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Posts Tagged ‘Praying to Saints’

Why do I pray to dead people?

Someone sent me the video below with this comment:

Please consider the video below and give me your thoughts:

Ecclesiastes 9:5 – For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; Nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun.

 

 

Firstly, we have to be very careful to define what ‘dead’ means in this context. As we know, believers are assured ‘Eternal Life’, pretty much as Jesus reassured Martha concerning the death of her brother Lazarus; “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”  (John 11:24-25)

So how can we correctly interpret Ecclesiastes 9:5?

Simply put this scripture refers to those who departed unjustified or outside God’s ‘friendship’. It clearly states that they have NO more rewards and they have PERISHED (meaning, NOT obtained Eternal Life, the believers reward) with their love, hatred and envy. They have no share in the world to come. Clearly, this scripture does NOT refer to God’s saints, those who lived by the Gospel and confessed Jesus as their Savior. Otherwise, how could  anyone even hope for a life in Glory once their earthly life ended?

Before I proceed, let us reflect on another piece of Scripture:

For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does. ( 1Peter 4:6)
 

Now, the Catholic Church teaches that the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, and that this body is formed both by the souls of the saints departed, as well as by the faithful and Saints in the temporal world (living people). The Church teaches also that within the Body of Christ there is what is called the Communion of the Saints, both on earth and in heaven, as it’s stated in our Creed:

 […] We believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the Communion of the Saints and LIFE EVERLASTING.

Catholics believe that the Saints departed, who are also part of the Mystical Body of the Christ have attained EVERLASTING life! Therefore, just as the Bible says, they are NOT dead, but they live in Heaven in the Glory of God.

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. (Revelation 5:8)

 

There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. (Mt 17:2)

 

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (Jn 11:25)

Catholics, just as all other Christians, DO NOT pray to ‘dead’ people. But as seen  in the Scriptures, ‘dead’ may refer to those who have perished and NOT entered Heaven or gained Eternal Life. Catholics pray for the intercession of the Saints of God, who live in Glory in Heaven and  have obtained Eternal life, not eternal punishment.

Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about the Communion of the Saints: 

947 Why do we believe this? Saint Paul explained that the body is corruptible when it is buried, but it will be incorruptible when raised.

“It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a SPIRITUAL body” (1 Corinthians 15:43-44).

With this said, I would like to move to a second, but equally important point, that concerns the character of our prayers or petitions. Let us clarify that the word prayer comes from the Latin route that means “ to ask”.

The RCC forbids ANY sort of Adoration or Prayer of Praise that is not addressed to GOD alone. Obviously, since we believe in the Holy Trinity, prayers of Adoration can also be addressed to the three persons of the Holy Trinity.

However, to Saints, and this includes Mary, we can ONLY address prayers that  are intercessory, but NEVER of adoration or worship!

Therefore, we “ask” the Saints, since they are in Heaven and have  attained a much higher spiritual Growth than we have, to  pray to the Lord on our behalf, much in the same way as we do when we pray for a friend’s prayer or pray ourselves for those who ask for our prayers.

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel[…]

He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:27)
 
Rom. 8:28 – God “works for good with” (the Greek is “sunergei eis agathon”) those who love Him. We work as subordinate mediators.

1 Tim 2:5-6 – therefore, it is because Jesus Christ is the one mediator before God that we can be subordinate mediators. Jesus is the reason.

The Catholic position gives Jesus the most glory.  He does it all but loves us so much He desires our participation.

Proverbs 15:8, 29 – the prayers of the righteous (the saints) have powerful effects. This is why we ask for their prayers.

In the letter of James (James 5:16), we read: How much more powerful are the saints’ prayers in heaven, in whom righteousness has been perfected.

 In the OT we see these examples of intercession of Heavenly being on behalf of the living:

 “But at that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people: and a time shall come, such as never was from the time that nations began, even until that time. And at that time shall thy people be saved, every one that shall be found written in the book.” -Daniel 12:1

“Behold Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.”-Daniel 10:13

Because we think the prayers of the righteous are strong and full of power and because they are willing to cooperate for our salvation.

“Since all the faithful form one body, the good of each is communicated to the others…. We must therefore believe that there exists a communion of goods in the Church. But the most important member is Christ, since he is the head….

Therefore, the riches of Christ are communicated to all the members, through the sacraments.”478 “As this Church is governed by one and the same Spirit, all the goods she has received necessarily become a common fund.”479 (Eph 6:18-19).

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With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel[…] (Eph 6:18-19).

Prayer is probably the best and most effective way to be united with God.  A good prayer-life is  like a doorway to receiving many graces and attaining true communion with God.  Through prayer one we can open one’s channels to receive whatever the Lord wishes to give us or reveal to us through His Holy Spirit. A prayerful person, through perseverance in prayer, may be enabled to discern God’s will from their own will and thus be more equipped to understand what God has deigned for them and respond to His plan. 

Catholics get a lot of questions (and criticism) about how we pray as well as to whom we pray. In my short experience with Catholic apologetics, I have found that most of the criticism is based on preconceived ideas, prejudice or mere ignorance. People often accuse Catholics of praying to Mary, instead of praying to Jesus, of praying to the Saints and not directly to God and so on… 

Obviously, these claims are all but accurate, because they mis-intreprete a core teaching of the Church that tell us that Christ is our only mediator to God, and that only through him we can get to God Father, and also because they fail to consider what Catholics call the communion of Saints. Simply it is not correct to state that Catholics pray to Saints in detriment of God.

Rather, we ask the Saints to pray on our behalftaking our petetions/prayers to the Lord. Prayers involving saints are petitionary or intercessory prayers, through which one asks for a favor (spiritual or more rarely, material) for oneself or for others. In the Scriptures we read  how Moses pleaded to God to spare his people, or Mary to Jesus at the wedding in Cana (Jn 2:1-11) or how Paul asked for prayers (Rm 15:30 or Eph 6:19).

11 But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God. “O LORD,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13  (Ex 20:11-13)

Such intercessory prayers by no means substitute a sincere prayer  addressed directly to Lord Jesus, Who is God and who we worship.  Never will a Catholic pray a prayer of Adoration or Praise to a Saint. This would be most reprehensible. Such prayers are reserved to God and God only.  I add here that Catholics worship the Holy Trinity, so we may say prayers of praise to God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:27)

However, to understand the idea of praying with the Saints one must consider the Catholic doctrine regarding the Communion with Saints. Failing to understand such concept will limit or prevent a correct understanding of the Catholic approach to intercessory prayers. 

The communion of saints 

In the  Apostle’s Creed, which  is a summary of the Core beliefs of our faith,  we profess that we believe in the Holy Catholic Church and the communion of saints. The Catechism states that : 

946 […] “What is the Church if not the assembly of all the saints?”477 The communion of saints is the Church. 

947 “Since all the faithful form one body, the good of each is communicated to the others…. We must therefore believe that there exists a communion of goods in the Church. But the most important member is Christ, since he is the head…. Therefore, the riches of Christ are communicated to all the members, through the sacraments.”478 “As this Church is governed by one and the same Spirit, all the goods she has received necessarily become a common fund.”479 

 The Communion of the Church of Heaven and Earth

When the Lord comes in glory, and all his angels with him, death will be no more and all things will be subject to him. But at the present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating ‘in full light, God himself triune and one, exactly as he is. 

956 The intercession of the saints. “Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness…. They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus…. So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.”493 

Saint Paul explained that the body is corruptible when it is buried, but it will be incorruptible when raised.  “It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory.  It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.  It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:43-44). 

The belief that Catholics have on being in communion with the spiritual beings in Heaven, who come to our aid can be verified inthe Scriptures, such as in Jude 1:9, or when Elijah and Moses prayed with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.

And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one forElijah.” (Matthew 17: 3-4)

“But at that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people: and a time shall come, such as never was from the time that nations began, even until that time. And at that time shall thy people be saved, every one that shall be found written in the book.”
-Daniel 12:1

“Behold Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.”
-Daniel 10:13 

 Here is another post on  Praying to Saints 

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