The limits of the Saints


First, let me give you my background: I am a protestant who sincerly loves Christ and is seeking to find the truth. I have been looking into the questions of the catholic church and have found many issues that I believe the catholic church is correct about. Especially the big ones like Purgatory and transubstantiation.
I have read the points of veiw on the saints and I beleive that what is said is accurate to a point. I agree with the communion of saints and the intercession of ths saints, but where I, and where I believe other protestants get stuck is the seeming omniscience of the saints.
I know that many non-christians will ask questions like, how can God hear all of the prayers of everyone on earth? This is not difficult because God is omniscient and not bound by time as we are. But, I do think the question has some validity for the saints and angels. They are still finite beings and cannot be omnipresent or omniscient. I beleive this has a biblical basis as well. See Daniel 10:10-14 where the angel describes being delayed for 21 days by Prince of Persia. This seems very clear that angels, (and by an assumed connection, saints) are limited in space and time.

So my conclusion at this point is that the saints may pray for us, and we may have communion with all believers, but we cannot pray to a specific saint like Mary, because she does not have the qualities of God, to be able to attend to all believers at one moment.

Please take this as an honest question, by an honest searcher. I am not intending to cause strife, I just wish to understand.

Thank you very much,


Rev. 5:13

*And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all therein, saying, “To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever!” *

What we have here is a sinner (John, the author) who nonetheless is able to hear every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all therein! That is infinitely more than what would be required of a saint to hear all prayers directed at him/her, and John was not even perfected in heaven.

Compared to Rev 5:13, it is nothing to imagine that saints in heaven can hear prayers directed to them. All through the power of God, of course.


Welcome to CAF, Justin. :slight_smile:

We enjoy Communion with one another - including “our brothers and sisters who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith” - because of our Communion with THE Communion of the Divine Persons of the Most Holy Trinity. Being in Christ we are in union with all that is His - including His Mother. So 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, since God is All in all. This is not difficult for God to do. :wink: Indeed, a Christianity that does not admit of this intimate communion among members of the one body is very two-dimensional.

I think one of the difficulties that arises in attempting to share our appreciation of the Blessed Mother and the Saints and their prayer for us (and also of speaking on other doctrines of the Faith - in particular the Real Presence of Our Eucharistic Lord), is that we of necessity have to speak (and write) of things according to our linear-time understanding while trying to bring something of our spiritual understanding of the eternity of God’s Presence (living in the Eternal NOW). So all the talk of Mary approaching God in supplication at once puts some time-frame separation between God and Mary (and all who live now fully in His Presence). When, to the contrary, such is her union of intimacy with the Divine Trinity that there is no “space” between her imprecation for us and God’s “awareness” of this.


We also have to remember that St. Michael in the OT was operating under the Old Covenant. The Incarnation changed everything, the prophets words were fulfilled in Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit “upon all flesh” has taken in and through Christ’s redemptive death and resurrection. This gives us the power of the Holy Spirit, which is why Jesus said, “Greater things than these shall you do.” It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that the saints in heaven hear our prayers, which has been given them by God. They don’t take God’s place or usurp his power–he has bestowed it on them.


Hi Justin and welcome.:wave:

I think you’re right in saying that saints are not omniscient nor omnipresent-- they only know that which God allows them to know.

Consider earthly technology for a moment. With the telephone, I can call up a friend on the other side of the world and tell them information and ask for prayers. Here we sit using the internet, writing notes to virtual strangers. Using the internet or telephone doesn’t make us omniscient–but it allows us to communicate with one another.

God created something called the Communion of Saints that unites Christians with each other other-- including those Christians who have passed on before us. He allows us to share our concerns and prayer requests with each other–including those on the other side of eternity. They can pray along with us if we ask them, just as through the telephone or internet friends far away can know pray for us. God is stronger than death, and so is His “technology” :wink: .


All this first assumes, of course, that any of those one prays to is indeed definitely in Heaven and is taking prayer requests.


There are indications in the Bible (Tobit 12:12) that our prayers are delivered through the ministry of angels (messengers). So a saint in heaven doesn’t have to omnipresent or omniscient to hear our prayers; angels takes our prayers to the saint in heaven.

Here’s how it might work:
Since angels do not have the limitations of physical organs of communication like we do, it is reasonable to assume that they can communicate (receive and transmit) information much faster than we can, so that they might be able to deliver our 5-minute prayer to the intellect of a saint in heaven in, say, a trillionth of a second. The saints in heaven, who are now like angels, might be able to process and respond by praying for us in a like timely manner so that ten billion 5-minute prayer requests from people on earth could easily be handled by a single saint in heaven one-at-a-time in the space of, say, less than one second.


Remember in Revelation St John is granted a vision where he sees and hears, all clearly and completely, everyone in heaven, on earth and under the earth praising God. In contrast to that, we don’t need to assume that the Saints can see, do or hear absolutely everything, or even nearly everything. Which, remember, is what omniscient means. Rather that God permits them to see or hear whatever they need to see or hear.

Certainly we must assume that those in heaven are more powerful than we on earth, otherwise what’s the point of reaching heaven in the first place? We on earth, limited as we are, can through the wonders of telephone, internet, email, answering machines, and mass media, make and receive many communications instantly. We can reach whomsoever we want to contact, and receive from whomsoever wants to contact us, pretty much wherever they may be on earth. What makes you think the saints are any less capable?


How about this ?

The saints are “in Christ” - so what He knows, they know. Not of themselves, but according to the measure of their likeness to Him; and that likeness, is in proportion to the measure of the grace that each has received from Him, according as He has willed. And the life of grace on earth, is the seed of the life of glory in Heaven - it is a single Life, that of the Blessed Trinity, mediated by Christ, in two different modes.

IMHO, the difficulty is greatly lessened by those words “in Christ”; they, we, & He, are not separate - distinct, certainly, but not separate; the two words do not at all mean the same. Our fingers and our brains are distinct: otherwise we could not type - but certainly not separate.

It’s difficult to think rightly of a life in an environment of which we have, in the nature of the case, no experience: the Blessed in Heaven see God “face to face”; we, very obviously, don’t :slight_smile:


Welcome to the forums AlmostCatholic

The limit of the Saints is that they cannot come up with the gifts and power of intercession of their own. Through God, they are given such power. For this, faith will help us understand better the communion saints. If we try to reason, we will never understand.


This is a good point, I hadn’t thought of that.
I think I am beginning to understand (by God’s grace). If we are all his body, we are all connected and we are all fed by the same life blood. We are all still limited but we can take part in his ‘biggness’ by being a part of something bigger (i.e. the church). This is really a beautiful thing that is too forgotten in Protestant circles.

The other part that doesn’t quite make sense is why the saints should pray for us. This may just be protestant baggage. I have always had the mental image of saints in heaven having better things to do than worry about us. I see that this is ultimately selfish though, becuase that is how I would be thinking :eek: . (This just makes me see how much I need purging!)

But another protestant question would be, why is the intercession of the saints needed? If we can speak directly to God, if we can go right past the torn curtain into the holy of holies, then we have another do it for us?

(Thank you all for your time and consideration. -I really do appreciate it.)


God wills it for the same reason he wants us to pray for one another here on earth- to teach us to love. It builds up the body of Christ.

God sometimes waits to bestow blessings until such a time that we act according to his will.

1 John 4: 20-21 - whoever loves God must love his brother
1 Cor 12:21 - parts of Christ’s Body cannot say to other parts, “I do not need you”.


Why should the saints in heaven pray for us? Why should they, in other words, seek and desire our salvation? I think the question answers itself. What does a saint in heaven seek and desire, other than the will of God? The saints in heaven pray for us because God desires that we be saved and sanctified, and He also desires that those who love Him (in heaven and on earth) should share in that work of salvation and sanctification. God is all about giving what is His alone, and the prayer of the saints is but one aspect of that generosity.

What is the greatest virtue? Not faith, not hope, but love. For God and for one another. The saints in heaven pray for us because they love God perfectly, and they love us perfectly. It is their great joy to pray for us.

But another protestant question would be, why is the intercession of the saints needed? If we can speak directly to God, if we can go right past the torn curtain into the holy of holies, then we have another do it for us?

Nothing is needed of us. We are not needed to preach the gospel either. Nor is our love, nor our faith, nor our hope, nor our good works needed. But God shares all good things with us, including His great work of salvation. The intercession of the saints is but one glimpse into the very life of the Triune God. “Just me ‘n’ Jesus” is the very antithesis of that divine life.


Lets clarify: Our Blessed Mother does not have these “qualities” by her own nature, but rather by Grace of God, and by virtue of her position of Mother of Christ, has been given these things (particularly the position of Mother of Mercy and a great advocate (like Job, Moses, etc but much greater). Much can be said about this and I recommend you look to the Catechism of the Catholic Church for a greater explanation on these matters.


Because they & we are members of the same Body of Christ.

If people love another, they are not going to be indifferent to each other - people don’t say, “I love you very much - now get lost”. Love, if it is real at all, bears fruit in works of love - of its very nature, it cannot be unproductive. It is the very reverse of selfish.

Or are we to suppose that the Blessed, now that they see God no longer by faith, but by sight, love other Christians, not more, but much less ? That is equivalent to saying that the greater someone’s love of God, the more perfectly selfish he will become. ##

This may just be protestant baggage. I have always had the mental image of saints in heaven having better things to do than worry about us. I see that this is ultimately selfish though, becuase that is how I would be thinking :eek: . (This just makes me see how much I need purging!)

But another protestant question would be, why is the intercession of the saints needed? If we can speak directly to God, if we can go right past the torn curtain into the holy of holies, then we have another do it for us?

(Thank you all for your time and consideration. -I really do appreciate it.)

God could do all His work without using secondary causes: God has no need of preachers, ministers, evangelists, missionaries - we, however, do. As it is His Will that He should be known, He could enlighten everyone on earth directly. He has not - instead, for reasons best known to Him, He works through created beings. The intercession of the Blessed is a form of this activity. Whether it is through the Bible, a Christian on earth, the sacraments, preachers, or the Blessed in Heaven, it is one & the same Lord Who is at work “for the building up of the Body”.

Can we come to the Father, through Christ the Mediator, in the Spirit ? Of course. Although God is alone, in that He is Alone God, He is also God the Creator - & this means that there are beings other than God; IOW, creatures. And His work through creatures (such as the Blessed in Heaven, or Christians on earth) is as fully & truly & perfectly His work as is all that He does without working through creatures. They are not obstacles in His way, but means through whom He carries out His Will; IOW - he gives to creatures something they could not have of themselves: the dignity of being made sharers in the work that is proper to Himself Alone. “Our good works” are not originally ours at all - they are Christ’s, who uses us, though of ourselves we are “unprofitable servants”, to do His work, in His world, which He has redeemed & is redeeming. So there is a pattern here; & the belief that the Blessed can & do intercede for us, is part of it.

Hope this is some help ##


If we can trust that our Christian friends on earth, despite their sinfulness and despite their concupiscence, can be trusted to pray for us, how much more can we trust that those who are spotless in heaven will “take prayer requests” when we ask?

To the OP: Jimmy Akin took a stab at many of the more “practical” questions regarding prayer to the saints, at . In particular, note his answer to the question, “How can the saints hear our prayers? Aren’t you making them out to be omniscient and omnipresent?”



Can you possibly find in in yourself to avoid mocking Catholic teaching when you post here?


Romans 15:30
Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me;

Colossians 4:2-3
Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:

2 Corinthians 1:11
Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.

1 Thessalonians 5:25
Brethren, pray for us.

2 Thessalonians 1:11
Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:

Acts 12:5
Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.

1 Timothy 2:1-3
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;

James 5:16
Pray one for another… The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

ALL Christians are required to pray for one another. The question must now be asked “do we cease to be Christian upon entering heaven?”, if those in heaven are truly Christian they must be receptive to our prayer requests as those on earth are.


That’s why they’re called saints, laddie.:thumbsup:

Let’s see, I have my choice between [ahem! cough, cough!!]a stranger prone to sarcasm, & Jesus Christ’s own beloved mother…
Who should I choose? Who should I choose???

There is no contest, my friend. You are Definitively Off That Proverbial Hook.
:whistle: “So long, been good to know you, that dusty old train is a rolling from town, & I’ve gotta be drifting along…”

:signofcross: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you”…


Atemi, why stir up animosity? Of course we assume that the saints (including Mary) are in heaven; it’s a Catholic discussion board, and this thread is about Catholic doctrine.

I find the post above to be disparaging and inflammatory – not to mention, entirely off topic. If you wish to engage Catholics in meaningful debate about the doctrine of the Assumption, feel free to start a thread and pose a respectful question.

If, on the other hand, your intention is to belittle and condescend, or worse – to proselytize – then at least have the class to be up front about it.

My apologies if I come off as harsh, but enough’s enough.


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