I myself used to be highly against the Communion of Saints, and communicating with Mother Mary when I was a Protestant. However, I’m not sure why I connected worship and respect reserved for God alone with prayer.
Hi, and welcome to CAF.
At least in part it has to do with changing usage of words in language. In the past more than today the term “pray” had the meaning and usage of, to ask or even plead for, even in a secular setting. Today, in many ways, the term is understood as calling on God.
Pray means to talk to. We can talk to God. We can talk to the Blessed Mother, the saints and we can pray for each other. Some use the word to make it sound like Catholics worship Mary and the Saints just because we pray to them. Some are misunderstandings and some are deliberate accusations. I’ve come across both. Some will listen to my explanation and some wouldn’t believe it if I talk till I’m “blue in the face” so to speak. God Bless, Memaw
It was what you were taught…you followed the tradition of that person…who in turn, took it from someone who taught the same thing, and passed it on to you…and so forth…till you can trace this sometime, or the point in time during the Protestant reformation, when “to pray” started to be equated with “to worship”.
I would answer this in two different ways. One has to do with a bit of historical discontinuity where dead people are concerned, particularly dead saints. And, well, the absence of Catholic sainthood must have something to do with it as well. At any rate- stories of mystical miraculous things happening to corpses are a reasonably big part of Catholic history, albeit less so in the past few centuries and much less in America than in Europe. Protestants don’t really have any of that within their own history, especially those who are rooted more firmly in America and don’t consider the entire history of Christianity in England or Germany to be a part of their heritage. Because that sort of thing is absent, I’d say it affects the way we come at dead people. Along with that, from what little I understand, there seems to be a bit of a tradition mainly dating back to when people lived their whole lives and eventually died within five miles of their birthplace. (I may not be super accurate with this, so bear with me please). Evidently, during this time frame when a certain location basically represented anything and everything that you ever knew or experienced ever in your life, there was more of an emphasis on the mysterious presence of a really really good dead person (especially a saint) lingering in that area and watching over it in some way that was probably driven more by colloquial belief and little t tradition than it was by dogmatic force. This too is largely absent from almost all Protestant tradition, and as a result there is less of a tendency to think of the deceased as looking over us in that sort of way- we hardly have anything within our collective memory that involves living and dying in such a way, so we can’t even relate to the baseline that the idea comes from.
There is another way that I look at it, too. Protestants (with a few exceptions, I’ll mention the Book of Common Prayer) emphasize a totally personal responsibility for whatever prayer comes out of your mouth with a near-total emphasis on extemporaneous prayer that is made up on the spot. Some exceptions aside, there is much less in the way of recitation, even for Protestants at a very young age. Catholics at a young age are trained more in the way of how to properly recite a prayer that’s given to them and then a bit later they can work on coming up with their own thing, and of course there’s different ways you can choose to go through that development and there’s a wider variety of endpoints where prayer life is concerned. Protestants at a young age are told what prayer is (talking to God) and then they are left with some general ideas of what you can say to God, but in the end the goal is to put it in your own words. These differences in religious formation are very important, I think; young Protestants are given prayer assignments (of sorts) and those assignments go through little to no change throughout the lifespan, at least in basic principle. Young Catholics look forward to more of a development to their prayer identity that is not set in stone as much. To me, as someone who was raised Protestant (and still is thank you), the very idea of changing anything truly foundational about prayer is unthinkable. Well, why can’t I just do this thing differently…please, you have to understand, this is a change to something that has been set in stone with dogmatic force* from the time that I was forming my first permanent memories as a human. Young Catholics come up differently where there is more change over time; not so for the young Protestant, I assure you. Again, with a nod to the exceptions among the Mainline Protestants.
*[Dogmatic force…we don’t have dogma, but we sure do have dogmatic force.]
Talking to God automatically means you are communicating with a being outside yourself who you believe to be capable of hearing, understanding, and responding to your thoughts or words…when speaking in a manner this non-specific, it doesn’t necessitate worship. However, when you look at the meaning behind worship, it essentially means to bow down- honor shown, recognition of worth, yes, but where Old Testament translation of Hebrew is concerned, “worship” along with “bow down” and “bow down in worship” all originate from words that are basically interchangeable. Moving on from there…
When talking to God, you don’t necessarily have to declare His worth or put His honor into some words, and you don’t even necessarily have to have a mental disposition that is aligned with a “bowing down” sort of attitude. But all of those things are very good ideas, and the physical act of bowing down really isn’t such a bad idea either. To the average Protestant, I’d say it seems like a great idea to involve all of those things in your prayer life as much as possible, and their inclusion is an important part of having a good prayer life. As a Protestant, I think I can speak for the average Protestant as we collectively ask- if you wish to talk to God on a regular basis without bringing any of those listed things with you, why exactly do you talk to God in the first place? He is the omnipotent creator of the universe and savior of your soul- why exactly would you talk to Him like a regular standard human and not like someone who deserves and rightfully commands worship? Talking to God without attempting to worship Him implies one of two things to me- the identity of the specific person we’re talking to is not as much in the front of mind for one of us, or perhaps we are talking to God for different reasons. I’m trying to be diplomatic, I hope I succeeded at least a little.
You know what I meant, do we have to do this? If only for ease of communication, please let it pass. Purgatory aside (which is so not the issue here) the status of souls in the afterlife is not an actual point of dispute.
I did think of that after the fact…I should explain that. Mainline Protestants as a whole are not at all without consequence, but within Mainline Protestantism there is a distinction between those who are High Church and Low/Broad Church- one kind of Mainline Protestant feels more at home with liturgy that closely resembles the Catholic, while the Broad Church services are much more in line with the rest of Protestantism. And then there’s some stuff in between there too. As far as I know, the High Church types of Mainline services that closely resemble the liturgy of the church from which they separated are not necessarily all that uncommon within the Mainline family, but within Protestantism as a whole it may be something of an exception. Exception may be a bit of a stretch, however, and I am speaking from a position well away from exposure to high liturgy so it may just seem like more of an exception to me. That being said, I think I could have picked a better word- I just don’t know what it is yet.
And yes, considering how the mostly-American Evangelical jump away from the Mainline way of doing things is (likely) a more drastic game-changer than the Reformation itself- I do believe there is a bit of irony. And I want to thank you, on behalf of your people and perhaps some of your ancestors, for not starting any wars of religion over it.
I believe it was Scott Hahn who pointed out that since Protestants don’t have the highest form of worship, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, they equate Catholic devotion to Mary and the Saints as reflecting their own understanding of and approach to the worship of God.
Indeed, what is worship? Why does reading the bible, singing a few songs, preaching a couple of sermons constitute worship in the Protestant setting (ok some Protestants)? I don’t see any of them kneeling in front of the God they are suppose to be worshiping and I just can’t see the level of respect reserved for God.
But Protestants do pray for each other don’t they? I am sure that is not worship.
Scott Hahn is a very bright man and he deserves the attention he receives; nevertheless, I would be inclined to lean more on conclusions drawn by someone who’s done some rigorous scientific study of the human brain using an fMRI in order to see what difference, if any, there is between a Protestant brain in various forms of worship compared to a Catholic brain, with Eucharistic adoration being one of the main foci. You’d probably want a control group, a group that’s practicing Eucharistic adoration, and another group that’s giving dulia and/or hyperdulia with a different set of groups on the Protestant side that correspond…
Now, if Scott Hahn were a scientist with some fMRI equipment and a well-conceived plan for study in place (or better yet an actual peer-reviewed study that he has done), he might be able to speak on that with a bit more authority. As is, I can’t help but suspect that if such a study were done, Protestant brains and Catholic brains would be indistinguishable when giving worship to God. (That portion of the hypothetical experiment is not so hypothetical; all scientific data points to just that conclusion- so I actually do more than just suspect on that particular point). I also suspect, however, that activity in the Catholic brain would not be any different once the focus of veneration shifts from God to Mary or the saints, but that is another story- and that is a study that has not, as of yet, been done. There are studies that relate sufficiently well in principle, such that my suspicions are supported reasonably well based on how the brain tends to behave on the whole- but there really isn’t enough there at this point to draw a definitive conclusion. Maybe one day, though.
Thank you…and upon looking back over what I posted, I noticed a faux pas on my part. It hardly makes sense for me to talk about dead saints- that’s basically implied, since sainthood is only conferred upon someone after death and that’s generally quite a bit of time after they’ve died, so it makes very little sense to imply that there are “living saints”…on the other hand, the Church doesn’t create saints but recognizes them, so maybe there are living saints (in a less technical sense of the word) who will perhaps later be recognized for it. Even if that’s so, however, it’s not a standard term in general use, and neither is “dead saint” which I did use a bit awkwardly. It stuck out more to me on the second or third look back, I will try to make appropriate adjustments. That wasn’t coming from an argument or dispute that I’m trying to generate- I just had a momentary struggle with terminology that is used more by Catholics than it generally is by me. And thank you again for understanding.
Why do you not just take people’s word for it instead of jumping to the conclusion that they’re wrong in what they claim to be doing (giving God a different type of reverence than the Saints and Mary)?
I don’t mean to sound rude in asking that, it’s a legitimate question. Catholics will tell you - that’s not what we’re doing, regardless of what science may or may not say.
I came from a Protestant background where I was told that Catholics worship the Saints and Mary, and statues. I didn’t completely agree with those things that I was told because I knew better, but I still believed that Catholics had it completely wrong, jumping to that conclusion, without asking a practicing Catholic to simply explain. I’m not sure I would have believed they were right anyway though, so that question is something I’d ask my old self too.