Since writing the article, a good question was asked of me about the Saints.
The question is a simple one really, but well worth responding to, “So explain to us why you venerate saints?”
That is a simple question that deserves a simple response. First, I think it is important to define what “veneration” means.
So many times, non-Catholics have a way of redefining what a word means to make a false implication, a straw man.
So, what does veneration really mean? “Veneration (Latin veneratio or dulia, Greek δουλεία, douleia), or veneration of saints, is the act of honoring a saint, a person who has been identified as having a high degree of sanctity or holiness. Angels are shown similar veneration. Philologically, “to venerate” derives from the Latin verb, venerare, meaning to regard with reverence and respect.”
I have always enjoyed reading the lives of the Saints who are our role models. Adoration, which is known as latria, is the worship and homage that is rightly offered to God alone.
That is the highest act of reverence and worship. Veneration, is also known as dulia, which is the honor and reverence appropriately due to the excellence of a created person. In other words a Saint.
Jesus has something to say about the saints in heaven, He said, “The children of this age marry and remarry, but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the ones who will rise. That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
The souls who are saved already share in eternal happiness as they await for the resurrection of the dead when the soul and the body will be reunited.
The risen body will have a glorified state of being and we will be like Jesus. St. Paul writes, “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
I really like St. Paul’s writing, 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 states, “Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.”
What a great gift from God to have those role models who point the way to God by their example and lives. That is as simple as it gets why we honor the Saints.
Do the Saints have a cause and affect in heaven? The answer may surprise people. I love the story of Rich Mullin’s Conversion to the Catholic Faith.
Rich was raised a Quaker with a solid anti-Catholic background. As he developed his faith, he came to the conclusion that it was not the Catholic Church that over-rated the Saints as much as it was that Protestants under-rated the glory of God.
Rich Mullins interest in Saint Francis of Assisi led him to the Catholic Faith. He died on a tragic car accident on September 19, 1997 as I was putting together a “Jesus Fest” at Oak Grove KY at St. Micheal’s Catholic Church. I’ll never forget it as we honored Rich Mullins when we received the news.
Rich would say this not long before his death: “A lot of the stuff which I thought was so different between Protestants and Catholics [was] not, but at the end of going through an RCIA [Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults] course, I also realized that there are some real and significant differences. I’m not sure which side of the issues I come down on. My openness to Catholicism was very scary to me because, when you grow up in a church where they don’t even put up a cross, many things were foreign to me. I went to an older Protestant gentleman that I’ve respected for years and years, and I asked him, “When does faithfulness to Jesus call us to lay aside our biases and when does it call us to stand beside them?” His answer to me was that it is not about being Catholic or Protestant. It is about being faithful to Jesus. The issue is not about which church you go to, it is about following Jesus where He leads you.”
After this concert, he was to receive his first Holy Communion in the Catholic Church by Fr. McGinness, vocations director of the Diocese of Wichita.
Rich Mullins is missed by all his friends and fans and his music continues to have a great impact in Christian Contemporary Music.
I respect the advice that was given to Rich, but that underlines a serious problem within Protestantism.
This has the heresy of “Indifferent-ism” written all over it. With indifferent-ism, there are no absolutes, truth becomes subjective.
I think that in it’s heart, it is a sincere attempt to respect people of varying faiths, but the Church that Jesus founded has absolute authority.
In matters of faith and morals, the Catholic Faith is responsible in safeguarding the “deposit of faith” that the Lord entrusted to it.
There is an interesting connection between this authority and the Saints in heaven. Revelation 5:8-10 states, “When he took it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones. They sang a new hymn: ‘Worthy are you to receive the scroll and to break open its seals, for you were slain and with your blood you purchased for God those from every tribe and tongue, people and nation. You make them a kingdom and priests for our God, and they will reign on earth.”
The Saint’s prayers are represented by the incense offered to God and they are singing to the Lord who established the Church, making it a kingdom and the priests who serve the Lord will reign upon the earth.
That is taking place now in the current age and will continue until the Lord’s return at the Parousia.
Revelation 14 creates this very scene represented by the 144,000 Saints who sang the song of the Lamb.
Their voices were like the sound of rushing water of a loud peal of thunder. These Saints were not defiled by women, they were virgins who followed the Lamb.
Revelation 14:13 states, “I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ said the Spirit, ‘let them find rest from their labors, for their works accompany them”. The prayers of these holy ones is a great fragrance to God. St. Paul writes (Ephesians 5:1-2), “So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma”.
Revelation 8:3-4 states, “Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a gold censor, along with the prayers of all the holy ones, on the gold altar that was before the throne. The smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hand of the angel.”
The Altar before the throne according to 2 Corinthians 12:2 is the “third heaven” where the glory of the Lord pours out among all of creation.
The prayer of the Saints has great impact as there “were the peals of thunder, rumblins, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake (Rev 8:5).
It is at this scene that St. John records a vision stating, “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm. The ark of the covenant in this setting would be the Blessed Virgin Mary who by this time had Assumed into heaven (Revelation 12:1).
The Bible teaches us to invoke those in heaven and ask them to pray with us. Consider Psalms 103, we pray, “Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word! Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will!” (Palms. 103:20-21).
And in Psalms 148 we pray, “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host!” (Palms. 148:1-2).
The real answer to give to those who wants you to think that the Catholic Faith created all this in 375 A.D. is that the Church had always valued the prayer and the memory of the Saints.
Maybe the idea of praying to the Saints is a bit strong for some Protestants so I like the idea of praying with the Saints who intercede on our behalf in their praises to God.
In our human nature, we are always looking for heroes. Football’s hall of fame is located in Canton Ohio, Basketball’s hall of fame is located in Springfield Massachusetts, Baseball’s hall of fame is located in Cooperstown, New York, the U.S. Military hall of fame is located in Petosky Michigan, and the Catholic Hall of Fame is located in Heaven.
Just as we honor some of the great sports legends and war heroes, we especially honor those who lived for God and are in Heaven.
“Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward.” (Matthew 10:42)
James 5:16 states in part, “The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful”, those in heaven at the throne of God has very important prayers offered up for us.
Hebrews 12:1 is the kicker, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us…”
November 1 is All Saints Day and November 2 is All Souls Day. God’s glory radiates upon his people.
Father, All-Powerful and ever-living God, today we rejoice in the holy men and women of every time and place. May their prayers bring us your forgiveness and love. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
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