Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Can the Saints Hear Our Prayers?

This week has two important days on the Church calendar: All Saints Day on November 1st, and All Souls Day on November 2nd. These feast days remind us of an important concept in Catholic theology: the Communion of Saints. This is the belief that those who have died in faith before us are now in the presence of God in Heaven, and they are aware of what we are doing here on earth. Most importantly, we can ask them to intercede for us with the Lord. It is very powerful when we ask the saints to pray for us.

There is a humorous website called The Babylon Bee. It’s a satire site that publishes comical stories about current events. The website is run by Evangelical Christians, and oftentime the satirical articles cover religious topics. They describe themselves as “Fake news you can trust.”

Recently, The Babylon Bee published a fake news story with this headline: “Saints In Heaven Shocked To Learn Catholics Have Been Trying To Talk To Them This Whole Time.” The comical article quotes the Archangel Gabriel as saying, “Wait a minute. You mean people have been trying to contact us for HOW long? When was someone going to tell me about this?”
It’s a clever story, because it plays on the big difference between Protestants and Catholics regarding the Communion of Saints. The Protestant view is: Why pray to a bunch of dead people, when you can pray directly to God Almighty, through Jesus Christ?

They do make a decent point. People can pray directly to God. After all, when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He said, “Say this: ‘Our Father, who art in Heaven…’”

It doesn’t get any clearer than that. So, we should pray directly to God — and often.

However, there are a couple of very powerful reasons why we should supplement our direct prayers to God with requests for the saints in Heaven to intercede on our behalf. First, the epistle to the Hebrews in the New Testament talks about believers here on earth, and describes our daily struggles to live holy lives as if we are running a race. It also says that our race is being watched, kind of like a sports stadium with many fans cheering us on. 
The entire 11th chapter of Hebrews is a long list of faithful people who lived their lives and died, and then received their heavenly reward. Then in the first verse of chapter 12, the author of Hebrews writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us…persevere in running the race that lies before us.” 

It’s crystal clear the main message here is that those who died in faith before us are now in the presence of God and they are very aware of what we are doing here on earth.

The next important concept is very simple. In his epistle, St. James plainly instructed believers to “pray for one another….The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful” (James 5:16).

All believers, especially Protestants, pray for their loved ones, and ask their loved ones to pray for them. It’s right in the Bible.

Well, when people ask their loved ones to pray for them, why not ask devout believers — who happen to be in the presence of God — to pray, too? That’s also right in the Bible.

The Babylon Bee is pretty funny. And I did laugh out loud when I read, “St. Anthony expressed shock that for 800 years people have been asking him to help them find things. Then he asked, ‘By the way, what are “car keys”?’”

Despite that website’s playful mocking of the Communion of Saints, it actually is a terrific doctrine. Those who have fought the good fight before us know all about our struggles. They can intercede with the Lord on our behalf when we’re too tired or scared or confused. We do not pray to the saints as if we are worshiping them; worship is reserved for God alone. But we do ask the saints in Heaven to pray for us and our loved ones. 

So, don’t hesitate to ask the faithful saints in Heaven to intercede on your behalf. They’re just waiting to pray for anyone in need, including Protestants! 

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