The Saints


1. Who are the Saints?

The Saints are men and women who lived lives of heroic virtue and were faithful to the Church. They are canonized (declared saints) by the Church in a process that examines their lives for examples of heroic virtue and fidelity to the Church's teachings, and proclaims that they are now in heaven interceding for us at the right hand of God.

2. Doesn't the Bible call all Christians saints?

All faithful Christians are "little saints," or saints-in-the-making, and the Bible reflects this by calling them by that name (Colossians 1:2, etc.). In Greek, the word for saints just means "holy ones," which all Christians become by their Baptism. Those who lived exceptionally holy lives and died faithful to the Church are therefore exceptionally worthy of that title. We call the Saints in heaven "Saints," not as a way of going *against* the Bible, but *because of* the Bible.

The Bible calls the people in heaven "Saints" in Revelation 18:20, Matthew 27:52, and Colossians 1:12.

3. The Bible says not to worship the dead.

Amen! And Catholics believe that. We don't worship the dead or the living or anybody but the living God. What Catholics do is, we *honor* the dead who lived lives of heroic virtue. We cherish their memory for the good that they did, and we believe that they are only dead as far as the body is concerned. Their spirit is alive -- united to Christ Who is life itself, and so in that way they are more alive than we are. It is not wrong to honor them, but worship is for God alone.

4. Where in the Bible is honoring the dead?

Every time the Bible shows people honoring the dead, it shows that it is not evil to do so. James 5:10-11 says, "we consider blessed those who have persevered." 2 Chronicles 32:33 says, "And Hezekiah slept with his fathers...and the inhabitants of Jerusalem did him honor at his death." Throughout the Old Testament men built up monuments in honor of their dead (Gen. 35:10, Exodus 28:12, 2 Samuel 1:17-18, etc.), which shows that the dead were honored in Israel's time. Jesus openly proclaimed in Matt. 26:13 that the woman who did him kindness would forever be remembered, and Mary stated that "all generations shall call me blessed." Luke 1:48. For all these reasons we know that it is Biblical to honor the Saints, because Saints and Old Testament heroes were honored both in the New Testament and in the Old.

5. Why do Catholics pray to Saints?

Because Catholics believe that prayer is an expression of our union with God, and part of that is our union with those who are in God -- the Saints and angels. So our prayer includes them in just the same way that it includes each other on earth: we pray together with them and ask them to join in prayer with us and for us.

6. Where in the Bible is praying to Saints?

In many places. In the Book of Revelation, while invoking blessings upon the churches in Asia, St. John invoked not only grace from God, but from angels: "Grace to you and peace from him who is, and was, and is to come, and from the seven spirits which are before his throne." (Rev. 1:4) That is an invocation of God, but then of angels, a type of prayer to angels.

Scripture shows that prayers ascend to the Saints and angels in Revelation 5:8 and Revelation 8:4, which shows saints (the elders) and the angels in heaven holding up the prayers of those on earth, and falling before God that He might answer them. The fact that they even had the prayers (from us) to bring before God shows that they can receive our prayers and that we can address our prayers to them -- because to receive a prayer and to be prayed to is one and the same thing.

In some of the Psalms the angels and saints are spoken to and are told to pray with us -- Psalm 103:20-21 does this, telling the angels and host of heaven to bless God. Now if we can speak to them, and they can pray for us, then all the ingredients are there for asking them to pray for us, which equals praying to them (communicating our needs to them and asking for help). 

7. The Bible says there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5)

Amen! And Catholics believe that. But the doctrine of the Communion of Saints is different from that. In the doctrine of one mediator, Jesus mediates our redemption, because He alone is enough to save us from sin. In the doctrine of the Communion of Saints, the Saints are just sharing our burdens out of love, because that's what love does. There's no incompatibility between the two doctrines, unless a person changes the meaning of "mediator" in 1 Tim. 2:5 away from the action (saving sinners) that Jesus alone is enough for.

Actually, the Saints are only in heaven because of Jesus the one mediator, and because Jesus loved them. But love implies communion. So it is because of love, and because of the "one mediator of salvation" doctrine, that we are in communion with those in heaven in the first place! That communion is a sharing of goods and needs -- we share our needs, and they respond by prayer. We believe what we believe, not in a sense contrary to 1 Tim. 2:5, but in a sense provided by what that passage teaches.

8. Jesus told us how to pray. He said "Our Father who art in heaven," not "Our Saint who art in heaven."

He also didn't say anything *against* praying to the Saints, so if the question is what Jesus *didn't say,* there's actually just as much evidence *for* our side as there is against it. But let's look closer at the Our Father -- does it really exclude the Saints? Not at all. First, look at how God is addressed: "Our Father *who art in heaven*." It's not just "Our Father," it's our Father in His whole household, so to speak, where all His friends (the Saints) and angels are -- because that's who's in Heaven with Him. Second, look at the universal action in the phrase "Hallowed by thy name." Who hallows God's name? Everyone who loves him -- you, your pastor, your patron Saint and your guardian angel. The statement "hallowed by thy name" is shared between everyone in heaven and every Christian on earth, because we all are the ones who "hallow God's name." And if we can pray with the Saints to bless God's holy name, then they can pray with us when we are in need of help! Third, the Our Father gives us the Saints in heaven as the example of holiness to follow. "Thy will be done on earth *as it is done in heaven.*" Who are we to think of, according to Jesus? Those in heaven! They are the example set before us and, in a sense, invoked, since this is (1) a prayer for us to be like (2) the saints (those in heaven). Saying "May we be like the Saints" invokes the Saints' example for our imitation. It's really very similar in form to a prayer to the Saints.

The doctrine of the Communion of Saints is thus perfectly attested to by the Our Father. In fact, I would say that prayer *supports* prayer to the Saints, because it is not only a prayer about God -- it's a prayer of all God's Saints in heaven and on earth together responding to and making known the goodness of God and the needs of God's people, worldwide.

9. The Bible says "Do not seek the dead on behalf of the living."

The full passage says: "When they say to you, 'Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,' should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?" (Isaiah 8:19) This passage is condemning necromancy -- conjuring the dead to find out information. Hence the reference to "mediums." But that's not what Catholics do when we ask the Saints to pray for us. It's completely different -- what we do as Catholics has a lot of Scriptural backing. The Bible is on our side in this because our doctrine (like Scripture) condemns necromancy and conjuring the dead, but approves of the Communion of Saints and the union and sharing of needs and goods that exists between those in heaven and  those on earth. We're not at all unBiblical here -- in fact, we're "full of Scripture."

10. The Bible says "The dead know nothing at all."

That passage is talking about the viewpoint of death from an earthly perspective. And it's absolutely right -- the dead know absolutely nothing at all because their brain isn't even functioning. From all we can see, they are just lying there, lifeless. That's why it also says, "they have no more reward; the memory of them is lost. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and they have no more for ever any share in all that is done under the sun." Ecclesiastes 9:5-6. Because that's how it is, as far as an earthly perspective can show us. But from the viewpoint of faith and of God's power, we know something different, and so does the author of Ecclesiastes: "The Lord...has put eternity into man's mind." "The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it." (Ecclesiastes 3:11, 12:7) Ecclesiastes knows that even though man's body dies and knows nothing, his spirit is alive and returns to God, and its mind will keep going for eternity. Thus for man life isn't hopeless -- not because of the earthly perspective, but because of the perspective of faith. And so this passage proves nothing against the Catholic doctrine, because we do not say that our dead bodies will be able to pray, but that our eternal spirits will be able to pray for us from heaven.