Friday, December 19, 2008

Prayers to the Saints

The issue arose between myself and some Protestants of whether it is a "Biblical" practice to pray to saints. I think there is an easy argument, first, for the acceptability of saints as models for our edification. I don't know how many would argue with that, as many such examples are clearly Scriptural with the Old Testament, or even in Jesus' parables.
As for prayers, what is the "cash-value" of denying that the saints pray for us? It might seem rather harmless, but I don't think there is a mistake in that the Nicene creed professes "I believe in the communion of saints." There are two ways, to my mind, to consistently deny that the saints pray for us: first, by denying that ANYONE whatsoever can pray for another person. This seems rather harsh even to most Protestants and clearly non-Scriptural according to the many times where people are called upon to offer prayers for each other in the Bible. The other tends to be the usual route among Protestants: denying that people in death "hear our prayers." This either means [1] they do not WISH to pray for us, [2] they CANNOT pray for us. The latter is even further divided into [a] inability from circumstance, or [b] inability purely speaking.
[1] seems rather easily denied, as we can fairly legitimately assume that, if the saints on earth cared for the needs of others, that they would wish to do so after death. Otherwise, they would seem to be uncharitable, with is impossible for the saint. [2]b seems impossible, as the saints could pray on earth and they would have to likewise be able to pray in heaven. Presumably, heaven is a place where the activity is mostly prayer and worship of God, so that it seems very difficult to deny that. [2]a seems to be a variety of the route most Protestants take; the dead cannot, by circumstance, hear prayers. But what does this imply? They seem to take it to mean that their souls do not persist, or that they are "unconcious" to some degree. If this is true, it seems to deny, on one hand, the immortality of the soul, or, on the other, the immediate judgment after death. The latter can also fairly clearly be shown to be false from examples like the parable of Lazarus. Some, however, do dispute that. The clearest proofs I can think of for the life of saints after death, apart from the obvious "eternal life" statements by Jesus, would be the statement, "The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God of the living, not the dead," as well as Revelation's picture of the prayers of the saints offered to God.
As a consequence, it seems fairly obvious that denying the existence of the saints and their prayers has rather problematic implications on the whole of Christian doctrine if it is denied. It requires a move that I'm not sure how many Protestants, if they understood this implication, would take. But then again, people amaze.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Brother,

I just happened to notice more closely your comment on my blog about compiling a Latin Breviary with the OP propers using the Latin breviary on the web. write me about this, I have an idea: athompson @

--Fr. Augustine O.P.