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Why do Catholics Pray to Saints?

24

August 20, 2012 by mattfradd


Why do Catholics pray to saints?

Since Christ has but one body (1 Cor 12:20), not two bodies; one in heaven and one on earth, and since the saved are not separated from that one body by death (Rom 8:38), and since no part of that body can claim to not need another part (1 Cor 12:21), why would we think it wrong to seek the prayerful assistance of the saints in heaven?

 

Sometimes, those who object to prayers to the saints point to 1 Tim 2:5 which states that “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” “See?” They say, “what part of ‘only’ don’t you understand?”

The next time this happens to you, ask them to read the prior four verses. What they’ll see read is St. Paul exhorting us to pray for one another, calling it “good and…acceptable in the sight of God our Savior”. If I can ask a “saint” on earth to pray for me without usurping the unique mediatorship of Christ, why can’t the same be true of a heavenly one.

Because they’re dead? But that’s false. They’re more alive than we! (Mk 12:27), and not just alive but fully righteous (Rev 21:27)! You do remember what St. James wrote about righteous men don’t you? (James 5:16)

Define Prayer

Confusion often arises in the minds of Protestants at the word pray which they typically use to mean worship. When Catholics use the word pray, they mean it in the traditional English sense – to ask. If you’ve ever read the King James Version of the Bible you may have run across the verse “I pray thee, say me not nay” (1 Kgs. 2:20). It is clear from the context of this passage that Bathsheba is not worshiping her son Solomon, but asking something of him.

Sometimes Catholics feel the need to say, “no we do not pray to the saints, we pray with them.” While this is technically true –we do pray with them to God– once you understand what a Catholic means by pray, you’ll see that Catholics do in fact pray to the saints and that this does not constitute idolatry.

In the book of Revelation, we see that those who reside in Heaven are receiving the prayers of the saints on earth and are offering them to God (Revelation 8:3-4 and Revelation 5:8). It shouldn’t surprise us that our brothers and sisters in heaven surround us like a great cloud of witnesses (Heb 12:1) interceding on our behalf. Being perfected in love they are more, not less, concerned for our salvation.

Consistant With the Early Church

A final point to consider is that the early Church prayed to the Saints in heaven. Though the early Christians were not inerrant, a non-Catholic Christian should not dismiss this lightly. He should ask himself: How likely is it that the earliest Christians were all wrong and I, 2000 years removed with my NIV study Bible under arm, right?

Here’s just one example from St. Augustine:

“A Christian people celebrates together in religious solemnity the memorials of the martyrs, both to encourage their being imitated and so that it can share in their merits and be aided by their prayers” (Against Faustus the Manichean [A.D. 400]).

Click here for more quotations from the early Church.

24 thoughts on “Why do Catholics Pray to Saints?

  1. I have addressed the same issue on my blog at FatherCarrozza.com

  2. katiebrigid says:

    This was GREAT! Thanks for making it so clear and easy to understand and explain to others!!

  3. Jeff says:

    Men, this is so well written! Really helpful! Thank you so much

  4. How do you know the saints you’re praying to are actually already in heaven? And how do you know they can hear you?

    • mattfradd says:

      All who have died and are now in heaven are considered Saints. We can have certainty that those canonized by the Church are in heaven. St. Thomas Aquinas says:

      “Since the honor we pay the saints is in a certain sense a profession of faith, i.e. a belief in the glory of the Saints we must piously believe that in this matter also the judgment of the Church is not liable to error” (Quodlib. IX, a. 16).

      We know they can hear our prayers because the Bible (see my post) and the authority of the Church testifies to that fact.

      The claim that in order for saints to know our prayers they must be omniscient and omnipresent is fallacious reasoning on three levels. Apologist Patrick Madrid writes:

      – First, since the saints are living in eternity they are not limited by time and space because they are beyond both. One might say it takes no time at all to hear all those prayers because the saints have no time.

      – Second, there is a finite number of people on earth, so there is a finite number of prayers at any one time. So, neither omniscience nor omnipresence is required to hear all the prayers ever prayed at one time, no matter how great their number.

      – Third, our inability to understand how the saints hear so many prayers is hardly a reason to deny that they can hear them. In their glorified state the saints are capable of doing things we can barely imagine: “Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, [nor has it] entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9). Those in heaven rejoice over the repentance of even one sinner (Lk 15:7, 10), but we have no details about how they can know about individual repentances.

      • Thanks Matt. That was very helpful. The Bible does seem to point to people in heaven being aware of events on Earth. I just had a few more thoughts: I’m assuming that Catholics are allowed to pray for the intercession of a deceased Catholic before he/she has actually been canonized. But how would one know that this deceased person has in fact gone to heaven and is not, say, still in purgatory? How would one know when to stop praying for the deceased person’s soul to leave purgatory, and to begin asking for that person’s intercession in heaven?

  5. Betty says:

    First of all,I believe you are talking about”roman catholics”as the word “catholic” means universal.Inthe creedprotestants say”I believe in the holy catholic church”We aenot saying we believe in the roman catholic church but the universal christian church of God. Also we do not get confused about the word pray. We know that prayer is talking to God through Jesus. That’s why we don’t have statues in our churches because we pray to God through his son. I have had many prayers and miracles in my life by going right to the source. He’s never too busy to listen.

    • mattfradd says:

      Thanks Betty,

      The word Catholic was first used around A.D. 107 by St. Ignatius of Antioch. It comes from the Greek katholikos, the combination of two words: kata- concerning, and holos- whole – concerning the whole. It was used in the early Church to distinguish between the true Church – the Church Jesus Christ established – and splinter groups.

      “Roman Catholic” refers to one of seven rites within the Church (see CCC. 1203), all of which are in full communion with the Catholic Church.

      We do not pray to the saints because Christ is too busy to hear us Betty. That is not the argument.

      If you have time, Betty, I’d appreciate you showing me what in my article you disagree with?

    • Betty,

      I was born and raised Protestant. My dad pastored Protestant churches. I attend one now. WE make too big a deal about statues in Roman Catholic churches. Do you have photos of your family in your home? If so, why? Are they there to remind you of people you love, and people who are important to you? That’s the same reason Roman Catholics have statues.

      • mattfradd says:

        Agreed.

        People who oppose religious statuary forget about the many passages where the Lord commands the making of statues. For example: “And you shall make two cherubim of gold [i.e., two gold statues of angels]; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end; of one piece of the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be” (Ex. 25:18–20).

        See also: 1 Chronicles. 28:18–19 and Ezekiel 41:17–18.

      • Rachel says:

        Hey Donny, thats exatcly how I feel about statues too! I look at photos of relatives and I may kiss the photo and say “I love you” to it. Does this mean I wrongly believe the photo IS my relative? Not at all. It just helps me to remember someone I love and it brings me comfort. Its the same with statues of Jesus and Our Lady and many other saints which, like family photos, are simply images of people we love. And if anyone says “well WE dont need statues in our churches”, well Catholics dont NEED statues in their’s either, its just nice to have them for the afore mentioned reasons. I like your way of thinking Donny 😉

      • ega says:

        but you do not hang those pictures and face them whenever you want to be helped, not a parallel action,anyway…

      • ega says:

        ..not a true protestant. i am persuaded..that’s the backbone of your faith,precisely. remember those posted thesis by martin luther,ur great man? the just shall live by faith..

        also, hanged pictures of ur family,is not the same with hanged pictures for ur God..Your family need those pictures for remembrance,but your do not need that.. “study to shew thyself approved unto God.”

      • Hugo says:

        Do you base your Images to this whole text_ Ex. 25:18–20?, that was a decoration for the Arc, that was not a comand to make images of a men or anything else and pray to them or with tthem as you try to point, if you can not difier one decoration from one Statue like the bull or if you don’t understand the second comand as it is en Exodus then you can not listen any thing but catholic words

  6. Scott Everett says:

    I chose to be confirmed under the name of gregory the great, as he was patron saint of music, as my wife chose cecelia for much the same reason.

    I quite often play to the lord, then christ, then my saint to help get the answer i need. I feel that if we take these saints names, then we should talk to them from time to time.

    • Rachel says:

      Certainly. If you feel a closeness to a certain saint, close enough to take their name, then it would be beneficial to talk with them. They are there for you. I took Bernadette Suobirous’s name, I love having a good chat with that girl.

  7. Scott Everett says:

    That was supposed to be pray….Thinking about music….

  8. Rachel says:

    Very well said Matt.

  9. ega says:

    There is one mediator between man and God,the man Christ Jesus.1 Tim 2:15. none other..that clarifies everything. no man,no saints,no pictures,no good works..only christ Jesus..

  10. Christie says:

    Thank you Matt, that answer was very helpful. I agree that the Bible does attest to the ability of saints to be conscious of events occurring on Earth. Just had a few more thoughts: I’m assuming Catholics are allowed to ask for a particular deceased Catholic’s intercession before his/her canonization, hoping that he/she may one day be canonized. If so, how would one know that this deceased person is in heaven and not, say, purgatory? How would one know when to stop praying for a deceased person to depart purgatory, and begin asking said person to intercede for them in heaven?

  11. Rachel says:

    Hi Ega, when you tell me “but you do not hang those pictures and face them whenever you want to be helped, not a parallel action,anyway,” how do you know I dont? Because I can tell you I actually do do this with family mambers who’ve passed on and i believe/hope/pray are in heaven and therefore closer to God than i am here on earth. And if anyone thinks thats daft or wierd thats their opinion, but for me it feels perfectly natural and Im not the only person who does it, not by a long shot.

  12. James says:

    There are a number problems theologically with this doctrine. One is that an unprovable-Biblical assumptions are being made as facts. For example:
    1) How do you know someone who has died can hear your prayers? That would assume that they have some kind of power to know. Scripture never speaks like this for those who have died.

    2) If the person you are praying to is in purgatory how do you know they can hear you from there and do something about your requests?

    3) This doctrine and practice is a denial of depending on Christ alone for our needs. He commanded that we pray to Him and in His name. He has promised to answer.

    4) When Paul and Peter wrote about their impending deaths in their letters they make no mention of being able to hear prayers to them after they died.

    Asking someone to pray for you hear that you know personally is not the same as praying to a person who has died and has no more to do with this world.

  13. Jon says:

    Nice, it is really biblical when you pray to saints.

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