James was a little self-opinionated and spoke his mind freely. He used to say “if something is wrong then it is wrong despite the passage of time or changes in fashions or opinions.” In this respect he was correct of course.
One day he approached Father Ignatius and asked, “Father, I’ve had this argument with a colleague at work. He quoted the Bible, and to be honest he out-foxed me. I had no answer.
“He said that in the Bible, in a book called 1 Timothy Chapter 2, here I got it marked … let me read it Father. It says, and I quote, ‘I desire therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men. For kings, and for all that are in high station’… blah blah blah …
“Ah here it is Father … ‘For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus Who gave himself a redemption for all, a testimony in due times.’ ”
Father Ignatius smiled and said nothing. James continued.
“Well … this man at work said to me that we Catholics are wrong to pray to Saints because as it says here, there is only one mediator of God and men, and it is Jesus. What do you say about that, Father?”
“Let me first tell you who Timothy was,” said Father Ignatius in his usual calm manner, “he was a young Christian and a companion and assistant of Paul in his missionary work. What you have just read is Paul’s first letter to Timothy.
“Of course, Paul, and your friend at work are right. There is only one mediator between humanity and God.
“Let us consider for a moment what Paul means by mediator. Humanity sinned against God and God, being all loving and merciful decided to give us a second chance as it were. He sent His only begotten Son; that whoever believes in Him, will not perish, but will have life everlasting. You can read it in the Gospel of John at 3:16.
“This is what it means that Jesus is the only mediator between humanity and God. No one else but Jesus came to earth as God and as man in order to bridge the gap between us sinners and our Creator God.
“As Jesus said, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by me.’ You will find this in John Chapter 14 Verse 6 if I’m not mistaken.”
James quickly checked his pocket Bible and said, “You are right, Father!”
“Another favourite quotation of mine,” smiled Father Ignatius, “is, ‘I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.’ That’s also in John Chapter 10. Look it up.
“But to answer your friend’s question about mediator, he is of course right. There is only one mediator between man and God, and that is Jesus as I have explained.
“But when it comes to prayers, perhaps he is taking the term mediator too literally.
“Let’s look at it another way. If I ask you to pray for me, or if you pray for your friend, you are in effect mediating on his behalf. You are asking God to bless your friend, to look after him and take care of him. In prayer, you are a mediator on behalf of your friend.
“Is that wrong? You are in no way mediating in the sense that Jesus came to die for us, and forgive our sins. He is, and was, God personified in human form. His mediation, His sacrifice, is totally different to you mediating on behalf of someone by praying for them.
“In the same way, when we pray to Saints, we are not praying TO them in the sense that we place them in the same standing as our Lord Jesus Christ. This would be wrong. Only Jesus is the Son of God and mediator as I’ve explained. We worship only God not Saints.
“When we Catholics pray to Saints we are praying in the sense that we are asking them to pray on our behalf to God. Just like you pray to God for your friend. That’s what praying means. And in no way are we going behind God’s back by praying to Saints instead.
“God must have held Saints in high esteem. He chose Mary and Joseph to be the parents of His Son Jesus. Jesus in turn chose the disciples whom we consider as Saints, like Saint Peter. Do you think God will be angry with us for honouring these people? Mary, Joseph, Peter, Paul and many others? Will He be upset that we ask them to pray to God on our behalf?
“Is God upset when you pray on behalf of your friend?”
“I guess not,” said James.
“Sadly, many Catholics pray to Saints in the sense your friend mentioned,” continued Father Ignatius, “they are wrong to do so, and your friend at work is correct to say they should not do so.
“Perhaps our Church needs to explain this better to our parishioners. Saints do not need our prayers, our flowers or candles or whatever else we may offer them. We do this out of love and respect in the same way we place flowers on graves. Not to buy favours from Saints.
“Your friend or colleague is right in thinking we set a bad Christian example. In this respect, I agree with him.”
MORE FATHER IGNATIUS STORIES HERE