"We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you. Hearing your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have towards all the Saints".
The doctrine of the Catholic Church with respect to the honor which is due to the saints, and especially to the blessed Virgin, is founded on the most obvious principles of reason ; and expressly sanctioned by numerous and explicit warrants of Scripture.
We are inclined, by the impulse of nature, to be pleased with objects that are beautiful, and the best feelings of the human heart prompt us to do homage to goodness and virtue. Those feelings are in perfect accordance with the principles of right reason, for it cannot be wrong to admire excellence nor unreasonable to esteem what is worthy of veneration.
God commands us to "render to all men their dues, tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, and honor to whom honor" (Rom. 13; 7), and thus expressly sanctions our doing homage to the exalted dignity and transcendent splendor of His servants in heaven, who, "having overcome, are clothed in white, and walk with
Him because they are worthy." (Rev. 3. 4.) Jesus Christ declares that to those " that shall overcome, He will give to sit with Him on His throne" (Rev. 3: 21), "and they shall be like to the angels of God in heaven " (Matt. xxii. 30), "and shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matt. xiii. 43); that "they shall see God face to face" (1 Cor. xiii. 12); "and beholding the glory of the Lord with open face, they are transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, by the spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3. 18), "and they shall reign for ever and ever." (Rev. 21.-22. 5.)
Such is the dignity which the Lord God confers upon His servants. He exalts them to a fellowship with Himself, and makes them partakers of His throne and glory. It is an imperative duty, therefore, to honor the saints, and in doing so we follow the example of God Himself.
But while the dignity of the saints claims our respectful homage, their ardent charity demands the warmest affection of our hearts. Seeing God face to face, they cannot cease to love Him, and loving Him, they must also love all the members of His mystical body here on earth, and earnestly desire their eternal happiness ; for " there is joy before the angels of God upon one sinner doing penance." (Luke xv. 10.) It is therefore a portion of the happiness as well as of the duty of the saints to pray to God for their brethren on earth. " And the four living creatures, and the four and twenty ancients fell down before the Lamb, having
every one of them harps and golden vials full of odors which are the prayers of the saints" (Rev. v. 8); "and another angel came and stood before the altar, having a golden censer, and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer the prayer of all the saints upon the golden altar, which is before the throne of God. And the smoke of the incense of the prayers of the saints ascended up before God, from the hand of the angel." (Rev. viii. 3.) And the angel Raphael speaks as follows to holy Tobias :
" when thou didst pray with tears, and didst bury the dead, and didst leave thy dinner, and hide the dead by day in thy house, and bury them by night, I offered thy prayers to the Lord " (Tob. xii. 12); and in Zach. i. 12 we read that "the angel of the Lord answered and said, O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem ; and on the cities of Juda with which thou hast been angry ? This is now the seventh year : and the Lord answered the angel, that spoke in me, good words, comfortable words."
Here, then, is evidence that the angels and saints offer up their prayers to the throne of grace on behalf of their brethren on earth and that God responds to them "good words, comfortable words." It is absurd, therefore, to deny that it is lawful to ask for the prayers of the blessed
in heaven. Such prayers are evidently agreeable to God, and must be profitable to man. For as "the Lord accepted the face of Job" (42. 8), who was still in this state of probation, how much more the face of those who "have proved themselves worthy ;" "who are made to their God a kingdom and priests" (Rev. v. 10); "who shall judge nations and rule over people" (Wisd. 3. 8), "and shall reign upon the earth." (Rev. v. 10.)
In conformity with the evidence of the foregoing, and numerous other express warrants of Holy Writ, the Catholic Church teaches that " The saints who reign with Christ offer up their prayers to God for men, and that it is useful and good to invoke them, and to have recourse to their prayers, help and assistance, in order to obtain blessings from God, through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who alone is our Redeemer and Saviour." (Cone. Trid., Sess. 25.) In the catechism of the Council of Trent, the infinite difference between the worship which is due to God, and the honor which, on His account, may be given to the saints, is so
strongly marked and so fully and clearly explained as to obviate all the cavils raised against Catholics on that subject. A Catholic child, acquainted with the first outlines of the Christian doctrine, will commit no mistake on that point ; and the most rude peasant in the most remote part of Ireland, is quite aware that it would be idolatry to give to the saints the honor which he owes to God, from whom alone he hopes for mercy, while he looks for nothing from the saints but the assistance of their prayers ; and hence it is that he always concludes his supplication to the saints with the words, " through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
It is often objected; 'Isn't Jesus the Son of God, the only Mediator between God and man?
Jesus is truly the only Mediator between God and man. The Catholic Church recognizes and venerates Saints because they led exceptional lives in union with God and in return for their good works and perfect example, God blessed them with miracles through their prayers and intercessions.
Catholics do not worship Saints, they venerate, honour and imitate their virtues; the virtues which led them into profound holiness, an exceptional life lived only for the glory of God.Catholics pray to God and ask the saints to pray for us, Catholics do not pray "to" the saints, we pray "with" the saints as we unit ourselves with them, because Catholics believe in the "Communion of Saints" (Romans 12:4). That is those saints in heaven and those on earth are united by the common head (Jesus Christ). Further St. James enjoins the Christians to "pray for one another that you may be saved. For the continual prayer of a just man availeth much"(James 5:16) .
The Holy Bible has revealed that God respects the intercession of those who led such lives, who resigned themselves completely to His Holy Will, who lived and laboured for His glory.
The perfect example of an intercessor would be of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. She, at the wedding of Cana, interceded when the wine ran out, and said to the servants, even though it was not yet time for Jesus to begin His public ministry: "Do whatever He tells you." St. John 2:5
Jesus respects and honours the intercession of His Mother, the Mother who gave birth to Him, nourished Him, loved Him, and finally raised Him and prepared Him for His Ministry. Our Lady played and instrumental part in the life of Jesus, from the time of His Birth until His Death. Mary stood by Her Crucified Son at the foot of the Cross and held Him one last time before She placed Him in the Tomb.
As far as the remission of sins and redemption of mankind are concerned, Jesus is the sole Mediator who sacrificed Himself for the forgiveness of sins.
Nowhere does it state in the Bible, that those who have resigned themselves completely to God's Will, cannot intercede on behalf of those who call upon their intercession (to pray for their intentions). On the contrary, in the Old Testament, many of the great prophets have interceded, and through their intercessions, prayers and sacrifices, God had granted their requests.
In Genesis 18:23-26, we have Abraham interceding to God for the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah:
"Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty? Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city; would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to make the innocent die with the guilty, so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike? Should not the Judge of all the world with justice?" The Lord replied: "If I find fifty innocent people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake" Genesis 18:23-26
God through His infinite Mercy relented to Abraham's intercession, by saying if there were found fifty just, He would spare the whole city.
"...I Am the God of your father Abraham, You have no need to fear, since I Am with you, I will bless you and multiply your descendants For the sake of My servant Abraham." Genesis 26:23
On account of God's servant Abraham, God blessed Isaac and multiplied his descendants. These verses show us the place for the righteous in God's Heart.
Mosses himself Called out to God saying Exodus 32:11 "Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your servants, to whom by yourself you swore and mad this promise". From it we note that Moses pleads with God on the basis of the Promise he made to his earthly friends. Mosses (indirectly) used their assistance to help him just as we do when we ask the saints to pray for us.
Intercession of the dead saints is further confirmed by the scriptures when we read that God himself says to Solom 1 Kings 11 "for your Fathers sake, However, I will not do this (take away his kingdom)during your life time but will tear it out of your Son's hands. . . . for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen, I will leave your son one tribe".
"Then, as before, I lay prostrate before the Lord for forty days and forty nights without eating and drinking, because of all the sin you had committed in the sight of the Lord...Yet once again the Lord listened to me. With Aaron too, the Lord was deeply angry, and would have killed him had I not prayed for him also at that time. Deutronomy 9:18-20
If Moses had not interceded before God, who was very angry with the evil they had done, He would have surely destroyed them.
"...Grant our petition; pray for us to the Lord, your God, for all this remnant...Let the Lord your God, show us what way we should take and what we should do." "Very well," The prophet Jeremiah answered them: "I will pray to the Lord, your God, as you desire..." Jeremiah 42:2-4
It is very clear that the army leaders Johanan, the sons of Kareah, Azariah, the son of Hoshaiah and their people are petitioning Jeremiah to pray for them, to intercede to His God.
The Lord Jesus commands that we pray for one another, especially those who have strayed from the Truth:
"But to you here I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." St. Luke 6:27-28
One of Jesus disciples, Stephen the first martyr, whilst being stoned to death interceded in prayer on behalf of those stoning him:
"...Lord, do not hold this sin against them;' and when he said this, he fell asleep." The Acts 7:60
In the following verse St. James reveals the power of prayer to those who are righteous (Saints):
"...The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful. Elijah was a human being like us; yet when he prayed earnestly that it might not rain upon the land. Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the earth produced its fruit." St. James 5:16-18
“Call Now,if there be any that will answer thee: and to which of the saints wilt thou turn? ” (Job 5:1)
St. Elijah was rewarded with many gifts through his love for God, as he offered his life to serve and honour Him. In the following verses we have the righteous asking people to pray to God for one another:
"I desire therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men...that we may lead a quiet and a peaceful life in all piety and chastity." 1 St. Timothy 2:1-2
"With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverence and supplication for all the Saints: And for me, that speech may be given me, that I may open my mouth with confidence..." Ephesians 6:18-19 In the following, the righteous are praying for one another and at the same time are asking for each others prayer:
"To Timothy my dearly beloved son...I give thanks to God, whom I serve from my forefathers with a pure conscience, that without ceasing, I have a remembrance of Thee in my prayers, night and day." 2 St. Timothy 1:2-3 Simon the magician asks Peter and John to intercede on his behalf:
We note also that when Simon the Magician said to Peter and John (Acts 8:24) "Pray to the Lord for me "yourselves so that none of the things you have spoken about may happen" he was not rebuked for such a statement for indeed it was a righteous one.
Let us not lose sight that Our God is the God of the Living and not of the dead. Physical death does not exclude a person from God's presence, but re-unites them in Heaven. Therefore there should be not any difference between the intercession of the living righteous people and those of dead saints. The Inspired Word of God offers examples of intercessions of dead persons (Holy persons), in order to obtain graces and favours for the living who were spared because of the prayers of the Saints who have already departed from this world. The following verses show God's regard for His faithful Saints and their prayers:
"But Moses implored the Lord, His God, saying: 'Why O' Lord, should your wrath blaze up against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with a strong hand?...Let your blazing Wrath die down: relent in punishing your people, remember Your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel..." Exodus 32:11-14
Moses is interceding on behalf of his living nation, asking the Lords Mercy For the sake of their dead ancestors who were righteous before God (see also Jer 15:1).
"I will shield and save this city for my own sake, and for the sake of My servant David." Isaias 37:35
"For the sake of David your servant, reject not the plea of Your Annointed." Psalm 132:10
Samuel intercedes before the Lord for the People: 1 Samuel 7:5
The People of God ask for the intercession of the holy ones: Jeremiah 42:2
The Inspired Word of God likewise states that those living, should pray for the dead:
"It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins." 2 Machabees 12:46.
2Machabees 15:11-16 attests the faith of the Jewish people in the intercession of the saints as Judas the Maccabean sees in a "credible" bision how tow deceased just men, the Highpriest Onias and the prophet Jeremias, intercede with God for the Jewish people and for the Holy City.
The above verse reveals there is life after death and through the prayers of the living, we are able to assist those who are dead to be freed from sins. Though they are not with us physically, we are called to pray for them.
The New Testament mentions the intercession of Saints who are no longer physically present:
"And another Angel came, and stood before the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer, of the prayers of all the Saints upon the golden altar...And the smoke of the incense of the prayers of the Saints ascended up before God." Revelations 8:3-4
The above quote reveals the presence of Saints in Heaven and their prayers ascending to God (interceding).
"What you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the Living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem...You have been placed with the spirits of the Just who had been made perfect..." Hebrews 12:23-24
The faithful (the living), are in communion with the Heavenly Jerusalem and with the dead Saints (Spirits of the Just). In fact, they are spiritually one with the spirits of the righteous people made perfect. These righteous persons, the Just, are in fact the Saints who have been made perfect by entering the Kingdom of God, Heaven.
The Saints, whether alive or dead, intercede for us by virtue of the One Body in Christ, of whose members we all are, whether we are on earth or in Heaven. This Doctrine, based on the Scripture, is called the 'Communion of Saints.'
Whether we stay in this physical body of ours - or we leave it, we are with the Lord and He is with us. So, there is nothing that may stop our prayers ascending to the Living God, for our brothers and sisters, friends and foes who are still on earth. We too, even after we pass away, are always alive and in the Presence of the Almighty Living God.
Through Baptism, we become members of One Body, whose Head is Christ, and members of each other. Nothing, not even physical death, can separate us from Christ and His love, which includes the love of all the members of Christ's Body. So, even after death (which does not change anything in the spiritual Body of Christ), Saints continue to pray for all who call upon them, the only difference is, they are in Heaven.
St Peter did not condemn the practice of honoring the saints , but what he was against is people falling at his feet to adore him as St. Peter acknowledged that he indeed was a sinner and that Christ had chosen him for his ministry even though he (like ourselves) was not worthy. If you look at the actions of Cornillus he fell down and "adored" peter, this is something the Church condemns also . The ground for the veneration of the angels is their supernatural dignity, which is rooted in their immediate union with God (Matt 18:10). Since the saints also are immediately joined to God (1 Cor 13:12, 1John 3:2), it follows that they too are worthy of veneration.
Catholics honor the saints and Mary but we adore only God. In the life of st. Peter many had placed themselves before him (Acts 5:15) so that they may be healed by his shadow, Peter did not turn them away because they came to honor and Trust in Christ through him but Cornillus put his adoration in the "Man" Peter, were as the others put their hope in Christ through the intercession of St. Peter.
The Scriptures also show us that even relics of saints (Ex 13:19, 4 Kings 13:21, 4 Kings 2:13, Acts 19:12) were used to cure people, not that the relics were anything of themselves but rather they had touched one that was highly favored by God.
To honour and venerate Saints, to call upon their assistance is a great sign of God's Mercy, because of their status in God's eyes. The intercession of the Saints is confirmed to God's desire as their will is to do God's Will and that God may be glorified through their requests on behalf of the faithful (the living). Even the Psalmist David in his prayer and praise of the Angels of God says (Psalm 103), "WE PRAY, "Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word! Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will!" (Ps. 103:20-21). And in Psalm 148 WE PRAY, "Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host!" (Ps. 148:1-2) .
The saints continue to intercede for us as they are not dead but indeed living as " God is not the God of the Dead but of the living" (Matt 22:32). ) The saints in heaven are really more alive than we are now. In the arms of God, they are even more solicitous of us than when they were on earth. Just as Paul asked the other disciples to pray for him (Rom. 15:30, Col 4:3, 1 Thess. 5:25) as he prayed for them (2 Thess. 1:11), so now we can ask Paul and the other saints in heaven to intercede for us with God. we are not cut off from our fellow Christians at death, but are brought closer. We continue in one communion, the communion of saints.
It seems that some have drawn the false conclusion from 1Timothy 2:5 as if somebody asks you to pray for them, to intercede for them to God on their behalf, should one go around and say, "How dare you undermine the sole mediation of Jesus Christ, the only High Priest?" Of course not. Why? Because what does Paul say in the first four verses before 1st Timothy, 2:1, "First of all then, I urge the supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all men." By Jesus alone? Of course not. By us, "for kings and all who are in high positions in order that we might lead a quiet and peaceful life, Godly and respectful in every way. This is good and is acceptable by God our Savior who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and there is one mediator between God and man."
Because there's one mediator. Does that mean no other intercessors, no others to make supplication? No! But as St. Paul Shows us on the contrary, in fact it is precisely because their is one mediator and because our mediator is the most awesome mediator that we have now the capacity to intercede as priests in the Priest, as sons in the Son, as pastors and shepherds in the one Pastor and Shepherd. We draw our life from him. "No longer I, but Christ who lives in me. Apart from Christ, I can do nothing."
The verse in no way rules out intercession of the saints, but rather affirms (as the Church teaches) that Christ's mediation is unique on as the intercession of the saints is not a mediation of redemption but there's is a second mediation so that the faithful may obtain spiritual and material favors and graces. On Christ's unique Mediation we read "He (Jesus) brings a new covenant as the Mediator only so that the people who were called to an eternal inheritance may actually receive what was promised"(Hebrews 9:15). The influence of the saints, before God, does not affect the universal redemption, where Christ alone saves (see John 14:6, Acts 4:6, Romans 5:11).
A further objection is made on the basis that St. John in the apocalypse is rebuked by the angel for falling before him. However the same book of Revelations shows us that both the angels and the saints place the prayers of the holy on earth before the throne of God (Rev 5:8, Rev 8:3), that is, they support them with their intercession as also might be expected from the permanency of charity (1Cor 13:8).
Further if we read that verse (Rev 22: 5) it shows us that even St. John knew that Christians did indeed honor the Angels and Saints as even Daniel had prostrated himself before the angel of the lord (Daniel 8:16 - 18, See also Josue 5:14). However the angel lifted up St. John telling him that now they were both "fellow servant". Although the real problem is that the word used here in sacred Scripture is "Adore" and so indeed we adore no one but God, however many Protestant bibles often generalize the word worship and so some scriptures read "worship" which is rather a problem in translation more than anything. The Catholic (Douay-Rheims) Bible reads "adore" not worship in general .