For years on end the discussion as to whether it is right for Catholics to pray to Saints rages on. So let’s all join in and see if we can clear the confusion a little.
Those who accuse Catholics of wrong doing seem to focus on two points in particular; there are others; but let’s concentrate on the main two points.
It is not Biblical. No where in the Bible does it say that we should pray to Saints, or that they can hear us and/or answer our prayers or intervene on our behalf.
Praying to anyone else but God is wrong. We are worshiping Saints and this is sacrilegious. Only Christ is the way to God.
I’ll start with the first point – It is not Biblical.
Of course, our critics are right. Praying to Saints is not Biblical and nowhere does the Bible encourage it. The reason for this is that at the time many books of the New Testament were written the early Christians were too busy spreading God’s Word and the Good News about Christ. Many died violently for their belief and their message. The word Saint had not even been invented then. It was much later that these early Christians and martyrs were considered special by the Church and worthy of special attention.
So let’s look further at these people. People like Christ’s earthly parents, Mary and Joseph, or His disciples like Peter, Matthew and the others, or people like Paul and Barnabas who spread the Gospel far and wide.
What happened when they died? Did they just turn into dust to be forgotten for ever? Or did they perhaps get welcomed to Heaven by Jesus?
At this juncture, one should point out that in all likelihood they are in Heaven, and not waiting in some Heavenly Waiting Room somewhere watching TV or reading magazines until Judgement Day. And by the way, this is Biblical.
When Christ turned to the thief beside Him on the Cross He said “today you’ll be in Heaven with me”. He did not say “you’ll have to stay in the Waiting Room a while”.
So having assumed that these early “Saints”, and others since, are in Heaven, we ask what are they doing there.
Is it possible that, having led a saintly life when on earth, helping others and spreading God’s Word, they have now, once in Heaven, somehow become either deaf or immune to our calls for help and intercession? When we pray to these Saints do they suddenly put their hands on their ears and shout “La La Lala … La La Lala … I can’t hear you because it is not Biblical to do so!”
Or is it perhaps possible that, as they have been accepted in Heaven and honoured by God for what they had done when on earth, He sometimes, in His own time, and according to His will, He grants their requests and answers our prayers in the form of a miracle perhaps; or by helping us in some way. For it is God who performs the miracles and not the Saints!
Indeed, miracles do happen in this day and age. The trouble is few people are willing to believe in them.
And now we turn to the second point in this discussion – Praying to anyone else but God is wrong. Praying to Saints is idolatry, and so is having statues and images of them, placing flowers or lighting candles by their statues and images and so on.
Let me first ask our critics whether they have a photo of their loved ones in their wallet, purse, or on their desk at work or workplace.
When they look at the photo do they actually love the piece of paper, (or image on their cell phone or tablet), or does it remind them of their loved ones and how precious they are to them?
In the same way, when Catholics pray in front of a statue or an image, they do not pray to the piece of stone or marble; but it is just a representation to remind them of what that particular Saint/individual might look like. Placing flowers or lighting candles in no way is a sign of idolatry but just a sign of respect and reverence to the individual prayed to. God, Christ and the Saints do not need our flowers, candles or constant prayers; in that they are in no way diminished or found wanting if we do not do these things. We do them out of respect.
Perhaps the point could be made another way. When our critics lose a loved one, do they ever visit the grave, where the name and perhaps a photo of the deceased are displayed? Do they ever place flowers on the grave? Or do they just assume that the person is dead and either in Heaven, hell or maybe in a Waiting Room somewhere?
Do our critics keep photos in albums of their deceased loved ones? And do they remember them every now and then and smile perhaps?
It is no different for Catholics. When we place flowers in front of a statue or image, when we pray to the Saints and ask for help, it is because we believe in life after death. It is because we believe these people are in Heaven. They are looking down upon us.
And they are certainly not singing “La La Lala … I can’t hear you!”