Last week we celebrated the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. This is one of the distinctive teachings that sets Catholics apart from Protestants. Whereas Protestants, for the most part, see Jesus’ presence in the host and chalice as symbolic, Catholics take Christ at his word and acknowledge his Real Presence.
The Real Presence in the Eucharist is not the only teaching that sets Catholics apart from Protestants. Another very common one is regarding prayer to the saints. Many of us have been asked by family, friends or acquaintances: “Why do Catholics pray to Saints?”
This is a good question. To answer it, though, requires clarifying terms. Too often we attempt to engage in a conversation without taking the time to understand what another person means. This is a perfect example. The word ‘to pray’ can have more than one meaning. That is why it is helpful to ask people to clarify their understanding of key words in a discussion.
Many Protestants will explain that ‘to pray’ is synonymous with ‘to worship’ for them. If this is the case, then our response as Catholics is simple; we do not pray to saints in this sense. That is clear, because, as Catholics, we do not worship the Saints.
When we use the word ‘to pray’ regarding the Saints, we have an entirely different meaning we are utilizing. For us ‘to pray’ means ‘to communicate.’ On the one hand, we can communicate with God in worship. On the other hand, we can communicate with friends and family—something we do every day. That is exactly what Saints are, they are our older brothers and sisters in the faith. They are our family. Understood in this way, the question can now be asked of our Protestant brethren: why don’t you speak with your family members—the Saints in heaven?
If you are dealing with a Protestant well versed in Sacred Scripture, the response will typically be one of two.
1) Scripture clearly teaches that it is immoral to commune with the dead.
2) Why would I waste time talking to the Saints when I can go directly to God?
Next week we will consider these responses.
Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and forever!