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Is it wrong to intercede to saints?

By Fr. Joseph Edattu VC

The Catholic Church has been following the tradition of interceding to saints even from the first century. Not only Catholics, but also the Eastern Orthodox, and some Anglicans follow this tradition.

It was in the 16th century with the Protestant Revival that many began to question this tradition. Intercessory prayers to Mother Mary and other martyr saints were discovered in the Roman catacombs in the 2nd and 3rd centuries.

This never caused any discord or controversies among those in the first Christian community. If the Church reacted to these actions with the spirit of unity, that in itself is evident that this was guided by the Holy Spirit.

Can saints in heaven hear our prayer?

Heavenly saints cannot hear what we say, some argue. But in Rev 5:8 and Rev 8:3 & 4, it is said that Heavenly saints are praying for those suffering on this earth with prayers and by offering  incense. That means, heavenly saints are interceding for us continuously.

The Word of God assures us that earthly saints can communicate to heavenly saints – Jesus himself did that. When Jesus permitted Peter, John and James to be witnesses to this (Mathew 19:3 – “And behold, there appeared to them, Moses and Elijah, talking to Jesus…”) He was proving that such a thing was possible.

In Acts 9:40, Peter knelt down and prayed, then turning said, “Tabitha, rise”.  And she opened her eyes. And when she saw Peter, she sat up”. One point needs to be noted here. Peter did not ask Jesus to raise the dead woman, but being filled with the Spirit of Jesus, he commanded the dead woman and asked her to return.

The parable of Lazarus and the rich man demonstrates that the rich man is aware of the plight of his younger brothers still living on the earth and he is concerned for them and praying for them.

However, summoning a dead spirit (necromancy )to predict  the future and to solve daily problems, is banned by the church.

People on heaven and earth are not two separate bodies, but ONE body of Christ

(1 Cor 12:27) “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it”. If this was a reference only to those who are on this earth, we could think that those in heaven are not part of His body. But to Jesus, those who are dead too are still alive. Therefore His body contains those who are saints on earth as well as in heaven. If all of us are part of His body, why can’t we help each other? And why can’t we ask help from other members of the same body who have already achieved that perfection?

In 1 Cor 12:20-25, it states, “ As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” It does not make sense to say that we who are parts of the same body of Christ, can seek prayer help from each other on this earth, but cannot demand the same from those who constitute the same body - in heaven.

On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those parts of the body which we think less honourable we invest with the greater honour, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so adjusted the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part, 25 that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another (1 Cor 12: 22- 26) Christ wants members of His body to support each other. That is why He stated that there will be “Great rejoicing in heaven when one sinner reconciles” (Luke 15:7)

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together (1 Cor 12: 26)

Christ’s body, which is constituted by the rich and the poor, the well and the weak - is one. The stronger ones may not need the weak, but still share their strengths and form the backbone for the weaker members. The perfect blend of supportive strength and mutual care that complements each other - is what God desires of us. The stronger members of His body in heaven, strengthen us, the weaker Christians on earth.

Are the souls in heaven alive?

The Catholic Church believes that just like how we request for prayers from saints who are alive, we can ask the same of the saints who are in heaven; as they are both alive to God. “He is God not of the dead, but of the living, but to Him, all of the are alive” (Luke 20:38)

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16)

The ones in heaven are far more righteous than those on the earth. Hence, wouldn’t their prayers be more effective and powerful?

Those who are in God can see what God sees

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8)  “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face…” (1 Cor 13:12)

“Beloved, we are God’s children now. What we will be has not yet been revealed, when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2)

The Word assures us that we shall be ‘like Him’, which means that we will see as He sees, we will love as He loves and we will intercede like how He intercedes for us in front of the Father (Rom 8:4) Hence, these heavenly saints are able to see the pain of the earthly saints, reflected on the face of Jesus.

Those who are dead in Christ are like angels

“Indeed, they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36) Jesus taught us that the dead are like angels. Hence, we can assume that these saints have many of the characteristics of angels. Angels are capable of strengthening those on this earth. As it says in Luke 22:43, And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him”. If so, why cant these angelic saints strengthen those of us on this earth?

In Tobit 12:12, angel Raphael says to Tobit, “So now when you and Sarah prayed, it was I who brought and read[a] the record of your prayer before the glory of the Lord”. If angels are carrying our prayers to heaven, then shouldn’t the saints, who are LIKE angels, and in the presence of God, be carrying our prayers to Him?

Rev 6:9 & 10 states, “ When he opened the fifth seal, 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; 10 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?”

This confirms that those in heaven are interceding for the persecuted and the suffering, on this earth.

If we concede that praying to saints is wrong, then we have to deny the blessings and miracles that we received through the intercession of saints, in the last 2000 years. Moreover, famous Marian pilgrimage centres such as Lourdes, Guadalupe, Medjugorje, Vailankanni and Fatima, should be shut down. Scrutinise and check if this would help the body of Christ - to grow or to die. No Protestant has so far, been able to bring forward a logical challenge good enough for that. At present, the body of Christ is growing by leaps – and weaker members are being strengthened through these centres. So, we can conclude that the intercession to saints in fact, strengthens and not weakens, the body of Christ. Therefore, this devotion is from God.

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Divine Call


The one who speaks face to face

By Fr John Puthenpurackal VC

 
Is it wrong to intercede to saints

By Fr Joseph Edattu VC

 
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