Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Feast of All Saints

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of All Saints. I thought it would be a good chance to handle some of those saint related questions which we receive.

In her Vatican versus God essay, Candy takes issue with the canonization of saints. Elena writes about that here.

The Catholic Church does not teach that the only saints are those which are formally canonized. In fact, the Feast of All Saints came about as a way to remember all those saints whose name we don't know. This was the practice very early on in the church, because so many were martyred that it was impossible to keep track of them all. Both St. Ephrem (d. 373) and St. John Chrysostom (d. 407) attest to this feast day in their preaching.

Often, people question why we "pray to saints" when Jesus is the one Mediator. We do not pray to Mary and the saints in the same way that we pray to God. We are asking them to pray for us, the same way that we ask our family and friends here on earth to pray for us. This was the practice of the early Christians, as well.

We believe that God is the God of the living and not the dead, because the dead are alive to Him (Matt. 22:32; Mark 12:27; Luke 20:38) and that they are aware of us on earth, surrounding us as a great cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1). The saints present their prayers to God before His throne in heaven (Rev. 5:8).

But what about the statues of saints we have in church? Isn't that kneeling before idols?

While Catholic churches often have statues, we don't pray to the statues. It is like a picture, to remind you of a loved one. Like a historical statue, to stand and contemplate who it represents.

When we kneel before a statue, it is not because we are worshiping the statue, it is because we are about to pray to God at a location that happens to be in front of a statue.

Perhaps you might kneel in prayer, with an illustrated Bible, and open to a page with a picture of the Holy Land to better contemplate Jesus. Are you worshiping the picture because you are kneeling?

It is merely an aid to prayer. The prayer is not directed to the object.

Some other resources:

Catholic Answers on Praying to the Saints
Scripture Catholic on the Saints
David MacDonald on the saints

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