As Catholics, we are often accused of a lot of things about our beliefs and practices. The most popular, probably, is that we worship and idolize multiple gods or figures. But is this true? Who exactly do Catholics pray to and why do we pray to them?
Christians, including Catholics, pray to God, manifested in 3 persons: the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. What makes Catholics different from other Christians is that we also pray to Mary and the saints. But there’s no competition as the Lord always takes precedence over everyone and everything.
So why do Catholics pray to Mary and the saints? Why do we even pray to others when we can just directly go to God? Let’s discuss the Catholic practice of praying to other figures apart from God in this article.
Who Do Catholics Worship To?
Catholics believe in the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity. This means that we worship only God, manifested in three divine persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “this is understood to imply that all three named individuals are divine, and equally so. Yet the three in some sense “are” the one God of the Bible.”
So we worship God, the Father. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) paragraph 198, states that: “Our profession of faith begins with God, for God is the First and the Last, the beginning and the end of everything. The Credo begins with God the Father, for the Father is the first divine person of the Most Holy Trinity; our Creed begins with the creation of heaven and earth, for creation is the beginning and the foundation of all God’s works.” To us, the Father is the Almighty and Creator of everything. He is God as stated in the Bible verse: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:2).
There’s also God, the Son, which is mentioned in Titus 2:13: “Awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” And so, we worship Jesus, which is why we include his name in all our prayers. This can be found in the CCC paragraph 435, which says: “The name of Jesus is at the heart of Christian prayer. All liturgical prayers conclude with the words ‘through our Lord Jesus Christ’. The Hail Mary reaches its high point in the words ‘blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus’. The Eastern prayer of the heart, the Jesus Prayer, says “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Then in Acts 5:3-4, the Bible states that the Holy Spirit is also God, the last person of the Trinity that Catholics worship. CCC paragraph 686 says: “The Holy Spirit is at work with the Father and the Son from the beginning to the completion of the plan for our salvation.”
Who Are Catholics Supposed to Pray To?
Aside from the Holy Trinity, Catholics also pray to Mary. As stated in CCC paragraph 971: “The Church rightly honors the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs.”
The Church, however, reminds us that “This very special devotion differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration.”
We pray to Mary because she is the Mother of God and one of the significant figures in “bringing about the birth of believers in the Church” (CCC 963), which is why she’s also called the “Mother of the Church”. It should be noted, however, that we do not worship Mary as this honor belongs only to God.
Additionally, Catholics pray to saints. This is possible through the Communion of Saints, which refers to the union or connection shared between all the followers of Christ, including the living and the dead. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The Church is a communion of saints: this expression refers first to the ‘holy things’ (Sancta), above all the Eucharist, by which the unity of believers, who form one body in Christ, is both represented and brought about.” (paragraph 960)
In paragraph 962, it also states: “We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always to our prayers.”
That said, Catholics are supposed to pray to God, which is why our central act of worship – the Mass – is directed to Him. However, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t ask our fellow faithful, including those who are no longer with us, to pray with us. This is the main reason why we also pray to Mary and the Saints.
Why Do Catholics Pray to Mary and the Saints and Not Directly to God?
To be clear, Catholics have always gone directly to God. Sometimes, however, we ask others to make sure our prayers reach Him. See, as Catholics, we are encouraged to pray for each other through many Scriptural writings, including 1 Timothy 2:1-4 and Matthew 5:44. There’s also the Catholic doctrine of the Communion of Saints, which teaches us that we are one and connected with all faithful followers of Jesus Christ.
With the apostles and Jesus telling us to ask others to pray for us, then we’re simply obeying them by praying to Mary and the saints. Besides, 2 Corinthians 1:11 says that God grants His graces as an answer to many prayers. Then James 5:16 tells us that “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects”. So if you think about it, our prayers can be more powerful and effective when we ask the saints (who are already closer to God) and Mary, the Mother of God himself, to pray for us.
In conclusion, when we pray to Mary and the saints, we are asking them to pray to God for us, to intercede on our behalf. It’s just like when we ask our friends and family to pray for us during our times of need – because we know that God acts through His Church and that He gives us His blessings through the prayers of others.