, it does not say that these saints are dead. It also does not say or imply that the saints prayed to these elders or asked them to take part in this beautiful display. They are simply there being honored by God but, more importantly, praising God.

del_button May 13, 2010 at 6:58 AM
joshua said...

mat 6:9
Jesus said: "you should pray like this: 'Our Father in heaven...'" So prayers are to be addressed to the Father. Jesus also said in john 14:6,14 - "i am the way the truth and the life. NO ONE can come to the Father except through me. If you ask for anything in MY name, I will do it." The apostle paul added regarding Christ: "he not only died for us-he rose from the dead, and there at God's right hand he stands and pleads for us." "He is living for ever to intercede for all who come to God through him." (Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25)if we really want our prayers to be heard would it not be wise to approach god in the way his word directs?

del_button September 21, 2011 at 3:30 AM
Anonymous said...

I was referred here by Matthew to answer my query on where in the bible it says to pray through saints rather than through Jesus. The first blog states that saints are dead and in heaven. Yet Philemon 7 says "Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints." This is written by Paul, and he is talking about other believers and calling them saints. Further on he asks in Philemon 20 "I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ." Dead people don't require their hearts to be refreshed. Could you agree that not all saints are dead. We, believers are all called by Paul, saints.

del_button September 21, 2011 at 5:56 PM
Matthew said...

Some comments to anonymous:

1. When you say " where in the bible it says to pray through saints rather than through Jesus" you really beg the question what are your first principles. What are your axioms. No discussion can take place without proper first principles.

What do I mean by this? Well you sya "Where in the bible..." Catholics recognize that the Bible did not descend from Heaven. We believe in following the practices and teachings of the Lord and those done in the 2,000 years since our Lord became man. That means we follow the early Christian's traditions that existed before the Bible was put together around the year 300 AD.

So you are already approaching this question incorrectly. While it is true that no where in the Bible does it contradict this practice, you need to realize that the lives of the early Christians and apostles need to be studied and learned as well.

The version that you reference says, "For I have had great joy and consolation in thy charity, because the bowels of the saints have been refreshed by thee, brother." I see absolutely nothing in this verse or the entire book that contradicts praying to saints.

In verse 20, Paul is speaking to Philemon, not to the saints. Read the above commentary.

del_button September 21, 2011 at 7:18 PM
hallwal said...

I agree totally that not all saints are dead. It just seems like that is the common context in which it is used. Are you saying that you pray to living saints? Neither you nor anyone else on this page has given ANY evidence that we should be praying to ANY saints, dead or alive.

You say "While it is true that no where in the Bible does it contradict this practice..."
I can only assume you meant to say "While it is true that nowhere in the Bible does it CONDONE this practice..." That would be a much more true statement.

On the contrary, there are verses which do seem to contradict this practice, some of which have been quoted already above, and no one has responded to or refuted them.

del_button September 21, 2011 at 11:45 PM
Anonymous said...

Dear Matthew, this will be my last communication with you. We are definitely not on the same page if you do not believe the bible is the word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16 says "All Scripture is
God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God maybe thoroughly equipped for every good work. Matthew, the fact that the word of God is forever settled, makes it our true foundation. It's not going to change because of the whim of man. It's the same yesterday, today and forever. That's why it can be relied upon. Jesus was the word made flesh. He is our rock of ages. We build our lives on the unchanging word of God and we build on the rock, not on the shifting sands. May God bless you Matthew, and I pray that you will come to know the beauty of forming an ongoing and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. I can't see how that can happen if you pray to your "saints" and not to the one who died for you, who ever lives to make intercession for you. If I had the choice of praying to a "saint" or praying directly to Jesus (who invites you to, indeed he longs for you to talk to him directly) - I would choose Jesus. He is my friend, my saviour, my everything. I talk and walk with Jesus every day. It's wonderful. I pray you will find him. He loves you so much. It's not about religion, it's about relationship. God bless you.

del_button September 22, 2011 at 2:27 PM
Anonymous said...

I can deal with the issue of Saints and praying to them, as I dealt while I was protestant, but I can see that the basic issue here is the Sola Scriptura issue, without which, determining if it is just the Scripture (Tradition in writing) or Holy and Apostolic Tradition (In written and oral form), it can be dealt properly. And the last comment from Anynomous shows the typical misunderstanding toward Catholics, as in relation to the Inspiration of Scripture or as it is referred here: do not believe the bible is the word of God, which is non sense, because the CCC shows it clearly what the Catholics believe, but there is no space here to deal with it.

In the end of this comment it shows also a typical contrasting statement, putting one thing over another, like Christ with the Saints, when they are in Him, closer then ever with and in Him.

We are One family in Christ in heaven and on earth. This is why, in the Apostles Creed, we profess a belief in the "communion of saints." See this, as the best presentation for the Saints, from Scripture Catholic: There cannot be a "communion" if there is no union. Loving beings, whether on earth or in heaven, are concerned for other beings, and this concern is reflected spiritually through prayers for one another.

1 Cor. 12:12,27; Rom. 12:5; Col. 3:15; Eph. 4:4 - we are the members of the one body of Christ, supernaturally linked together by our partaking of the Eucharist.

Rom. 8:35-39 - therefore, death does not separate the family of God and the love of Christ. We are still united with each other, even beyond death.

Matt. 17:3; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30 - Jesus converses with "deceased" Moses and Elijah. They are more alive than the saints on earth.

Matt. 22:32; Mark 12:27; Luke 20:38 - God is the God of the living not the dead. The living on earth and in heaven are one family.

Luke 15:7,10 – if the angels and saints experience joy in heaven over our repentance, then they are still connected to us and are aware of our behavior.

For more see:

del_button September 24, 2011 at 12:06 PM
Matthew said...

"Too many Christians too readily believe that with the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross the work of the redemption is concluded. But you know, and you ought to teach with ever increasing ardor, that that concept is not trust. As Paul told us (cf. Col 1:24), not only must we supplment the Passion of Christ with our own sorrow, but we must remember each day that the Redemption can never have its full effect if it is not accepted, understood, and continued by man. God has done His full part; not it is our turn. Our share consists not only in a loving participation in the divine sacrifice, but demands an even greater collaboration, always higher and more aware, to the point of rendering us worthy of the sublime assurance that Christ desired not only to cancel the sin of mankind, but to re-integrate in us the fullness of our original perfection."

Source: Page 67 - 68The Letters of Pope Celestine VI to All Mankind

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