Why Do We Honour The Saints? Part One
The Catechism of The Catholic Church.
946. After confessing 'the holy catholic Church,' the Apostle's Creed adds 'the communion of saints.' In a certain sense this article is a further explanation of the preceding: 'What is the Church if not the assembly of all the saints?' The communion of saints is the Church.
947. 'Since all the faithful form one body, the good of each is communicated to the others … We must therefore believe that there exists a communion of goods in the Church. But the most important member is Christ since he is the head … Therefore, the riches of Christ are communicated to all the members, through the sacraments. As this Church is governed by one and the same spirit, all the goods she has received necessarily become a common fund.
948. The term communion of the saints, therefore has two closely linked meanings: communion in holy things (sancta) and among holy persons (sancti).
956. The intercession of the Saints. Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in Heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness … they do not cease to intercede to the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus … so by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.
Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you more effectively than during my life. (Saint Dominic, dying, to his brothers.)
I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth. (Saint Therese of Lisieux)
957. Communion with the saints. It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek, rather, that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened. Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself.
We worship Christ as God's Son; we love the martyrs as the Lord's disciples and imitators, and rightly so because of their matchless devotion towards their King and Master. May we also be their companions and fellow disciples! (Martyrium Polycarpi, 17:Apostolic Fathers II/3, 396)
2683. The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom, especially those who the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise Him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were put in charge of many things. Their intercession is the most exalted service to God's plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world.
Excerpts taken from Catechism of the Catholic ChurchCopyright © Concacan Inc. - LIBRERIA EDITRICE VATICANA, 1994, for the English translation in Canada. All rights reserved.
Praying to the Saints and Angels
by Maria Hernandez
Used with permission
One of the main practices which Protestants often greatly misunderstand is the custom praying to the saints and angels for intercession. We believe that the angels and saints in Heaven not only pray with us, but also for us. The saints in Heaven have the ability to offer up to God the prayers of the faithful on earth. This may be seen by a passage from Saint John the Evangelist in the Book of Revelations:
Rev. 5:8 '....The twenty four elders (the leaders of the people of God in Heaven) fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full on incense, which are the prayers of the saints.'
The angels are also mentioned as doing essentially the same thing:
Rev. 8:3-4 'An angel came and stood at the altar in heaven with a golden censor; 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.'
The Protestants who have a problem with Catholics giving honor to and praying for intercession from the angels and saints usually mention one passage to support their position: 1 Timothy 2:5 in which Jesus is mentioned as the only Mediator between man and God. This verse is very true, Jesus is the sole Mediator, but this does not mean that we are restricted from asking our fellow Christians to pray both for us and with us. This would include our fellow Christians in heaven and in Purgatory, who are all a part of the body of Christ: the Church.
If you are ever asked by a Protestant why we pray to the saints, ask them this:
'If your mother was very ill, would you come to me and ask me to join you in prayer for her? If you would come to me, a mere person, a sinning human being, and ask me to intercede in prayer for your intention, why not of to a saint in heaven who is already purified and perfected and sees the face of God? Our brothers and sisters in Heaven have already been sanctified, so why can't we ask for them to pray for our specific intentions?'
We believe in giving honor to the communion of saints, in heaven. One way, aside from directly praying to them is by wearing medals with their images and displaying statues and pictures of them in our homes. Again, we do these things as visual reminders of these wonderful saints who are just waiting for us to call upon them and their powerful intercession. When we display a small statue of Saint Michael the Archangel on an altar or in a child's room, we are reminded of his courage in rejecting Lucifer and fighting the good battle for Christ. We can feel his powerful intercession and presence as protection against evil. Any type of picture or image of the saints, angels, Blessed Mother or Christ serve as ways to bring our hearts, minds and thoughts to God and godly things. There are so many distractions in our world today, we all need something visual during the course of our day to bring us back to God now and again. That is the purpose of having images and statues of the angels and saints.
Protestants may use the argument that having such images constitutes 'worshipping false idols,' but once again, this is a great misunderstanding. We do not worship the actual stone from which the statue is made from, not the actual paper and frame from which a picture is made. Just as most of us have pictures of family members and loved ones around our homes, we have them as visual reminders of those we love. We do not actually worship the picture itself, but love and honor the friend or relative which the picture represents.
Help your children develop a personal relationship with specific angels and saints. Patron saints are a good place to start, but devise other ways in which your child may discover specific saints and learn to pray to them for intercession. Some ways [to do this] are visiting saintly shrines, reading books about the lives of the saints and watching television programs on the lives of specific saints on Catholic programming networks. Teach your children that they saints and angels in heaven, and the souls in purgatory, are all part of the Church. We ask them for their intercessory prayers because we are all members of this same Church. We hope to join the saints in heaven some day to be part of the Church Triumphant. Until then, we will ask them to pray for us and with us, because they are already blessed to see the face of God and their prayers are perfect.
Excerpt from 'A Crash Course in Apologetics for Catholic Mothers' by Maria Hernandez. Used with permission. Unfortunately this book is no longer in print. Maria Hernandez's website is J.M.J. Products.
For one way to honour the saints in our families, please see Namedays.
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