GETTING TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER

by Sister Mary Lucy Astuto

Why Catholics Pray To The Saints

In recent weeks I have received some e-mail, evidently from non-Catholics, who lambast the Catholic Church and what Catholics believe. The interesting thing about the criticisms proferred is that it is very evident that those persons who are casting aspersions on what Catholics believe really don’t KNOW what Catholics believe. Their criticisms are not based on truth, but evidently what they have learned somewhere along the road of their lives.

It baffles me that on the one hand the claim is made that they know the Bible very well, but yet seem to fail to live out the teachings of Scripture by their rash judgments and seeming near-hatred of Catholics. This is what they are being taught by their confreres?

You know, if the criticisms were based on truth, one would have to say: "My friend, you have a point there and we should hang our heads in shame."

But the reality is (from what I have seen so far) that the criticisms are based on deception.

One such criticism is that Catholics are wrong and even idolaters to pray to saints. The reasons given are that we should adore God alone, and... the saints are dead.

First of all, it IS the teaching of the Catholic Church that God Alone is worthy of adoration and worship. After all, that is the First Commandment. But because we HONOR or show RESPECT to those who have passed the test is NOT synonymous with adoration and worship.

I can show honor and respect to my mother (the Fourth Commandment) while not ADORING my mother as the Creator of Heaven and Earth, which she is not.

Regarding praying to saints, it is important to understand the Catholic definition of prayer and the importance that Catholic teaching places on praying. The CATHOLIC CATECHISM is very rich in the content and space given to the subject of prayer. This, in and of itself, reflects the importance (in Catholic teaching) that prayer must play in our lives.

The CATHOLIC CATECHISM quotes the Little Flower’s definition of prayer: "For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy" (Paragraph 2558).

St. John Damascene wrote that prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.

In Paragraph 2565 the CATHOLIC CATECHISM explains why we can pray or talk to the saints justifiably. It reads: "In the New Covenant, prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit. The grace of the Kingdom is ‘the union of the entire holy and royal Trinity...with the whole human spirit.’ Thus, the life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with him. This communion of life is always possible because, through Baptism, we have already been united with Christ. Prayer is Christian insofar as it is communion with Christ and extends throughout the Church, which is his Body. Its dimensions are those of Christ’s love."

Catholic teaching notes that prayer is to God first and foremost, but does not say that we should rudely ignore the Body of Christ, that is, all those who are in communion with Christ. After all, if I can ask my next door neighbor to please pray for my mother who is very ill, can I not ask a saint in Heaven, who has already proved himself/herself a faithful friend of God, to pray to God also on behalf of my mother?

Note the quote above: "Prayer is Christian insofar as it is communion with Christ and extends throughout the Church, which is His Body." How can we say we love God, if we cast aside the people He loves and for whom He shed every drop of His blood? Do we do the Will of God by loving God alone and treating with contempt or simple coldness those who were faithful to Him, fought the good fight and finished the race out of love for God?

Further, how can one accept the work of Redemption and claim the saints are dead? Is not the soul immortal? Was not the very purpose of Our Lord’s life, death, and resurrection so that we could be happy with Him forever in Heaven? To deny the immortality of the human soul is to negate the whole Act of Redemption! If we are not going to live forever, then why am I so concerned about being a faithful follower of Christ? If this life is all there is, well...

I think it all comes down to the two Great Commandments: Loving God with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. If we talk to God (prayer) but refuse to talk to our neighbor, do we honor God?

The saints are friends of God and they are our friends. God, our Father, is pleased when His children talk to each other.
Below is a common prayer for any saint. You just supply the name. God bless you!


PRAYER FOR ANY SAINT'S DAY

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that the examples of Saint_________ may effectually move us to reform our lives; that while we celebrate his/her festival, we may also imitate his/her actions. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Look upon our weakness, almighty God, and since the burden of our own deeds weighs heavily upon us, may the glorious intercession of Saint_________ protect us. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.