do Catholics pray to the Virgin Mary, the saints and the angels?
Praying to Mary, the saints and the angels can
sound like trying to get "friends in high places" to run
interference for you. Although people sometimes seek such "friends"
in order to get a speeding ticket fixed, buy merchandise at a lower
price or have some problem resolved, for Catholics that is not what
devotion to the saints represents.
God alone is the source of all grace and blessing.
Saints do not "fix" things for us apart from God or convince
God to do X rather than Y. At Vatican II, the bishops taught that
the holiness of the Church "is shown constantly in the fruits
of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful and so it must
be" (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, #39). Those
"fruits of grace" are seen in the lives of saintly disciples,
whether canonized or not.
Jesus was fully divine and fully human. As a human,
Jesus could be only one gender, live at one time in history, grow
up in one human culture, etc. Saints help us to see holiness as
possible for ourselves because saints include men and women, married
and single people who lived at various times in human history and
in various cultures. Saints remind us that, no matter what sacrifices
we may need to make in order to cooperate with God's grace, we are
not the first people to make those sacrifices. If we ask our friends
on earth to pray for us, why not ask our friends in heaven to do
Adapted from "Ask
A Franciscan," a feature in St. Anthony Messenger.
does the Catholic Church emphasize saints' relics if Jesus says
that the only way to heaven is through him?
Relics do not save people, and the Catholic Church
does not teach that they do. Jesus saves people.
Relics can, however, remind us of flesh-and-blood
people who generously cooperated with Gods grace. Those saints,
in turn, can encourage us to cooperate just as generously with Gods
Many Christians can agree that Jesus Christ has
saved us through his passion, death and resurrection. They will
likely also agree that a person could choose not to accept salvation.
How? By that persons choices.
Saints remind us to make good and generous choices.
Relics can remind us of saints (including Mary). All walked this
earth and eventually gave God an accounting for their stewardship
of resources, time and talent.
The Son of God became a human being, in the person
of Jesus Christ, within a specific time and in a designated place.
In a sense, relics remind us of Jesus Incarnation and of our
needright here, right nowto make choices which reflect
and reinforce our identity as followers of Jesus.
Adapted from "Ask
A Franciscan,"a feature in St. Anthony Messenger.
did we begin to venerate saints?
The various Church communities cherished the early
Christian martyrs and commemorated the anniversaries of their deaths
(their birth into eternal life) by keeping all-night vigil at their
graves and celebrating a Eucharist in the early morning.
By the time Christianity became an accepted religion
in the Roman Empire, the cult of martyrs was well established and
they were being invoked as intercessors. Particular saints could
plead before God on behalf of certain communities or individuals.
Members of the community still living on earth
could intercede on behalf of those in purgatory. Praying for the
dead is based on the scriptural passage in 2 Maccabees 12:43-46:
"It is a holy and wholesome thing to pray for the dead that
they may be loosed from their sins."
There was much emphasis placed on this idea of
a saintly community in the early Church. All the saintsthose
on earth, those in heaven and those in purgatorywere seen
as belonging to the one body of Christ.
St. John Chrysostom, who died in 407, called for
a "feast of martyrs of the whole world." At his behest
the feast of All Saints (All Hallows), those known and unknown,
has been observed since his time.
The fourth-century Nicene Creed leaves us in no
doubt of the importance of this early Church teaching. As Christians
we profess a belief in the communion of saints.
Adapted from Scripture
From Scratch, a newsletter from St. Anthony Messenger
Friar Jack's Inbox
respond to Friar Jack's reflections on "Why
St. Francis Treasured His Bond with Other Creatures"
"Dear Friar Jack: 'Please explain what
you meant when you said: Most of us rational animals tend to
disown and distance ourselves from our animal natire, denying an
important part of who we are.' "EBW
Friar Jack responds: Some people
follow a spiritual path that says we must reject this earth and
the animal side of our identity and become pure spirits. Our Christian
belief in the resurrection of the body tells us that our true nature
and destiny is not simply to be spiritual beings but full human
beings, embracing our animal (natural) side as well as our spiritual
side. Of course, we are to use our spiritual gifts (like intelligence
and free will and moral insight) to govern our total humanity in
accordance with our Creator's plan for us. Wholesome human beings,
in my judgment, do not reject their animal energies, but seek to
channel them with wisdom, love and joy in the service of God and
"Dear Friar Jack: I absolutely loved
your musings on St. Francis and the animals. I am not only a
follower of St. Francis, but also an animal justice activist and
a non-meat eater. With this, I strive to bring across the message
of St. Francis that all of creation is our brothers and sisters,
including the animals...We animal justice activists are thought
of as if we are nuts. Well, if they consider us nuts, then they
must consider St. Francis a nut. With St. Francis probably being
the greatest saint, I am glad to be in his company as a fellow nut.Debbie
Friar Jack responds: Neither you
nor St. Francis is a nut, in my judgment. I highly admire those
who promote respect for animals and those who do not eat meat or
choose to be vegetarians because of their great sensitivity and
reverence for animals. Even though I have personally not reached
the same level of conviction or action or consciousness (and I feel
some twinge of conscience about it), I see your practice as a wonderful
idealand I salute you for it.
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