Mar 12, 2006

Q&A About the Saints

Here are the FAQs which I've promised. If you're looking for an answer to your questions, this might be able to help.

Q63. Why pray to Saints? Is it not better to pray to God directly?

A: Not always. The same answer implies here as in the case of prayers to the Virgin Mary, who after all is the greatest of the Saints. God may wish to give certain favors through the intercession of some given Saint. In such a case, it is better to seek the intercession of that Saint as God wishes. I can decide to give you a gift myself, or to do so through a friend. In the latter case you do me greater honor by accepting it from my friend than by refusing my way of giving it to you, and insolently demanding it directly from myself in person.

Q64. I pray that you may see the futility of praying to Saints who can do nothing for you. Christ is the only Mediator.

A: By your very prayer you are attempting to mediate between God and myself on my behalf. I do not criticize the principle of praying for others. I believe in that. But I do criticize your praying for me in violation of your own principles. If the Saints cannot be mediators by praying for me, nor can you. Your prayers would be futile; they could do nothing for me; and you would be wasting your time.

Q65. When did God tell anyone to pray to human beings?

A: When the Catholic Church teaches us that prayer to the Saints is right and useful, it is God teaching us that truth through His Church. But the doctrine is clearly enough indicated in Scripture also. I have mentioned Abraham's prayer for Sodom (Gen 18:20). The Jews asked Moses to go to speak to God on their behalf. God Himself said to Eliphaz, the Themanite, "My wrath is kindled against thee... but my servant Job shall pray for you. His face I will accept that folly be not imputed to you." (Job 42:8). Earlier in that same book we read, "Call now if there will be any that will answer thee, and turn to some of the Saints." (Job 5:1). His enemies meant that Job was too wicked to be heard, but they knew that it was lawful to invoke the Saints. Long after the death of Jeremiah, Onias said of that prophet, "This is the lover of his brethren and of the people of Israel. This is he that prayeth much for the people and for all the holy city; Jeremiah, the prophet of God." (2 Mach.15:14). St. James says that "prayer of a just man availeth much." (James 5:16). If his prayer is valuable, it is worth while to ask his prayers. If you say, "Yes. That is all right whilst a man is still in this life and on earth," I ask whether you think he has less power when in Heaven with God? In Rev. 8:4, St.John says that he saw "the prayers of the Saints ascending up before God from the hand of an angel." If I can ask my own mother to pray for me whilst she is still in this life, surely I can do so when she is with God! She does not know less when she rejoices in the Vision of God; she has not less interest in me; and she is not less charitably disposed towards me then. We Catholics believe in the Communion of Saints, and are in communion with them. But for you the doctrine of the Apostles' Creed, "I believe in the Communion of Saints," must be a meaningless formula. Christ is not particularly honored by our ignoring those who loved and served Him best, and whom He loves so much.

Q66. The Lord's Prayer shows that God Himself hears our prayers.

A: Correct. And He hears the prayers we addressed to the Saints, and their prayers also on our behalf. And those prayers, added to our own, give us additional claims to be heard by God in a favorable way.

Q67. By what authority does the Catholic Church make Saints?

A: The decree of canonization does not make a Saint. It simply declares infallibly that a given person has lived such a holy life with the help of God's grace that he is a Saint. When someone like a Francis of Assisi lives such a holy life that all people are compelled to admire it, the Church is often asked to say whether such a person is worthy to be honored publicly as a Saint. The Church then carefully collects all possible information, and, after due consideration, says yes or no. If the Church says yes, the name of the person to be venerated is put into the Canon or catalogue of those who have become Saints by their heroic lives of virtue. The Church has the authority of Christ for these decisions, for He sent her with His authority to teach all nations in matters of faith and morals, and she could not tell us officially that a given person was a perfect model of Christian virtue if such a person were not.

Q68. Who has the final say as to whether a soul deserves canonization?

A: The Pope. Before he defines that a given soul is indeed a Saint, the advocates of the cause must prove that the person in question exercised all Christian virtue in a heroic degree - supreme faith, hope, and charity; perfect prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. Also God's own testimony by proven miracles wrought through the person's intercession is required. The infallibility of the Church in such decisions is, as I have said, but an application of ordinary infallibility in matters of faith and morals, in so far as the Church could not err in proposing a given life as an exemplification of perfect Christian virtue.

Q69. How does the church know that those she calls Saints are in Heaven?

A: With the assistance of the Holy Spirit, she can and does know. She knows God, and knows what holiness is. She examines the life of the holy person, and says that such a life certainly could not lead a soul to Hell. The Church canonizes only those whose heroic virtue has been proved. And perfect charity before death destroys all sin, and all punishment due to sin. There is no place where such a soul could be, save in Heaven. Also miracles wrought by God in honor of such a one are His guarantee.

Adapted from Virgin and Statue Worship: Quizzes to A Street Preacher, by Fr. Chas. M. Carty & Rev. Dr. L. Rumble; TAN BOOKS AND PUBLISHERS, INC., P.O.Box 424, Rockford, Illinois 61105.
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