Dear Fr. Joe: Can you please tell me why Catholics pray to saints?
As we discussed last month, we are all in the process of becoming perfect creatures of God – becoming saints. This process toward our perfection doesn’t end in our death. Once we die, we enter into purgatory, where God’s perfect love and grace confront and heal the damage we’ve done to our souls on earth. Here, God takes his hunger for our perfection up a notch.
There also are the “saints in heaven.” These are the folks who have finished the process of purgatory and have entered fully into God’s glory. The joy that waits there cannot be described.
So, why pray for the dead? Because all three groups – the saints on earth, the saints in heaven and the saints in purgatory – are all on the same team, united by the same God who loves us all. Look at what Paul wrote in Romans:
What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. -Romans 8: 35, 37-39
Last month, we talked about why we pray for our fellow teammates who may be in purgatory. We also know that those who have “made it,” who have entered heaven, also are praying for all of us.
C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, uses the image of a child with a toothache: He goes to his mom for something to stop the pain now. Mom gets him the immediate relief, but also takes him to the dentist, who finds all the problems with all his teeth and gets right to work. Does it hurt? Yes, but it’s a healing hurt.
The saints in heaven pray for us on earth and those in purgatory – what a wonderful love that connects us even in and after death!
So, in the last two months, we’ve answered two questions: Why we pray for those in purgatory and why we ask saints to pray for us … pretty slick, eh?
I leave you with a few words from Mere Christianity. Go check this book out and enjoy another day in God’s presence!
If we let him - for we can prevent him, if we choose - he will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) his own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what he said. – CS Lewis