Apologia: The Fullness of Christian Truth


``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D


 
Saints

Madonna with Child, Saints, and Crucifixion, by Fra Angelico

  

Real Audio Lessons on this Topic

Communion Of Saints
Saints
Saints II
Saints III
 

 
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 thanksgiving

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 me!

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:

 
Necromancy

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 credulity.

The God of the Living

Now look closely at Mark 12:26-27:

"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."

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.


Relevant Scripture

Leviticus 19:26
Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times.

Leviticus 19:31
Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.

Leviticus 20:27
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.

Deuteronomy 18:10-12
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.

Joshua 5:13-14
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.

Isaiah 8:19
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?

Isaiah 19:3
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.

Isaiah 47:12-14
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!

Jeremiah 15:1
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.

Tobit 12:15
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 of God."

Matthew 17:1-8
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.

Matthew 27:52-53
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.

Mark 12:26-27
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."

Luke 20:37-38
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 him.

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?

Hebrews 12:1
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

Hebrews 12:22-24
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.

James 5:16
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 13:12 above.]

Revelation 6:9-10
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?"

Revelation 8:3-4
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]


Further Reading

Catholic Devotion to the Saints, in the light of Jewish Scripture and Tradition
James Akin on Praying to the Saints

 
Defense of Catholicism
Index

 

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