Protestant inquiry -- Praying to saints and Mary

Hello to all,
I’ve been a life long Protestant Christian who was taught to pray to God through Jesus Christ as our sole heavenly mediator. Catholics are also taught and encouraged to pray to the saints and to Mary to ask them to pray to God on our behalf, if I understand correctly.

Why is it necessary to add additional layers of “middle men” to the proccess and what additional benefits does it provide? I would also like to know if Catholicism finds it permissible to pray to deceased family members who died in the faith, or can a Catholic only pray to God, Jesus Christ, Mary and the saints? In other words, where do you draw the line? I am not a theologian nor do I wish to argue dogma. I just want to better understand the Catholic position from Catholic believers who pray to the saints and Mary because I perceive there may be more to it than I currently understand. Thank you for your time and consideration. I really like this forum and find it beneficial to me as I inquire more about Catholicism.

Hi Tommy999,

We Catholics do not pray directly to saints and Mary. We pray with the saints and Mary. What I mean by with is that we ask them to pray for us. Take for example if you asked your friends and family members to pray for you in a time of need. Well as Catholics we see the saints as very important people who are a lot closer to God than we are (since they are in heaven), so we ask the saints to pray for us to help strengthen our prayers. The same is with Mary. Mary is a very important person to Jesus. So we as Catholics try to love Mary as a mother just like Jesus loved his mother. If we are to imitate Christ, then we must love his mother who is Blessed among all women.

Keep in mind: Intercessory prayer is nothing more than every protestant I’ve ever met does with the living: Brother, pray for me!

The difference is that we accept that the saints have already received their reward.

St. Stephen, Deacon and Martyr - Pray for us!
St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, Pray for us!
St. Charbel, Priest and Monk, Pray for us!
St. Nikolai, Bishop and Martyr, Pray for us!

There is no non-liturgical requirement for intercessory prayers.

The Roman mass includes one of the most obvious intercessory prayers - and it’s not JUST to the saints - in the Mea Culpa
I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
And, striking their breast, they say:
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.

I’ll repeat the intercessory prayer separately:
I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.
It’s not just Asking Mary to pray for one. Nor just the Angels. Nor just the saints. It’s also asking everyone present to pray for each other.

Incorrect. We pray directly to the saints and Mary, as well as we pray directly to God.

  1. If you are a Christian, have you ever asked your congregation to pray for an intention, like a sick relative? The answer is that most likely, you have. Your whole congregation, together, prays aloud for the person to get better (or whatever the intention is). Is this problematic?

  2. As a Christian, do you believe in eternal life, whether it be in heaven or hell? For MOST Christian denominations, this is a key element of the faith. It is critical that we understand that when we die, we do not simply cease to exist, but continue on, thanks to the saving power of Christ. Death no longer has any power over us.

  3. So… if people do not cease to exist, and it’s ok to ask for a group of living people to pray together, why wouldn’t it be ok to ask both the living AND the dead to pray for our intentions?

Look at two famous Catholic prayers:

In the Hail Mary, we say “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray FOR us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” We are not praying TO her as much as we are asking her to pray WITH us and FOR us.

Now, look at the Penitential Rite of the Mass, which you will hear every week in church:

“And I ask Blessed Mary, ever Virgin,
All the angels and saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray FOR me to the Lord our God.”

Catholics consider prayer so important, that here, we are actually asking the whole of creation to join us in prayer, including both the living, the dead, and even the angels and saints! This serves as a reminder that we are a part of a larger creation, and helps foster Christian unity.

I hope that helps!

Good answer, except you come off the rails here…

We ARE praying TO her as well as asking her to pray WITH and FOR us. It is all of the above, not either/or.

Why do Catholics deny that we pray to Mary and the saints? We most assuredly do pray to them, so please admit it!

Elizium, no one’s denying it. It’s just that for sake of this question, it’s easiest to use other prepositions. For instance, I would describe prayer to the saints to a Protestant as:

We’re asking our Christian family to pray for us, even after they die on earth. It’s just that because they’re in Heaven, the phrase “pray to” typically gets applied.

All these two posters were implying in saying we don’t pray to saints is that we don’t worship them. To a Catholic, sure, you can pray to someone without worshipping them. But when explaining how prayer to the saints isn’t worship, it’s easiest to stay away from that preposition and use different ones.

No, if you want to deny that we worship Mary and the saints, then say we do not worship them. Don’t dance around a preposition that is altogether apt and fitting and describes exactly what we do and try to say that that is not what we do.

Tommy999, as I understand it, our Catholic friends don’t pray to these ‘middle men’ - they join their prayers with the Saints already in heaven who are already praying to God.

Think of it as asking you friends to pray with you. Catholics do that too, but some of their friends are already in heaven.

If I remember correctly, Catholics don’t have to pray to (or more correctly with) the Saints - a Catholic could be a good Catholic and pray directly to God their entire life.

Another helpful thing to remember is that Catholics also span the globe, and the devotion to Mary is a really beneficial thing for the truly poor and downtrodden - some of the worlds poorest people can feel too pray to God, but find their ability to petition God in prayer when they join their prayers with the prayers from the Blessed Virgin.

I was still unsure about praying to saints though I had benefited much from reading about the lives of saints. One day, while pondering on this, like a flash it became very clear to me that God leads and guides us in multiple ways so that everyone on earth is able to receive His light. He spoke through prophets, performed wondrous signs in Egypt, revealed the Law to Moses and finally became incarnate and showed us the Way to reach Him. While still incarnate, He said: “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (Jn 9:5); later, while revealing that He was going to leave the world to re-enter eternity He promised: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever―the Spirit of truth” (Jn 14:16-17a).

Now what about those who are led by the Spirit of Truth and walk in Jesus’ Way? They are the ones of whom Jesus said: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house” (Mt 5:14-15). They become co-heirs with Jesus and His extended arms. His power is now as much theirs too. He delegates or shares His work with them and by doing so He reaches out to all shades of humans with their complex tastes, preferences and ability to relate with ease to a fellow human of their choice. He goes even beyond that by condescending to extend His appeal as the Infant Deity. Therefore, approaching God through His saints is very much a part of God’s own plan.

My mistake, I think the wording of it was wrong.

The additional layers of “middle men” were/are necessary for me because they made the Word of God/the Teachings of Jesus/True Love understandable and achievable by me. When I first saw “The Passion of the Christ,” I did not understand the Wisdom nor Love of Christ, nor could I have ever been as patient and kind as He is. After growing slowly in understanding and discipline, through the understandings of people more loving than me, yet less loving than Jesus, I am much closer to Eternally Loving as Jesus Loves, than I ever could have been by solely focusing on the Pinnacle of Love’s Word.

I would also like to know if Catholicism finds it permissible to pray to deceased family members who died in the faith, or can a Catholic only pray to God, Jesus Christ, Mary and the saints? In other words, where do you draw the line?

Perhaps this link will resolve your question: forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=23387&highlight=departed+pray+for+us

Thank you very much for sharing your questions! You have helped me learn more about the Faith!

Seconded, of course we pray to Mary not with her as so many “ecumenical” Catholics like to say.
I see that one poster used the second half of Hail Mary to back up his reasoning, but its way to slim in my eyes.
I mean, what about the Memorare to Mary? Or the Hail Holy Queen?
Both of those prayers are approved and heavy used by the church herself.
I can’t find anything in The Memorare or the Hail Holy Queen that second the idea of praying with Mary, no it’s crystal clear that we pray to her.

It’s also worth pointing out that Mama Mary is more than just some random saint, she is the mother of God after all and what about her assumption to heaven?
Remember that she is the only one of the saints that are able to appear to us physically if send by God as she is already united with her body unlike the rest of the saints who are waiting for the resurrection of their body’s to unite their soul and body in heaven.

So again Mary is so much more than just a saint and yes we cry out to her and pray for her to keep her hands over us and lead us on our Lords ways as no one knew Jesus better than her (except God obviously).

We do not worship her however, when we reach out to Mary it’s simply like a child wanting to be near his mum nothing else really.
And since she is given us by Lord Jesus himself at the cross I think it’s important to keep try to love her as much as Jesus loves her.

All of the power she posses is given her by God.

We venerate her not worship, I know that Protestants finds it hard to believe, but devotion isn’t worship, but just devotion.

You are taught to believe scripture, right? It is scriptural that God, Himself, asked Job to pray for his two friends.

Job 42:7-9
“ … the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘I am angry with you and with your two friends; for you have not spoken rightly concerning me, as has my servant Job. Now, therefore, take seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up a holocaust for yourselves; and let my servant Job pray for you; for his prayer I will accept, not to punish you severely. For you have not spoken rightly concerning me, as has my servant Job.’ Then Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, went and did as the LORD had commanded them. And the LORD accepted the intercession of Job.”

You are very welcome, jochoa. My goal of this thread is to better understand the beliefs of Catholicism. A welcome side benefit is for any Catholic who has been unclear of a certain issue to better gain understanding of it, too. I’m glad you benefited from it, too :).

Hi Sirach2. I definitely understand and follow the concept of praying for the living and asking for the prayers of my living Christian brothers and sisters. It’s the part of praying to those who died that is a little foreign (and scary) to me. I was taught growing up that Mary and the saints were special people in the faith, but once they died any direct communication to them is no longer possible or needed since Christ is our mediator between and us and God. I’m still trying to sort all of this out. However, some of the posts I’ve read on this thread are helping.

Hi Elizium,
When you worship Mary and the saints, how is that experience different from worshipping God through Christ in your experience? Do you worship them all interchangably as equals? I understand ‘honoring someone’ is different than worshipping them, but you used the word ‘worship’, which I thought was reserved for God alone (through Christ).

I think I understand what some posters say when they say they pray to Mary and the saints to ask for prayer on their behalf since they are in heaven near God. After all, they are part of the cloud of witnesses that the Bible speaks about. I get that.

However, I’m concerned if you are saying that you worship Mary and the saints in the same way you worship God in Christ. To me, it sounds dangerous if you are giving Christ, the saints, and Mary equal status in the kingdom of God. Forgive me if I have misunderstood or mischaracterized anything. I am finding Catholicism, although fascinating, to be a complicated faith to understand at times for this Protestant lad.

I think the point that Elizium23 was making was that we DO pray to Mary and the Saints in Heaven, but that we DON’T worship them. Reread the post :wink:

Regarding the Communion of Saints, which is the Catholic teaching of praying to the deceased Saints, Martyrs, and the Virgin Mary, we firmly believe this teaching and it IS Biblical. See the CCC on the Communion of Saints.

My favorite demonstration of the effectiveness of intercessory prayer, is the story of the Wedding Feast of Cana. The Virgin Mary interceded for the Wedding Party regarding the mundane problem of having run out of wine. The reply from Jesus was “My hour has not yet come.” and “What is that to you or to me?” But the Virgin Mary instructs the servants to “do whatever he tells you” We know the outcome. But what if the Virgin Mary had not interceded? No wine I can tell you. Is this not the way God OFTEN works? Someone intercedes for someone else (in the NT) and God hears THAT prayer. E.G. the paralytic let down through the roof, the servant of the Centurion, and on and on.

So Christians have no problem with intercessory prayer. The problem seems to be the communion of Saints. That is what you need to study and weigh in the balance. :wink:

Again. To you or I, it’s very clear that “pray to” does not imply worship. We’re quite fine with the older definition of “to ask”. (Fun fact: It’s actually used that way as early as Genesis in the KJV) But if someone’s asking us to defend prayer to the saints as not being worship, I’m sure that part of the confusion comes from the preposition. To most modern audiences, “to pray” has lost its meaning of “to ask”, so when they hear “pray” they assume worship, and the preposition “to” most certainly doesn’t help.

So if we were discussing it Catholic-to-Catholic, I’d understand your concern. But judging by this response I quoted below, it obviously is causing some amount of confusion. The way I see it, there are two ways to avoid this. Dance around with prepositions, or make it clear that when we say “pray”, we’re using an older definition that just meant “to ask”, without implications of the divine.

The first few posters to respond did the former. I’m going with the latter.

We only worship them in the oldest sense of the word. (Back when it didn’t have implications of divinity, and you might even call your earthly king His Worship) A more accurate word by today’s definitions is “venerate”.

And as I explained in my defense of our careful choice of prepositions, we’re using two different definitions of “pray”. It sounds like you’re reading the divine into the word, when we’re just using it to mean “to ask”.

Quote from Razanir: "And as I explained in my defense of our careful choice of prepositions, we’re using two different definitions of “pray”. It sounds like you’re reading the divine into the word, when we’re just using it to mean “to ask”.

That makes a lot more sense to me. :slight_smile: I WAS reading the divine into the word worship, which is the context I am most familiar with in my Protestant church. What you said really helps and I appreciate it.

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