Wise Words on Wednesday: Twelve more Teresas

Kreeft

Can you imagine what twelve more Mother Teresas would do for this world? If twelve more people gave Christ 100% of their hearts 100% of the time and held nothing back, absolutely nothing?

– Peter Kreeft

Wise Words on Wednesday: Saint and sinners

Philaret

Every Christian should find for himself the imperative and incentive to become holy.

If you live without struggle and without hope of becoming holy, then you are Christians only in name and not in essence. But without holiness, no one shall see the Lord, that is to say they will not attain eternal blessedness.

It is a trustworthy saying that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). But we deceive ourselves if we think that we are saved while remaining sinners. Christ saves those sinners by giving them the means to become saints.

– St. Philaret of Moscow

The Communion of Saints

A few days ago I created the following meme in an attempt to explain the Communion of Saints and the Canonization process to some non-Catholics on an Internet forum. I posted it on my Facebook page and a lot of people got a kick out of it, so here you go:

Saints

Wise Words on Wednesday: Hating Sin

st-dorotheos-of-gaza-2

Who hated sin more than the Saints? But they did not hate the sinners at the same time, nor condemn them. But they suffered with them, gave them remedies as sickly members, and did all they could to heal them

– St. Dorotheos of Gaza

Quick Apology: “Saint intercession isn’t in the Bible”

Angel

In previous “Quick Apologies”, I’ve dealt with different aspects of the intercession of the saints. Today I’d like to address one of the final pieces of the puzzle…

Objection

After explaining the Catholic understanding of Saintly intercession, as well as having shown its merit, one is often presented with a common retort against many Catholic doctrines:

“But [Doctrine X] is not in the Bible!”

I’ve written before in another post about the problem with this objection and about the logical problems and presuppositions associated with it. However, is the claim actually true in this case? Is it correct to say that we don’t see saintly intercession within the pages of Scripture?

Response

We actually do see Saintly intercession within the pages of Scripture. We see departed Saints offering prayers and pleading for God to take action upon the earth.  In fact, we don’t just see departed Christians doing this…

Heavenly Helpers

In John’s Book of Revelation, we read the following:

And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints
– Revelation 5:8

These “twenty-four elders” are deceased humans, yet we are told that they offer bowls of incense before the throne of God which are representative of the prayers of other Christians. If they are offering these prayers to God, it would make sense that they have some knowledge of their content too.

In response to this, I’ve heard a variety of attempts to deny that this passage teaches Saintly intercession. However, the fact cannot be denied that the Book of Revelation presents us with a picture of the deceased interacting in some way with the prayers of those on earth. This stands in rather stark contrast to assertions which Catholics often hear (“Christians in Heaven can have nothing to do with Christians on earth”).

On earth as it is in Heaven

A little later in the Book of Revelation, we read about how the martyrs in Heaven petition God:

…I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?” – Revelation 6:9-10

Here we have a concrete example of deceased Christian martyrs pleading for God to take action upon earth!

Not just Saints

A few chapters later, we see not only Saints, but angels as having something to do with prayers from 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 the 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. – Revelation 8:3-4

One might ask how this is possible. How could an angel have anything to do with the prayers of men on earth? How could they know of the contents of a man’s prayer? If we recall that angels rejoice whenever a sinner repents (Luke 15:10) then surely anything is possible through the grace of God.

Angel

UPDATE 11/20/15 07:10 – I just got back from Mass where the First Reading included the first passage I quoted in this post. I had no idea prior to posting 🙂

What does it mean “to pray to a Saint”?

FeaturedSaints

This blog post is meant as a supplement to my earlier earlier posts on the subject of Saintly intercession (read here and here)…

all_saints

One issue we have in Catholic-Protestant dialogue concerning the Saints is the language we use. You will often hear Catholics talking about “praying to Saints”. However, it is important to point out that what we really mean is that we’re asking the Saints to pray for us.

What’s in a name?

Part of the problem is the use of the verb “to pray”. It can mean two different things, depending on context. The word itself comes into English from the Latin word “precarious”, which means “obtained by entreaty”. To pray, therefore, means to ask for something.

This is aptly demonstrated in my favorite Shakespeare play, A Much Ado About Nothing (Act 2, Scene 3):

BENEDICKAn he had been a dog that should have howled thus, they would have hanged him: and I pray God his bad voice bode no mischief…

DON PEDRO: Yea, marry, dost thou hear, Balthasar? I pray thee, get us some excellent music…

Here you see both uses of the word “pray”. In the first, Benedick petitions God, and in the second, Don Pedro asks Balthasar for music. In the former, a request is made to God, in the latter, to man.

A better dialogue

While I think that pointing out this distinction goes a long way to further Catholic-Protestant dialogue, I think that Catholics should go the extra mile and be careful with the way they speak around Protestants, so as to communicate the Catholic Faith as clearly as possible.

When talking with Protestants about praying to Saints, it might be worth spelling out exactly what you mean, saying explicitly that you’re asking the Saints for their intercession before the throne of God. Rather than talking about “Praying to the Saints”, you might speak about “Praying with the Saints”. Most Protestants are used to talking about praying with friends, so when expressed in these terms, the Catholic devotion will seem less alien and more accessible.

All you angels and saints, pray for us.

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