First a definition:
"To pray," as a verb, has two very distinct meanings:
1 : to make a request
in a humble manner
2 : to address God or a god with adoration, confession, supplication, or
It is only in this
first sense that Catholics "pray" to saints. "To pray" is simply to ask,
and it is a common English word as these examples will show: "Comes now
Petitioner and, having filed his Motion in Limine, prays this Honorable Court
to grant..." or "I pray thee, sir, might I borrow your book?". In the first
instance, the Petitioner is not worshipping the Court. In the second, the
potential book-borrower is not worshipping the book owner. And if I ever
ask you, "Where have you been, pray tell?" I am not worshipping you, trust
All worship in the sense of latria is God's alone. All grace comes from God
alone. Only Christ can save us. Please read these three sentences
again; they are core Catholic doctrine as taught for 2,000 years.
OK, so why pray to saints? We pray to saints to ask them to pray for us,
in the same way you might pray for me if I ask and I would pray for you if
you ask. Christians are called to pray for each other: James 5:16 "Pray one
for another... The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
I imagine that this isn't controversial for you!
Where the problems come in are with the interpretation of the Old Testament
prohibition against necromancy and with the Protestant ideas of the nature
of death. Let's take these issues one at a time:
Please read carefully
the verses Leviticus 19:31, Deuteronomy 18:10-12, 1 Samuel 28:3-18, Isaiah
8:19, Isaiah 19:3, and Isaiah 47:12-14 (see below in Relevant Scripture).
The Old Testament prohibitions were against sorcery, witchcraft, necromancy
(the conjuring of the dead), seeking counsel of the dead, trying to bring
back the dead, the use of enchantment -- practices akin to our modern
"channeling" and seances -- practices the Church has preached against for
2,000 years. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
2116 All forms
of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring
up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to "unveil" the future.
Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and
lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal
a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human
beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the
honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.
2117 All practices
of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers,
so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others
- even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely
contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned
when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse
to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism
often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns
the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not
justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's
The God of the Living
Now look closely
at Mark 12:26-27:
the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the
burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, "I am the God of Abraham,
the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead, but
the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken."
There are only
two ways we can go with this verse: either Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are
dead in the supernatural realm and God is not their God, which would make
God a liar -- an impossibility! -- or Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are
ALIVE and God is their God just as He said.
Now, who appeared with our Lord during His transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8,
see below in Relevant Scripture)? Moses and Elias -- God's righteous men,
ALIVE! Matthew 27:53 tells us that on the day of Christ's resurrection, the
dead came out of their graves and appeard to many, Revelation tells us that
in John's vision of Heaven, he saw the Heavenly Saints burning incense and
praying. The Old Testament, too, speaks of the intercession of "dead" Saints
as it describes how Moses and Samuel, bodily dead, ask God for mercy for
those on earth (Jeremiah 15:1). 2 Maccabees 15:14 describes Judah's vision
in which St. Onias the high priest shows him Jeremiah the prophet, now in
heaven: "And Onias spoke, saying, 'This is a man who loves the brethren and
prays much for the people and the holy city, Jeremiah, the prophet of God'"
(Of course, Maccabees was torn out of Protestant
Bibles along with 6 other books in the 16th century during the Protestant
Reformation, even though those books, called by Catholics the "Deuterocanonical
books" and by Protestants the "Apocrypha," were in the same version of the
Old Testament (the Septuagint) read and quoted by the apostles. This is agreed
upon by most Biblical scholars and is evident by the fact that the Septuagint
is referenced over 300 times in the New Testament).
Hebrews 12:1 tells us that we are surrounded by a "great cloud of witnesses"!
Think of it! We are surrounded not only by God's Love, the Spirit of the
Comforter, and the marvelous evidence of His greatness -- sacramental nature,
but we are surrounded by His angels and His saints who pray for us and intercede
for us! The entire universe glorifies His name! This thorougly Scriptural
and Catholic view is expressed in the phrase "The Communion of Saints," used
to describe the concept of the Mystical Body of Christ (His Church) being
made of three parts: the Church Militant (Christians on earth); the Church
Suffering (Christians who are being cleansed in
Purgatory before they stand before Almighty
God), the Church Triumphant (Christians in Heaven).
But all Christians are saints!
Yes, in the broad
sense, which is why the Catholic Church refers to the Communion of
Saints which includes those Christians on earth and in Purgatory. But
the Saints that have been canonized are simply those men and women whose
holiness sets an example for all Christians to follow. They are people especially
recognized by the Church as role models for us to emulate and as friends
we can turn to for prayer.
The secular world rightly honors its heroes -- the brave soldiers, the brilliant
scientists, the artists, etc. --- and it even makes up pretend heroes with
the Batmans and Supermans found in comic books. For Catholics, the hero is
a man of virtue, and the heroine is the woman whose dedication to Christ
makes her truly worthy of respect.
You are not alone, my fellow Christian! Even if you feel as though you are
the loneliest person on earth, God's Saints, our brothers and sisters in
Christ, want to pray for you! And their prayers are more efficacious than
the prayers of most of our Christian brothers and sisters in this realm because
those in Heaven have been purified and stand in the very Presence of God.
Nothing unclean enters Heaven (Revelation 21:27)! Those who are there are
fully partaking in the divine nature:
2 Peter 1:4
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by
these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption
that is in the world through lust.
Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment,
nor observe times.
Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to
be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.
A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall
surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall
be upon them.
There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter
to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times,
or an enchanter, or a witch. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits,
or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination
unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive
them out from before thee.
And it came to pass when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes
and looked, and, behold, there stood a man [an angel] over against him with
his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him,
"Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?" And he said, "Nay; but as captain
of the host of the Lord am I now come." And Joshua fell on his face to the
earth, and did worship....
1 Samuel 28:3-18
Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah,
even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits,
and the wizards, out of the land. And the Philistines gathered themselves
together, and came and pitched in Shunem: and Saul gathered all Israel together,
and they pitched in Gilboa. And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines,
he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. And when Saul enquired of
the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor
by prophets. Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath
a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants
said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor.
And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two
men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee,
divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall
name unto thee. And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul
hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the
wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life,
to cause me to die? And Saul sware to her by the LORD, saying, As the LORD
liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing. Then said
the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel.
And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman
spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul. And
the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman
said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth. And he said unto her,
What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered
with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with
his face to the ground, and bowed himself. And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast
thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed;
for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and
answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have
called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do. Then said
Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from
thee, and is become thine enemy? And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake
by me: for the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it
to thy neighbour, even to David: Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the
LORD, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the LORD
done this thing unto thee this day.
And when they say to you, "Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper
and mutter," should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead
on behalf of the living?
The spirit of Egypt will fail in its midst;
I will destroy their counsel,
And they will consult the idols and the charmers,
The mediums and the sorcerers.
Stand now with your enchantments
And the multitude of your sorceries,
In which you have labored from your youth--
Perhaps you will be able to profit,
Perhaps you will prevail.
You are wearied in the multitude of your counsels;
Let now the astrologers, the stargazers,
And the monthly prognosticators
Stand up and save you
From what shall come upon you.
Behold, they shall be as stubble,
The fire shall burn them;
They shall not deliver themselves
From the power of the flame;
It shall not be a coal to be warmed by,
Nor a fire to sit before!
Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel [dead in the body at
this time] stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people:
cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth.
I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the
saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One.
2 Maccabees 12:44
For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again,
it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. [see 1
Corinthians 15:29 below]
2 Maccabees 15:14
And Onias spoke, saying, "This is a man who loves the brethren and prays
much for the people and the holy city, Jeremiah [bodily dead], the prophet
And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth
them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and
his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And,
behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. Then answered
Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt,
let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and
one for Elias. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them:
and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son,
in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. And when the disciples heard it,
they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched
them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their
eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.
And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy
city, and appeared unto many.
But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of
Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, "I am the
God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God
of the dead, but the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken."
Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth
the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto
1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know
in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1 Corinthians 15:29
Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If
the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us,
and let us run with patience the race that is set before us
But you are come to mount Sion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly
Jerusalem, and to the company of many thousands of angels, And to the church
of the firstborn, who are written in the heavens, and to God the judge of
all, and to the spirits of the just made perfect, And to Jesus the
mediator of the new testament, and to the sprinkling of blood which speaketh
better than that of Abel.
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may
be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
2 Peter 1:4
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by
these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption
that is in the world through lust. [This answers the common question, "How
can a mere person, even in Heaven, hear prayers from all over the world?
That's something only God can do!" When we see God as He is, we come to share
in His Divine Nature (not in His Divine Essence). See also I Corinthians
When he broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of all
the people who had been killed on account of the word of God, for witnessing
to it. They shouted aloud, "Holy, faithful Master, how much longer will you
wait before you pass sentence and take vengeance for our death on the inhabitants
of the earth?"
And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he
was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all saints upon the
golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the
prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God. [nota bene,
this is a HEAVENLY vision]
Devotion to the Saints, in the light of Jewish Scripture and
on Praying to the Saints