In the Catholic tradition, praying to saints is a common practice. But to this day, there are still much confusion and even some objections as to why we do such a thing. So to clear it all up, we’ve put together all our experiences, faith, and everything we know about the teachings of God in this article to explain what saints mean to us and why exactly we pray to them.
Catholics pray to saints to ask them to pray to God for us. We ask them to intercede on our behalf, to help us just as our friends and family would in our time of need. Because God acts through his Church, both in Heaven and on Earth, we know that we are given grace through the prayers of others.
Now, some people argue as to why we pray to saints when we can just direct our prayers to God. Some even go as far as saying that by praying to them, we are worshipping them. So what’s the truth? Well, continue reading to know the answers to all these questions.
What is a Saint and What Does the Bible Say About Saints?
When you hear the word saint, your first thought is probably a person who is religious and especially holy. You might think of it as a person who has been canonized or officially recognized by the Church for their extraordinary virtuous actions and at least one evidence of a miracle that happened in their life. While these are all true today, the Bible refers to saints differently.
Saints are the “holy ones” or those who are set apart for God and His kingdom. So scripturally speaking, the word refers to the body of Christ, the Christians, and the church. Meaning, we are all called to be saints.
You can see this in 1 Corinthians 1:2-3, which says: “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” This can also be seen in Philippians 1:1, which mentioned: “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons…”
That said, with our common belief in Christ, we are in communion or unity with one another. Now, since we believe in life after death, this relationship continues even with those already in heaven. This connection of the living and the dead between Catholics is what we call the communion of saints.
So what does this have to do with our practice of praying to saints? Well, everything. Jesus, Paul, and many others in Scripture tell us to pray for one another. This is because we know that God hears all our prayers, more so for the saints who are with Him in heaven. And since we are in communion with them, we can also ask them to pray for us, help us, and sympathize with us. This is no different than asking our friends, family, and loved ones to pray for us whenever we run into trouble.
So why saints? Well in James 5:16, James says that “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” Now, there’s no one more righteous than someone who’s already perfected in heaven, right?
Do Catholics Worship Saints?
Here’s where a lot of the confusion comes from. By praying to saints, some people accuse Catholics of worshipping them. But this isn’t the case. As Catholics, the 1st Commandment given to us is “Thou shall have no other gods before me.” So we believe that we can only worship God alone.
As mentioned, what the Church teaches us is that saints are in communion with us. We know that they are human just like every one of us. Meaning, they’re not divine. What we do is ask them and communicate with them through the form of prayers. It is important to remember that while worship can be expressed through prayers (i.e. Mass and other liturgies), not all prayers are considered worship.
Furthermore, praying to saints does not distract or steer us away from our devotion to God. In fact, it’s the very opposite. Through their faithful examples and their proclamation of Christ as their Redeemer and Savior, we are led closer to Him. This can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 957, which says: “Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ…”
Why Pray to Saints and Not to Jesus?
“Why not pray directly to Jesus instead?” This is a question a lot of people ask when it comes to Catholics praying to saints. Our answer to this is, of course, we pray directly to Jesus. However, this does not mean that we shouldn’t ask others to pray for us.
Again, as mentioned earlier, Catholics are encouraged to pray for each other. This can be seen in many writings, including in 1 Timothy 2:1-4, which states: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men…” Most importantly, in Matthew 5:44, Jesus himself tells us to pray for others, even our enemies and those who persecute us.
So since asking others to pray for us is highly recommended by Jesus and his apostles, praying to saints can’t be regarded as something unimportant, especially if your only concern is that you can directly go to Jesus. Plus, it won’t be recommended so much in the New Testament if you don’t have anything to gain from it. With that in mind, the biggest benefit of praying to saints is that they can support our weaknesses and provide whatever is lacking in our own faith and devotion.