In the Introduction to this series, we listed the Five Increasingly Ignored Gifts for our Transformation: the Divine Law Fulfilled, the Church, the Intercessions of the Saints, the Indwelling of the Holy Trinity, and the Eucharist. These Sacramentals are made possible only because the Holy Trinity became fully human over 2,000 years ago.
The goal for each of these five Sacramentals is to transform us, not as a one-time-thing, but as a necessity for our lifetime attention, every day, never-ending.
The evidence of our experience plainly shows that when we call upon these Sacramentals, which God provides out of infinite love for us, our transformations are immensely simpler and more swift. We can see the stories unfold in our friends, family, and even Catholic novels.
The third Sacramental discussed here is the Intercessions of the Saints. In short, the Intercessions of the Saints focuses us on those who have gone before us, who, being so much more indescribably closer to God, petition on our behalf using our prayer requests that conform to God’s design. As stated in the Catechism of the Council of Trent, “A stronger claim which the Saints have to be honored and invoked is that they constantly pray for our salvation and obtain for us by their merits and influence many blessings from God.” Trent also clarifies: “To God, we properly say: Have mercy on us, Hear us; but to the Saints, Pray for us.”
In short, the physical world of the flesh and demons is out to get us. But in humility we can ask the saints to take our petitions to God, to pray for an end to suffering, if it be God’s will. And, if the suffering continues for a while, in our hurting, we gain some comfort in knowing with confidence that the suffering is God’s will, since wise and charitable men, women, and angels have pleaded for us. The saints lovingly take this on, as St. Therese of Lisieux offers, “I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth.”
One big reason we ask the saints for help: It works. The history of the Church attests to hundreds of examples of prayers to God answered with saints' help, as documented in each saint's case for canonization, for example.
This holy Gift, this Sacramental, the Intercessions of the Saints, shares the same ten characteristics with the other four Sacramentals:
1) The Incarnation of God incites and illuminates this Sacramental for us. Only the human birth, life, and death of the second person of the Trinity originates this Gift for us.
The Incarnation leads to the Passion and Resurrection, which opened heaven to us and our ancestors, the saints.
2) The Holy Trinity designed this Sacramental to guide, and be invoked in, our brief mortal lives. And it leads to the Beatific Vision afterward.
3) This Sacramental is universal to all Christians. But the Catholic Church uniquely accentuates this Sacramental.
Any Christian, Catholic or otherwise, can ask the saints for help, to ask our Lord to ease our suffering and lead us to the Beatific Vision.
4) The Christian world is ignoring this Sacramental, more and more, every generation.
This assertion is difficult to measure with example surveys. However, we know we live in a majority Protestant and Modernist country. This belief in the saint’s intercessions is rejected by both those groups. See https://christianityfaq.com/protestants-belief-about-saints/
The more Catholics fully realized this Sacramental, the more Catholics would pray with our Blessed Mother in the devotion she recommended during her confirmed visits to us. Here is one survey exhibiting the low magnitude of this belief among Catholics in 2020:
Percent of Catholics who pray the Rosary:
- Daily: 11%
- Weekly: 16%
- Yearly: 31%
- Less than once per year: 43%
The next group of three characteristics point to how we know these Gifts: by revelation and faith.
5) We can understand the basis of this Sacramental from Scripture and Tradition.
In Luke 16:19-30, Jesus verifies the help those in heaven can give us. We know these souls are not really “dead,” but living; as Paul instructs in Romans 15:30 and elsewhere, the living can pray for others. In Revelation 6, John writes, “And they cried with a loud voice, saying: How long, O Lord (holy and true) dost thou not judge and revenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” In Revelation 5, he describes the heavenly prayers of the saints. See the end of this article for a more complete set of passages. Remember to take each passage as a starting point for the Magisterium, an entire library of concurring Truths.
6) We can recall this Sacramental, anytime, anywhere, by using phrases we already know by heart:
- Paternoster: “May Your will be done”
- Beatitude: “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted”
7) We can invoke and build upon this Sacramental, daily, by using this particular devotion: The Holy Rosary.
Sister Lucia dos Santos of Fatima: “There is no problem no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families... that cannot be solved by the Rosary.” If any saint will intercede for us, it is the Blessed Virgin. In the many petitions said, we ask, “pray for us sinners.” As the Catechism of the Council of Trent notes, “In this prayer we should earnestly implore her help and assistance; for that she possesses exalted merits with God, and that she is most desirous to assist us by her prayers, no one can doubt without impiety and wickedness.” At this time, we can even recall our sins, even if in gratitude for the mercy God already has granted at a long-ago Confession. The Rosary also is meditative on the life of Christ and Mary, which points to the next Sacramental to discuss next week, the Indwelling.
The final group of three characteristics point to the fears that the Gifts help us overcome, and the consequences of failing to accept these Gifts and caving in to fear.
8) This Sacramental helps overcome widespread, but distracting and pointless, human fears.
The distraction here is the fear of not satisfying our earthly goals, of “performing” well, doing tasks correctly and at the right time. One could mention hundreds of specific distractions in this category. All stem from the devil, ourselves, or the world, and all plague us almost every waking hour. They distract when we try to pray, when we try to serve, and when we try to interrelate. Remembering and asking the saints to watch over us removes this distraction, the fear, and the disquiet.
9) That fear or distraction often heavily associates with a particular modern temptation, which we often use to sinfully defeat that fear.
One way some use to overcome this disturbing distraction, the fear of not performing well and its overwhelming anxiety, is to feign control over the world with a manufactured peace. The mindfulness trend is taking over, teaching people to focus on small bits of self, like breathing, or to empty one’s mind altogether. Another way that new-age, “Eastern” thinking infects us is when we comfort ourselves by pretending we are parts of a pantheistic comprehensive whole, unaffected by other parts.
10) That sinful alternative illustrates a battle between a unique theology of Catholic Christianity versus a heresy held by other “religions.”
The error and heresy invoked here is pantheism, developed in the East, such as from Confucian religions, which teach that our goal is to live according to a cosmic order, the one established by ancestors. The error in that theology is that the functioning and causes of the world are the development and evolution of god itself; for these religions, and for those who practice mindfulness and mind-emptying, all things are god or a part of a god. But, as Christians, we know the Holy Trinity created our universe from nothing. Our purpose is to not to exist as a part of a deified comprehensive whole, but to create and evolve our souls within God’s created universe, with or without suffering, with help from God and the prayers of the saints.
But this search for power over the material world to eliminate the fear of not performing well is unnecessary. Knowing that the saints are praying for us overcomes this fear altogether.
To summarize this Sacramental and its importance to each of our transformations, I’ll use the explanation given in my novel, Virtual Eternity: An Epic 90s-Retro Florida Techno Pro-Life Love Story and Conversion Journey, as conveyed by Dante, the main character’s guide when he reaches heaven:
“Humans are tormented by many other distractions, such as the fear of missing or failing at the details of survival: of ambition, achievement, comforts, tasks, and decisions yet to be made; of constant concern about lacking or being disoriented or inconvenienced. The sins of greed and pride cause these fears.
“And which of you, by taking thought, can add to his stature one cubit? (Luke 12:25) 1
“And the devil and its world entice you all on how to overcome these many fears, such as using the false ability to mislead yourself into hallucinations about body control and mind focus and harmony with the physical world, so you all can pretend to avoid such sinful and distracting worries.
“You do not need these sinful lies. Instead, have faith and pray that God’s holy will ensues within and around you, and know with certainty that saints are praying for you, all achieved through God’s grace.
“I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth. (St. Therese of Lisieux) 2
“Thus, the Holy Trinity desires you to know that those in heaven ask God to intercede for you, and you personally, not only for the vast swath of humanity. God seeks what is best for you, individually and alone, but not necessarily what you feel is best for you, such that if what you want does not transpire, you do well to suffer. The Holy Trinity listens to the prayers that the saints in heaven provide for you. They know God’s will more closely.
“And when he had opened the book, the four living creatures, and the four and twenty ancients fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. (Revelation 5:8) 1
“The Holy Trinity grants their requests in accordance with Its design, not necessarily the earthly individual’s wants, despite the suffering it may cause you.
“That is why those who mourn are blessed, and they will receive comfort.
“Thy will be done: The Holy Trinity enables the created world to proceed according to Its design and will, but part of that will and design are the requests of eternal souls closer to It, expressed in prayer.”
Scripture and Tradition
The Holy Bible 1
 There was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen; and feasted sumptuously every day.  And there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, who lay at his gate, full of sores,  Desiring to be filled with the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table, and no one did give him; moreover the dogs came, and licked his sores.  And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. And the rich man also died: and he was buried in hell.  And lifting up his eyes when he was in torments, he saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom:  And he cried, and said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, to cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this flame.  And Abraham said to him: Son, remember that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime, and likewise Lazarus evil things, but now he is comforted; and thou art tormented.  And besides all this, between us and you, there is fixed a great chaos: so that they who would pass from hence to you, cannot, nor from thence come hither.  And he said: Then, father, I beseech thee, that thou wouldst send him to my father's house, for I have five brethren,  That he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torments.  And Abraham said to him: They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.  But he said: No, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will do penance.
 By all prayer and supplication praying at all times in the spirit; and in the same watching with all instance and supplication for all the saints:  And for me, that speech may be given me, that I may open my mouth with confidence, to make known the mystery of the gospel.
 I beseech you therefore, brethren, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the charity of the Holy Ghost, that you help me in your prayers for me to God.
 And when he had opened the book, the four living creatures, and the four and twenty ancients fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.
 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.  And they cried with a loud voice, saying: How long, O Lord (holy and true) dost thou not judge and revenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?  And white robes were given to every one of them one; and it was said to them, that they should rest for a little time, till their fellow servants, and their brethren, who are to be slain, even as they, should be filled up.
The Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566) 3
The Decalogue: It Is Lawful to Honour and Invoke the Saints
A stronger claim which the Saints have to be honored and invoked is that they constantly pray for our salvation and obtain for us by their merits and influence many blessings from God. If there is joy in heaven over the conversion of one sinner, will not the citizens of heaven assist those who repent? When they are invoked, will they not obtain for us the pardon of sins, and the grace of God?
The Lord’s Prayer: Prayer - God and The Saints Addressed Differently
We do not address God and the Saints in the same manner, for we implore God to grant us blessings or to deliver us from evils; while we ask the Saints, since they are the friends of God, to take us under their patronage and to obtain for us from God whatever we need. Hence we make use of two different forms of prayer. To God, we properly say: Have mercy on us, Hear us; but to the Saints, Pray for us. Still we may also ask the Saints, though in a different sense, that they have mercy on us, for they are most merciful. Thus we may beseech them that, touched with the misery of our condition, they would interpose in our behalf their influence and intercession before God.
The Lord’s Prayer: Prayer - For the Blessed Virgin Mary
To this form of thanksgiving the Church of God has wisely added prayers and an invocation addressed to the most holy Mother of God, by which we piously and humbly fly to her patronage, in order that, by her intercession, she may reconcile God to us sinners and may obtain for us those blessings which we stand in need of in this life and in the life to come. We, therefore, exiled children of Eve, who dwell in this vale of tears, should constantly beseech the Mother of mercy, the advocate of the faithful, to pray for us sinners. In this prayer we should earnestly implore her help and assistance; for that she possesses exalted merits with God, and that she is most desirous to assist us by her prayers, no one can doubt without impiety and wickedness.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1995) 4
970 "Mary's function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin's salutary influence on men . . . flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it." "No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source."
975 "We believe that the Holy Mother of God, the new Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven to exercise her maternal role on behalf of the members of Christ" (Paul VI).
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."
962 "We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always [attentive] to our prayers" (Paul VI).
2683 The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom, especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were "put in charge of many things." Their intercession is their most exalted service to God's plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world.
St. Therese of Lisieux 2
I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth.
1. The Holy Bible, Douay-Rheims Version, 2009, Saint Benedict Press [Original published 1582-1609]
2. Henri Gheon, The Secret of the Little Flower, 1977, Sheed & Ward Ltd [Original 1934]
3. The Catechism of the Council of Trent, (J.A McHugh, O.P., and C.J. Callan, Trans.), 1923, Middletown, DE [Original 1566]
4. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1995, Doubleday