(ABOUTCATHOLICS.COM) – Accused of worshipping things other than Jesus, Catholics take a lot of heat on their teaching of praying to saints (defined as dead Christians known to be in heaven by the Church).
“How Catholics believe in something like this is a bit of a mystery to non-Catholic Christians. It has even led to hate-mail, hate-speech, hate-websites, etc; about Catholics,” says Dr. Jennifer Drake a professor of religious studies at St. Andrew University.
“I think it’s really due to a lack of understanding of the doctrine and how it fits in with the rest of the Catholic faith. Also is the issue of necessity.”
According to Dr. Drake the practice of praying to saints is not something someone is required to do as a Catholic in order to be Catholic, but one should understand its origin and its relation to the everlasting Christian community of the body of Christ.
“The practice of praying to saints is derived from the doctrines of the Communion of Saints. The ‘communion of saints’ is essentially a fancy term for the church – meaning the people that make-up the church and is in the Apostle’s Creed.”
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church the communion of saints is “all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church…(Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 962).”
Dr. Drake says that the doctrine is rooted deep in Scripture and explains the interconnectedness of Christians.
The communion of saints is derived from the belief that through Jesus Christ all Christians are made brothers and sisters and that physical death on earth does not sever that connection.
It is that the Church is the one Body of Christ and that there are not two separate ones on heaven and earth. Physical death on earth cannot separate one from Jesus nor from unity in the Body of Christ (since there is only one). These are all biblical teachings in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 8:35-39 by which the Church derived an implicit truth being the communion of saints.
“There are countless examples of other doctrines that non-Catholics believe that are not explicit in the Bible like the communion of saints such as the doctrine of the Trinity. Not everything is mapped out perfectly in the Bible and Christians have had to make inferences over time about the faith,” states Drake.
“Praying to the saints is not like praying to Jesus,” points out Justin Chang, a Catholic in the United States.
“I’ve always known I could approach God directly and generally I do. I’m confused when people say that they thought we had to pray to saints.
“I think the word ‘pray’ is just a bad word to describe the type of communication relationship between us and the saints in heaven. You know how when you are going through a tough time and you talk to someone in your family or in your church and ask them to pray for you? Well, that’s what praying to the saints is like. I’m not asking them to usurp God and give me grace, but merely asking them to pray for me too.
“Since we don’t have any other word that deals with communicating with people in heaven I think the Catholic Church says ‘pray’ because it is something that we are all familiar with.
“It’s not required for anyone to pray to any saint, but it’s an option we have. It’s like getting more people to lobby God for your cause.
“I don’t worship anyone but God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Praying to saints does not mean worship. I worship only God as do all Catholics ‘ not Mary, not any other saint.”