I’ve heard the arguments:
“When we pray to Mary and the saints we are giving them God-like status.”
“We are worshipping them and that’s in defiance of the First Commandment.”
“We do not need to pray to them because we can go directly to Jesus.”
“They cannot hear us and they do not care about us.”
“There is no scriptural evidence that we should pray to Mary and the saints.”
Thankfully, as Catholics we do not believe any of these things; and we know there is ample support for asking Mary and the saints to get involved.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) is clear in several places.
“The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom, especially those whom 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 their most exalted service to God’s plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world.” (emphasis added)(CCC 2683)
Not Either/or, but Both/and
The genius of the Catholic Church is the toolbox it offers the faithful. We are not left on our own to struggle with our sinfulness. We can attend Mass every single day and receive Jesus in the Eucharist. When we fall, we have confession so we can receive God’s mercy in a real way. When we are confirmed, we receive an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to strengthen us. We believe those who died in the state of grace are not dead in the sense that they no longer exist, but that they are in heaven acting as our support team so we can join them.
“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 with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus.” (emphasis added)(CCC 956)
God’s brilliance never stops amazing me. Whether it is awe at the tulips that poke out of the cold ground each spring or the variety of animals that roam our planet, his creativity is astounding. He knows us better than we know ourselves and he knows it is hard being here. He knows there are evil forces trying to pull us away from him, shadows that entice us. So he gives us support through his son but also through Mary and the saints.
Help Them Help You
Not only are their stories compelling and inspiring but they comfort us. I am not as docile as St. Thérèse of Lisieux but I can look to her as an example. Most likely I will not receive visions directly from Jesus like St. Faustina, but I can read her diary and benefit from what she learned.
I think of the communion of saints as the heavenly cheering section. They are in heaven and they want us to join them. They already endured. They suffered and they succeeded. They put their faith in God and now they enjoy his presence for eternity. Just as we want our friends to experience that great restaurant or movie, they want us to experience heaven. So they root for us. They intercede for us. I think of the saints as gazing down on the mouse maze of my life, and when I make a wrong turn they help out.
When I mess up, I imagine St. Peter saying, “Awww, I did that too. Jesus have mercy on her.”
When I am struggling with kids, I imagine St. Monica saying, “Jesus, she is suffering. I remember suffering. Help her.”
When I think of someone other than myself, I imagine them dancing and cheering. Jesus knows all of this too. He is not distant and no doubt he is enough, but with the saints, we get even more support. We get human examples to inspire and follow. We get older siblings to help us out.
Humility and Devotion
It is also good for our humility. It is good for us to ask for help and to admit we cannot do life on our own.
“In the communion of saints, ‘a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things.’ In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others, well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin.”(CCC 1475)
And then there is the greatest saint of all: the Blessed Virgin Mary. My own particular devotion is to her. When my oldest child was struggling senior year of high school, I turned to her. He was frozen and could not imagine any future. He was not ready for college but he did not want to take a gap year. There were arguments and “discussions” almost weekly and his siblings knew to leave the room lest the parental frustration spill over onto them.
‘Behold Your Mother’
I gave my son to Mary that summer. I knew that I was not being a very good mother and that she is the perfect mother. I knew that she loves him and that she would pray for him and her prayers are unequaled.
Learn to pray like Mary with a new book from Ascension, How to Pray Like Mary.
“This treasury includes as well the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are truly immense, unfathomable, and even pristine in their value before God.”(CCC 1477)
So I am going to take advantage of this salvation toolbox that God has offered. I want to go to heaven and hang out with the saints. I want my family to go there too. I am not able to accomplish this by myself and I will take all the help I can get.
By the way, my son is a happy student at the University of Mary now.
You May Also Like:
Praying the Paul VI Rosary: The Glorious Mysteries (Ask Fr. Josh podcast)
How to Form a Habit of Prayer (CFR video)
About Merridith Frediani
Merridith Frediani’s perfect day includes prayer, writing, unrushed morning coffee, reading, tending to dahlias, and playing Sheepshead with her husband and three teenagers. She loves leading small faith groups for moms and looking for God in the silly and ordinary. She blogs and writes for her local Catholic Herald in Milwaukee.