*BEST OF DTB #222* Praying and Saints and the Body of Christ: A Catholic Take

Posted by John Benko - October 11th, 2012

“Saints and the Garden of God” Podcast
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What’s With All the Saints?
And the Nature of Prayer

Originally Posted on 9-18-2011

“I’m having trouble with praying to the saints. I know it’s possible, I just can’t see why it’s necessary.” This question came from a fellow convert. Her conversion, like mine, was emotional and total and nearly as instantaneous. God simply handed her the Truth of the Church and reduced her (and continues to reduce her to tears) at the beauty of 2,000 years of the Faith laid out like a welcome mat before her. We both (and indeed we all) have been graced with the one true faith; what we don’t know is the details. This type of conversion of the heart means that the mind sometimes takes a little while to catch up, so my young friend will ask me questions on occasion, knowing I went through a similar process. Sometimes, I have looked into it already. Sometimes we have to go looking for answers and off we trot. This was what I found out in answer to her question. 

Unlike me and my spiritual meanderings, she comes directly from a Protestant background, so Biblical references are helpful to her. I’ve listed them below so you can read them at your leisure. For the purpose of this explanation, I am going to assume that you, too, know the truth, but are hungry to know why it should be true.

The Prayers of Petition: Who Needs Them?

1) God doesn’t need you. You need God.

First off, we need to understand that God doesn’t need anything. He Is. He can do what He wants, with or without our input. Petitioning God for you and your own needs or even intercessory prayer (a prayer that asks God to do something for another person) does not turn God into a slot machine. Insert prayer, pull handle, receive blessing. As we all know, every petitionary or intercessory prayer is answered with either a yes, a no, or a wait awhile.We need to ask. God wants us to ask, but He has no need of the asking.

2) Prayer is a gift.

The act of prayer is not even our own. It is our response to grace. The desire to pray is placed in our heart. It is a sign that we are beginning to cooperate with the Will of God, no matter how imperfectly. It is often the person praying that God changes in order to answer the prayer. So, for example, even though you may be praying for a stubborn coworker who drives you batty, the answer to your prayer may look a little like this:

You haven’t thought about that obnoxious co-worker much lately, but in the middle of an tense discussion with your husband you are suddenly graced with a vivid understanding of how petty you are being. You are given the insight to see that he is bothered by your demands, but is perfectly willing to do it your way to keep the peace. Not only do you see your own pettiness, but you can see a direct correlation between your pettiness and the pettiness of that coworker you’ve been praying for. The insight into your own character is in answer to that original prayer and if you could put it into words it would be something like: “Is it any wonder that this coworker bugs me so much? Everything he does pricks my conscience!”

I try hard to remember that there are an infinity of irritants in the world and most of them bounce off with little notice. It’s the irritants that resonate with our own faults that catch and hold our attention. I know this may seem off the topic, but it really has a lot to do with the question of praying to the saints. It has to do with our needs, rather than God’s. My point is that God does not need to be asked to act, and in a similar way, God does not need the saints to ask either. Neither do the saints need anything, being in Heaven already.

When we pray to God to change something in our life, we are responding to the grace to pray and are cooperating with His will. He will use our cooperation to change us, to make us more of who He created us to be. 

3) Intercessory prayer increases our communion with the Body of Christ.

It is a spiritual no-brainer to understand that praying increases our communion with God. You have to talk to someone to get to know them better, so that sort of truth about prayer can be intuited without much research or contemplation. Something about intercessory prayer that might not be obvious is that we begin to commune with each other as we pray. Prayer is communication. When we pray for others part of our communication is our communion with God and also with the person we are praying for. In other words, we are strengthening our relationship with that person through God. Strengthening the bonds with another strengthens the unity of the Body of Christ here on Earth. It brings us together in community here and helps us remember that we are, in fact, related and necessary for one another.

Asking the saints to pray for us is the same thing, only with the larger Body of Christ. The saints don’t need our prayers, being in Heaven already. God doesn’t need our prayers, being God, nor does He need the saint’s prayers. We have need of the saints, though. We need to be closer to those who have triumphed. We need to build stronger bonds with Heaven and the residents there. It helps us remember that there is our home, the more we call upon all the loved ones there. 

Our focus should be Heaven. Our actions should be Prayer. Our life should be God’s. Prayer helps us to make that happen. Prayer is so much more than what we bargain for and thank God for it!



Scripture Proofs (from this link)

I. We are One Family in Christ in Heaven and on Earth

Eph. 3:14-15- we are all one family (“Catholic”) in heaven and on earth, united together, as children of the Father, through Jesus Christ. Our brothers and sisters who have gone to heaven before us are not a different family. We are one and the same family. This is why, in the Apostles Creed, we profess a belief in the “communion of saints.” There cannot be a “communion” if there is no union. Loving beings, whether on earth or in heaven, are concerned for other beings, and this concern is reflected spiritually through prayers for one another.
Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23-32; Col. 1:18,24 – this family is in Jesus Christ, the head of the body, which is the Church.
1 Cor. 12:12,27; Rom. 12:5; Col. 3:15; Eph. 4:4 – we are the members of the one body of Christ, supernaturally linked together by our partaking of the Eucharist.
Rom. 8:35-39 – therefore, death does not separate the family of God and the love of Christ. We are still united with each other, even beyond death.
Matt. 17:3; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30 – Jesus converses with “deceased” Moses and Elijah. They are more alive than the saints on earth.
Matt. 22:32; Mark 12:27; Luke 20:38 – God is the God of the living not the dead. The living on earth and in heaven are one family.
Luke 15:7,10 – if the angels and saints experience joy in heaven over our repentance, then they are still connected to us and are aware of our behavior.
John 15:1-6 – Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. The good branches are not cut off at death. They are alive in heaven.
1 Cor. 4:9 – because we can become a spectacle not only to men, but to angels as well, this indicates that angels are aware of our earthly activity. Those in heaven are connected to those on earth.
1 Cor. 12:26 – when one member suffers, all suffer. When one is honored, all rejoice. We are in this together as one family.
1 Cor 13:12; 1 John 3:2 – now we see in a mirror dimly, but in heaven we see face to face. The saints are more alive than we are!
Heb. 12:1: we are surrounded by a great glory cloud (shekinah) of witnesses. The “cloud of witnesses” refers to the saints who are not only watching us from above but cheering us on in our race to heaven.
1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 20:6 – we are a royal family of priests by virtue of baptism. We as priests intercede on behalf of each other.
2 Peter 1:4 – since God is the eternal family and we are His children, we are partakers of His divine nature as a united family.
1 Cor. 1:2; Rom. 1:7 – we are called to be saints. Saints refer to both those on earth and in heaven who are in Christ. Proof:
Acts 9:13,32,41; 26:10; 1 Cor. 6:1-2; 14:33; 2 Cor. 1:1; 8:4; 9:1-2; 13:13; Rom. 8:27; 12:23; 15:25,26, 31; 16:2,15; Eph. 1:1,15,18; 3:8; 5:3; 6:18; Phil. 1:1; 4:22; Col 1:2,4,26; 1 Tm 5:10; Philemon 1:5,7; Heb. 6:10; 13:24; Jude 1:3; Rev. 11:18; 13:7; 14:12; 16:6; 17:6;18:20,24; Rev 19:8; 20:9 – in these verses, we see that Christians still living on earth are called “saints.”
Matt. 27:52; Eph. 2:19; 3:18; Col. 1:12; 2 Thess. 1:10; Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4; 11:18; 13:10 – in these verses, we also see that “saints” also refer to those in heaven who united with us.
Dan. 4:13,23; 8:23 – we also see that the angels in heaven are also called “saints.” The same Hebrew word “qaddiysh” (holy one) is applied to both humans and angels in heaven. Hence, there are angel saints in heaven and human saints in heaven and on earth. Loving beings (whether angels or saints) are concerned for other beings, and prayer is the spiritual way of expressing that love.

II. God Desires and Responds to Our Subordinate Mediation / Intercessory Prayer

1 Tim 2:1-2 – because Jesus Christ is the one mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5), many Protestants deny the Catholic belief that the saints on earth and in heaven can mediate on our behalf. But before Paul’s teaching about Jesus as the “one mediator,” Paul urges supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people. Paul is thus appealing for mediation from others besides Christ, the one mediator. Why?
1 Tim 2:3 – because this subordinate mediation is good and acceptable to God our Savior. Because God is our Father and we are His children, God invites us to participate in Christ’s role as mediator.
1 Tim. 2:5 – therefore, although Jesus Christ is the sole mediator between God and man, there are many intercessors (subordinate mediators).
1 Cor. 3:9 – God invites us to participate in Christ’s work because we are God’s “fellow workers” and one family in the body of Christ. God wants His children to participate. The phrase used to describe “fellow workers” is “sunergoi,” which literally means synergists, or cooperators with God in salvific matters. Does God need fellow workers? Of course not, but this shows how much He, as Father, loves His children. God wants us to work with Him.
Mark 16:20 – this is another example of how the Lord “worked with them” (“sunergountos”). God cooperates with us. Out of His eternal love, He invites our participation.
Rom. 8:28 – God “works for good with” (the Greek is “sunergei eis agathon”) those who love Him. We work as subordinate mediators.
2 Cor. 6:1 – “working together” (the Greek is “sunergountes”) with him, don’t accept His grace in vain. God allows us to participate in His work, not because He needs our help, but because He loves us and wants to exalt us in His Son. It is like the father who lets his child join him in carrying the groceries in the house. The father does not need help, but he invites the child to assist to raise up the child in dignity and love.
Heb. 12:1 – the “cloud of witnesses” (nephos marturon) that we are surrounded by is a great amphitheatre of witnesses to the earthly race, and they actively participate and cheer us (the runners) on, in our race to salvation.
1 Peter 2:5 – we are a holy priesthood, instructed to offer spiritual sacrifices to God. We are therefore subordinate priests to the Head Priest, but we are still priests who participate in Christ’s work of redemption.
Rev. 1:6, 5:10 – Jesus made us a kingdom of priests for God. Priests intercede through Christ on behalf of God’s people.
James 5:16; Proverbs 15:8, 29 – the prayers of the righteous (the saints) have powerful effects. This is why we ask for their prayers. How much more powerful are the saints’ prayers in heaven, in whom righteousness has been perfected.
1 Tim 2:5-6 – therefore, it is because Jesus Christ is the one mediator before God that we can be subordinate mediators. Jesus is the reason. The Catholic position thus gives Jesus the most glory. He does it all but loves us so much He desires our participation.

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*BEST OF DTB #117* Saints and Angels and Relics and Statues- Vehicles of Biblical Worship, not objects of Idolotry

Posted by John Benko - December 16th, 2011

The Catholic Encyclopedia gives what I feel to be a needlessly confusing explanation of the veneration or honor of Saints and Angels and Relics and Statues;

There are several degrees of this worship:
if it is addressed directly to God, it is superior, absolute, supreme worship, or worship of adoration, or, according to the consecrated theological term, a worship of latria. This sovereign worship is due to God alone; addressed to a creature it would become idolatry.
When worship is addressed only indirectly to God, that is, when its object is the veneration of martyrs, of angels, or of saints, it is a subordinate worship dependent on the first, and relative, in so far as it honours the creatures of God for their peculiar relations with Him; it is designated by theologians as the worship of dulia , a term denoting servitude, and implying, when used to signify our worship of distinguished servants of God, that their service to Him is their title to our veneration (cf. Chollet, loc. cit., col. 2407, and Bouquillon, Tractatus de virtute religionis , I, Bruges, 1880, 22 sq.).

As the Blessed Virgin has a separate and absolutely supereminent rank among the saints, the worship paid to her is called hyperdulia (for the meaning and history of these terms see Suicer, Thesaurus ecclesiasticus , 1728).
In accordance with these principles it will readily be understood that a certain worship may be offered even to inanimate objects, such as the relics of a
martyr, the Cross of Christ, the Crown of Thorns, or even the statue or picture
of a saint. There is here no confusion or danger of idolatry, for this worship
is subordinate or dependent. The relic of the saint is venerated because of the
link which unites it with the
person who is adored or venerated ; while the statue or picture is regarded as having a conventional relation to a person who has
right to our homage — as being a symbol which reminds us of that person

This explanation makes me cringe. Not because it isn’t correct (it is), not because it conflicts with what we have been saying (it doesn’t). It makes me cringe because it explains this doctrine in such an utterly (and in my opinion, unnecessarily) confusing manner that we could truly blame no one for misinterpreting it. To me, doctrines should be explained in ways that eliminate confusion rather than add to it.

To that end, tonight’s show will explain why this citation is not saying that we worship Mary, the Angels, the Saints etc. even though it-admittedly- seems to be.

Let’s start by pointing out that the article specifically states that it is rendering the word worship by the Anglo-saxon (that is British) definition, a definition quite different than our own.
It so happens that in British English and American English the meaning of the words honor and worship are reversed. A judge in America would be called your honor while one in Great Britain (a predominantly protestant country btw) is called your worship. So, if you are going to claim that Catholics worship Mary and the Saints, according to the American definition, to attribute divinity to them, then you have to stipulate that people in England consider their judges to be gods.

Further, while our upper legislative chamber is called the Senate, theirs is called the house of lords. Are we to project our understanding on this body too and assume that their legislative branch is filled with a bunch of Jesus-es? Come now. Can we stop being silly?

When reading this article, the distinction is made very clear because both American and British Catholics also refer to what we call worship- the level of honor that denotes Divinity- as Adoration. Adoration is yet another word that has multiple dictionary definitions but the context that we use it in is Worship- something due God alone. We refer to it as Adoration and our Anglo-Saxon brethren have called it Worship of Adoration. It is this adoration that matches exactly what orthodox American Christians mean by Worship and to describe this Adoration or Worship as applying to the honor given Mary, The Saints, the Angels, relics or statues is not only false, it is absurd.

To suggest that Catholics do not understand that Mary was a created being, or that statues are lifeless alabaster casts, is to make the accuser, not the object of his accusation, look foolish.

This is not to say, of course, that God cannot produce miracles through these. Through Mary, God performed the miracle of the Incarnation, just as through Moses, He parted the Red Sea. Through the Apostles, He performed miracles of healings and, through His Divine will, He brought life to Elijah’s bones and voice to Balaam’s Donkey. We as Catholics could add thousands of miracles to these, whereby God worked great signs and wonders through Saints and even through Statues and religious articles.

The point is that no Catholic believes that the Saint performed the Miracle nor did the bones nor the donkey. God performed these signs. Just as Moses had to remove his shoes because God’s presence made the ground before the burning bush holy, and Uzzah was struck dead because God’s presence made the Ark of the covenant holy, so we acknowledge that God’s work, through these people, made them holy. Not Divine, but Holy.

If the magnificence of The Ark of the Covenant or Salomon’s Temple, pointed to the awesomeness of Our God, how much more the magnificent creature that carried His Son in her womb? How could we dare not to give Mary, Christ’s own Mother, the highest honor possible due a creature of God?

By honoring Mary, we are, in fact, worshiping God, Her creator, by any definition of the word. This is what the author clumsily refers to as indirect worship. Even by the British definition of worship, what we call honor, that honor is directed ultimately to God, as we marvel at His work. So, even by the benign British version of worship, we do not worship Mary, The Saints, Angels etc. These creatures are not the object of our honor, God is. These creatures are only a vehicle of honor/worship directed towards God. This is in direct opposition to Idolatry, that which we are falsely accused of.

The first commandment (that which our protestant friends mistakenly call the first two commandments is clear;

Exodus 20
“I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you out of
the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.
3 You shall not have other gods besides me.
4 You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape
of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the
waters beneath the earth;
5 *you shall not bow down before them or worship them.
For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting
punishment for their fathers’ wickedness on the children of
those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation;
6 but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth
generation, on the children of those who love me and keep my

  1. Mary is not a goddess in Catholicism, nor is any saint a god or goddess, nor any angel, nor any Pope nor any statue. Anyone who tells you otherwise is simply lying.
  2. We do not carve idols unto ourselves. An idol is an object of ascribed Divinity, something that takes the place of God. The statues that we have are no more idols than the statues of Angels that God Himself commanded to me made for the ark of the Covenant and the Temple. These statues remind us of some of God’s most magnificent creations, glorifying Him in that creation.
  3. We do not bow down before them (prostration), nor do we worship them. A bow of the head or a kneel of respect, as Salomon gave his mother in 1 Kings 2, is a far cry from falling at one’s feet and prostrating oneself in worship.

At some point, common sense must enter the equation. Catholics do not worship anyone but The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Anyone who denies this is wrong. It is just that simple.

Join us tonight at 8:00 PM Eastern.

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