“Why do Catholics pray to the saints? Can’t they just pray directly to God?”
So asked a non-Catholic woman I was talking to in a parking lot recently. I raised this same question myself when I was young. Why do I need these saints?
Since that time I have come to see the Church as God’s big family. Our “relatives” include the Catholics who came before us as well as those here with us on earth now. That includes the ones who are already in heaven. When you approach the saints with this in mind, you would only be acting naturally to seek your family’s help.
The Catechism speaks about us being “in the one family of God” and explains how we “form one family in Christ” (No. 959).
The non-Catholic woman I was talking to is very inquisitive about the Catholic faith. I told her about being part of God’s family. I also pointed out how, as a Christian, she must have asked someone else to pray for her at some time. Why did she do that if one should only pray directly to God?
The family idea really caught on with her. She remembered going through her mother at times to get some favor from her father. In a family setting, asking the help of the saints made sense.
I told her how we Catholics believe we have the fullness of the truth. And that she had been missing out by not knowing about all these members of the Church from whom she had never thought of asking help before. She said, “Why didn’t anyone tell me about this?”
Then she moved on to the most special member of the communion of saints, Mary the mother of Jesus. “Why is she so special to Catholics? Isn’t she just like any other mother? Didn’t she have other children? Why did she have to remain a virgin?”
I proceeded to use my lottery illustration. It goes like this. Suppose everybody alive today bought a lottery ticket for the biggest lottery ever, winner takes all. Wouldn’t everyone think the winner of this lottery was super special or lucky to be chosen?
Now imagine Mary and all the women who have lived or ever will live. Mary was chosen to be the mother of God’s Son. That is one amazing lottery winner with the most valuable prize imaginable.
That got her thinking.
Mary’s uniqueness is first pointed out by the angel Gabriel with his greeting, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). Another translation has it “Hail, Oh highly favored one.”
Then Mary herself points out in her Magnificat inspired by the Holy Spirit: “Behold, from now on all ages will call me blessed.” So she is super-special and all generations will recognize this fact.
By honoring the Blessed Mother, Catholics are fulfilling this prophesy of sacred Scripture.
Standing in a parking lot, I could not give a whole course on the communion of saints or on Mary. But I got this woman’s curiosity going; I’m sure of that. She could learn more through the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Ethiopian eunuch was pondering a verse of Scripture when Philip asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?”
The Church has the fullness of the truth. Let’s not keep it a secret from those we meet!
Brother John Raymond is co-founder of the
Community of the Monks of Adoration in Venice, Florida.