"Who needs the saints?"

Who needs the saints, what’s the point? A nicely done video by Fr. Jim Martin, author of My Life With the Saints, which has been endlessly plugged around here, and with good reason. It’s a good way to spend 3 1/2 minutes.

I’ve written before about the Communion of Saints and what it is like to pray with the cloud of witnesses St. Paul tells us are always around us. Christians profess the Communion of Saints in the Apostles Creed, but aside from the Catholics and Orthodox, we don’t actually talk about engaging them in prayer – asking them to pray with and for us. Anglicans recognise the saints, too, but are – I think – a little less pally with them, and the Evangelicals don’t think about them at all. That’s partly because, although there is growing friendship and understanding between Catholics and Evangelicals, there is a tremendous disconnect between them on this issue. Some Evangelicals swear we “worship” the saints instead of God and engage in idolatry, and we Catholics and Orthodox don’t do a very good job of explaining that our engagements with the saints are the farthest things from “worship” but are in fact, fast friendships wherein we pray together.

Also, Evangelicals and many Protestants insist that the canon of saints is unnecessary because “we’re all saints.” Well…okay, but if we believe in eternal life, then it seems sensible to me that those who went before us – now in heaven – are still capable of praying with us and for us, just like anyone else.

The supernatural is the supernatural. I’ve never understood how people can believe that God can Incarnate via a Virgin and rise from the dead, yet not believe that the same God can feed us with his own body and blood – just like He says in John, Chapter 6 – or that once eternal life is entered into, the dead can be alive in heaven but dead to us.

A friend sent me an email today asking for prayers for her dying father, who is a resolute atheist and a man with a rather impoverished spirit. She wrote:

He is one of the stubbornest men alive who has turned his life into a personal Calcutta, a personal hell, from which he will not cooperate one bit to emerge. Of course I pray for his return to health, but I pray more for a crack in that stubborn facade so that he can see God is reaching out, just wanting him to grasp the slightest bit at Love Himself.

The idea of his having created his own personal Calcutta came to me last night and made me begin turning to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) for intercession. If every anyone understood the utter poverty of being unloved, even if it by one’s own choice, it is she.

And this is where the ancient and traditional understanding of the Communion of Saints is brought into dynamic play in our lives. My friend was perfectly right – and likely inspired by the Holy Spirit – to consider that Bl. Teresa of Calcutta, who ministered to “the poorest of the poor” (and who warned the West that the meanest streets in Bombay did not compare with our spiritual poverty and emptiness) would be a powerful ally in prayer.

This is what we do every time we say to another, “please pray for me…” – we engage in the Communion of Saints. And when we ask those who are dead to the world but yet alive to pray for us, for our loved ones, we do it again. When we invite the saints to pray with us, our prayer becomes infused with the wisdom and insight, stout-hearted faith and absolute certainty of knowledge which they bring to it, because they are praying in the light of heaven.

When I pray the rosary at night, I invite my little “prayer group” to pray it with me. The Gang includes St Michael, Cardinal John O’ Connor, Mother Teresa, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Maximillian Kolbe and Richard Neuhaus (he’s new). Others come and go, depending on who or what I am offering the Rosary for. When praying for a friend who is a deacon, I invite in St. Lawrence or St. Stephen (both martyrs); when offering Thanksgiving, I ask Pope John Paul II, St. Philip Neri and St. Therese of Lisieux to pray along. When I am aware that I am failing in love, I ask Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity to pray the rosary with me and for me, because her writings on love have astonished me. When I pray for my nation, I invite Sts. Thomas More and Thomas Becket and all of the North American beatas, saints and others (everyone from Bl. Kateri Teckakwitha to St. Katharine Drexel, to Frs. Solanus Casey and Juniepero Serra, to past presidents and soldiers to pray with me.) Lately, with people worrying about their jobs, St. Joseph – patron saint of workers – is getting a lot of invites, and he never lets me down!

Praying the rosary with The Gang, btw, has created within me a love for the rosary which I could not manage – in 50 years of trying – to cultivate on my own.

Does it sound crazy? Well, alright, then, I’m crazy, but these people pray with me – I can feel them with me and we are together in prayer. Communion and community go hand-in-hand, and prayer is a serious and solid force that can do amazing things.

Tonight, when you’re saying your prayers – try inviting a saint you know to pray along. You don’t have to be Catholic, and the saint doesn’t have to be part of the Canon. You can ask your sweet granny who loved you to pray with you. I am certain she will.

Faith Based and Hand Wringing
Getcha Red-Hot Patrons Here

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • megthered

    Michelle Malkin has a link to little Hannah Garman and her aunt’s wish for prayers for her healing. Your prayers are strong, could you please add this little girl and her family to your prayers. I am not a religious person, but I have seen many things that can’t be explained by science.

  • dellbabe68

    Will pray (just did but will again) for your friend’s dad. I ask everyone here to pray for my Mom and the stem cell (her own) transplant she received to recover from lymphoma.

    This is a great post. I have discovered the wonders and comfort of praying the Rosary only in the past year. I’ve always collected Rosaries and have about 15 pair but now I am using them. For a while I followed a prayer book, thinking on each mystery for the respective decade, and saying the requisite prayers before and after (I will stick to this). I have developed a few things I like a lot, while being influenced by so many on Cahtolic blogs, which I thank God for. One, I enjoy saying it while standing at a tall dresser I have with many statues and pictures of all my favorite Saints (a crucifix hangs above the dresser) and I think about them and thank them while I’m saying it. It’s so much more personal this way. I also now use a beautiful Rosary sent to me by a nun in Ohio with whom I correspond. (Check out the Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Hopedale, Ohio, an order I found through a link here). It’s made with lots of knots around the beads, making it stay so comfortably in the hand. Other things I do: before starting the decades I offer up the Rosary for whomever needs prayers that day (and there’s always a lot). And finally, I now (just last night) think on so many people to ask God to bless them DURING each Hail Mary. It was the most “enjoyable” Rosary I have said in that it felt natural. My dog, new to my habit of saying it while standing at this dresser next to my bed, wrinkled his little brow for about two decades, and I smiled at my St. Francis statue. Though it sounds corny, felt I shared a laugh with him.

    I felt medidative enough to say the Hail Mary while I was thinking on the many people in my life (and a lot I don’t know personally) and asking God to bless them.

    Last week there was a picture of the Holy Father praying the Rosary with his “some-official-name-of-the-priest-position who assists him,” saying it next to him, too. I was so touched by that photo. It reminded me they say it too, of course, and the look of concentration on both their faces gave me inspiration.

  • http://newine.wordpress.com ultraguy

    Are you crazy? Of course you are! So was St. Paul. (That’s a compliment, btw.)

    Your efforts to explain Catholicism to us non-Catholics continue to provide a major blessing and help dress up longstanding misunderstandings between followers of Christ. Hey, I’ll pray with the saints if you quote more scripture. :)

  • Ronsonic

    Discussing the Catholic relationship with the saints with an evangelical friend of mine, I asked, would it be idolatrous or otherwise wrong of me to ask you to pray for me, or to ask you for encouragement or inspiration. Why should we discriminate against the dead in that way then.

    The Church did not make Saints of those men and women, God did. The function of the Church was to recognize them and tell us about them. There is nothing idolatrous about including past generations in our community of prayer.

  • http://moraliablog.com/ Brigette Russell

    I have several ex-Catholic Evangelical friends and have been through the “Don’t you know that praying to Mary is idolatry?” spiel with them a few times.

  • kuvasz

    In a time we are both under attack by Muslims and secular progressives we need to remember we have vastly more in common then we have differences. I loved the spirit of “Evangelicals and Catholics together.” Thank you.


  • Ellen

    I tried your technique of asking the saints to pray the rosary with me last night -I asked St. Thomas More and the North American saints to join me to pray for our country and for its politicians (to maybe send us some better ones). It was the most lovely and spiritually fulfilling rosary I have prayed in a LONG time.

    When it comes to saints, one of my very favorite ones is the Servant of God Pierre Toussaint. He was a slave in Haiti who came to America with the family who owned him. When they lost everything, he quietly supported them (he was a noted hairdresser in New York society). His charity was legendary and he bought the freedom of many slaves and with his wife, nursed the sick and fostered orphaned black children. Cardinal O’Connor was devoted to him and had him buried in St. Patrick’s Cathedral (which he contributed to). I think that I will ask him and Cardinal O’Connor to pray with me tonight.

    [Cardinal O' Connor is a wonderful "prayer partner". And Servant of God Pierre is one of my faves, too. I've written about him here. - admin]

  • Pingback: The Anchoress explains saints « The Quick and the Dead

  • paul

    My wife and I recently attended a Memorial Mass for a dear friend, a Nun who became very important to our family some years ago.
    The service was conducted by three priests: a Jesuit and two Capuchin monks.
    Episcopalians, we went to honor our friend and out of curiosity.
    Your post and the Funeral Mass have formed a perfect package for me.
    You write of the ‘cloud of Saints’…
    During the Mass, the priests made such a concept very visible and real for us.
    You are right that for Episcopalians the relationship with the Saints is often not so intimate.
    Witnessed intimacy at the Mass.
    During the reception afterward, the Jesuit led us all in a toast as we raised our wine glasses in a toast to the deceased, asking her to pray for us that we might join her some day.
    Thank you for your site.

  • Pingback: Michael Dubruiel - R.I.P. - UPDATED | The Anchoress

  • Pingback: Feb 11; St. Bernadette Soubirous | The Anchoress

  • Pingback: “Do Not Be Afraid.” | The Anchoress

  • Pingback: Fatima & the Rosary | The Anchoress

  • Pingback: The Rosary: The Joyful Mysteries | The Anchoress