I was raised Catholic. My whole family is Catholic. But, I’ve never gotten a good answer to this question. And when I ask others, all I get is blank stares.
Is our rationale for doing this STRICTLY based on interpretations of the Bible? Some Catholics I’ve asked tell me that it’s NOT Biblical, but that we “do it anyway.”
In which case, I have to wonder why someone would blindly accept this without questioning it. Or did the Catholic church as an organization come out and say, “It’s acceptable, and we’re not saying why, but go ahead and do it”?
I’d appreciate any information on this. My wife and I have had some interesting conversations about this recently, and we’re looking for any insight.
Support for praying to saints in heaven is definitely found in the bible. Remember that Catholics don’t look to scripture for doctrine, but look to scripture for confirmation of doctrine (among other things). That is, the teachings of the faith had already been given to the Apostles (and thus the Church) before the New Testament had been written.
Why do we do it? Because we are the people of God, not just the person of God. We are the family of God. And family desires and works for the good of the other members of the family. And that part of the family which is the saints in heaven, being purified of every selfish desire, will desire and work for the good of those on earth the most of all. That is to say, they will desire and work for the same thing that God desires and works for.
Let me ask you in return, why would a Christian not ask those perfected saints in heaven to pray for him?
Welcome to the CAF. I hope your stay here will help you learn about your former Catholic faith.
Catholics believe in the Communion of Saints. The communion of saints consist of three members of the Holy People of God.
Church Militant: Saints on earth (us).
Church Victorious: Saints in heaven. Those Christians who died before us and many have been martyred.
Church Suffering: Saints in Purgatory. Those who died in Christ but still have to pay for the account they have done.
In this Communion, Christian like me can ask a saint in heaven to pray for me. I can also pray for the souls in Purgatory to help them gain heaven which is the final end for them.
To put it simply, I can ask a saint (through prayer) to pray for me just as I ask you (a living person to pray for me). We do not believe that those who die in Christ are dead; but are more alive than us because they have seen the beatific vision of God, and have seem God face to face.
In no way, do we ask the saints the same we ask for God. For example, I can’t ask a saint to forgive my sins or ask for receiving grace.
I can ask them to pray for me and guide me closer to God. I think the most beautiful prayer of all is the Mass. In the Mass the Saints in Heaven, the saints on Earth pray together as one body to God.
If this sounds to complex. This can help. Praying to the saint is nothing more than a prayer gathering of Christians praying for one another; out of their love for God. Remember in heaven, our prayers does not end to God. It is eternal.
Welcome to the Forum, NJ. I hope you will find this and other threads helpful in growing in your faith. Also, be sure to avail yourself of the excellent resources in the library linked above; you’ll find this and other topics thoroughly presented. To your question:
In St. John’s Revelation we find the Saints interceding and that they are very aware of what’s happening on earth. Two such examples: In Rev. 5:8 (also Rev. 8:3-4) the elders stand before the throne of the Lamb, before the altar in the heavenly sanctuary. They sing hymns of praise and offer up the prayers of the saints on earth, prayer which rises like billowing clouds of incense. In Rev. 6:9-10 the martyred saints are praying imprecatory prayers against their murderers, urging the Lord to avenge their deaths.
This demonstrates that their life in Glory is not one of stasis or passivity, but that they are actively engaged in the life of Glory and all that pertains to it. If they are calling for vengeance (according to the Will of God, since they will not pray against His Will) – and a definite activity, how much more so will they be active by His Grace in praying that God’s Holy Will be accomplished in the lives of His people who yet remain on earth? Divine charity is not lessened in Heaven.
There is also Hebrews 12:1-2: “With so many witnesses in a great cloud all around us, we too, then, should throw off everything that weights us down and the sin that clings so closely, and with perseverance keep running in the race which lies before us.”
Hebrews 7:22-25: “This makes Jesus the surety of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
What is true of Jesus is true of us (by Grace) and for us who believe in Him. That is why there is a “cloud of witnesses” hovering around the living.
It is because of their (the Saints) incorporation into the Person of Jesus Christ that they (and the saints on earth) are able to participate in His righteous prayer. (It’s important to have a deep sense of Christ’s indwelling in His Body, the Church, and in each member of that Body; without that sense it’s difficult, then, to “see” the interconnectedness of all the members with the Head and with each member no matter if they are on earth or in Heaven.)
Further, we also know from Scripture that the angels watch over man (including the Son of Man: Mt. 4:11 & Lk. 22:43); therefore they are aware of man’s needs (not on their own power, of course, but by the power they are given by God). Since the angels are to be subject to us, why would the power of men and women in glory now be less than that of these angelic servants of God?
The experience of Catholics in our Communion in Christ which we enjoy with our Blessed Mother and our brothers and sisters the Saints, testifies to an ever deepening awareness and love of God. Far from distracting us from love of the Most Holy Trinity, our unity within the Communion of Saints only fosters greater attentiveness to living faithfully in His Light. “I reassure anyone who cares: Devotion to Mary brings us closer to Christ and does the job more quickly than ignoring her does,” (Fr. Mateo, “Refuting the Attack on Mary”, Catholic Answers).
Intercession while living on earth depends on being IN Christ, in a state of grace which sanctifies the soul, thus allowing the person to ask God something for someone else (we participate in the One Mediatorship of Christ). But in Heaven, the person has the Beatific Vision of God and is united to Him “face to Face” and “knows as he is known,” and in a greater position to ask for someone else (since he does not need anything for himself). Therefore, to ask in Christ one of the Blessed to intercede for us is simply communicated to that someone by Christ since there is no other way that person could know what is going on “down here” than by being shown by Christ.
In the Beatific Vision Christ, within Whom the Blessed are more, not less, in union, shows the Blessed the petitions of the brethren on earth, as in God all things are seen. This is not difficult for God to do. Thus we can know with absolute certainty that the Saints know the petitions addressed to them in Christ.
Further, asking the intercession of the Saints is realistic humility. God hears everyone’s prayers; He does not thereby grant all that He hears - just as a human father hears all the child pleas of his offspring, but does not always grant them. God grants the prayers of the Just, since they are in a position to be heard and accommodated, their will already being in sync with His. The faithful on earth are quite aware that they are not as pure as the Saints in Heaven. Good Christians are not in a state of sin, but they realistically know they are far from being perfectly in sync with God’s will, but those in heaven are.
And we are human; which means that we are all in this boat together and not isolated individuals. It is therefore according to our nature created by God to do things together for a common purpose. It is our love for one another that impels us to pray for one another and to want others to pray for us. The Saints are our brothers and sisters who are in God’s Presence; but some people don’t like this interdependence.
The Christian Tradition from the beginning declares that the interest of the Saints in Heaven will be increased a hundredfold, because they will realize then more fully our needs and necessities. St. Jerome (350-420) is a striking witness to this fact. He writes:
“If the Apostles and martyrs, whilst still in the flesh and still needing to care for themselves, can pray for others, how much more will they pray for others after they have won their crowns, victories, their triumphs. Moses, one man, obtains God’s pardon for six hundred thousand men, and Stephen prays for his persecutors. When they are with Christ will they be less powerful? St. Paul says that two hundred and sixty-six souls were granted to his prayers, whilst they were in the ship with him. Shall we close his lips after death, and not mutter a syllable for those who throughout the world have believed in his gospel?” (Adv. Vigil, 6)