I never really understood why non-Catholics have such a problem with the saints, or asking the saints to intervene for our intentions, on our behalf, to God. My purpose here is not faith apologetics, there are plenty of resources devoted to that which would be more helpful to the curious seeker. However my own understanding is that the saints were just regular people, many in fact quite like me, very rebellious and sinful early in life, only to grow in their faith and touched by our Lord such that they became worthy of imitation. (ha, not that I am!) A common theme seemed to be their humility, none of them seemed to feel very “worthy.” We hold it to be a truth that these “Saints,” are in heaven with our Lord. Therefore, being “closer” than we are, it just seems logical that they could put a word in edgewise, and referencing Maccabees and Revelation 5:8, they in fact do receive our prayers (symbolized by incense) and relay them on to God. Why not pray to God ourselves? Well, of course we can, and should, and do. But when we’re hurting, or scared, or facing tragedy, don’t we also ask our friends to pray for us? And aren’t we more likely to ask those who we consider “the faithful,” “saved,” or at least “believers” to pray for us than our cousin Joey who thinks it’s all a bunch of crap? So who better to ask to pray for us that those we believe are so “saved” that they actually are with God already? I’ve heard claims that praying to the dead amount to necromancy or even “idolatry.” This is absurd, no one is conjuring up, worshipping or deifying the dead, simply asking them to relay a request.
Ok, that all being said, during my life, I haven’t prayed much or very often to the Saints – at least not until recently.
St. Monica (AD331-387) is remembered and venerated as a devout Christian during those early years, and her virtues, particularly the suffering against the adultery of her husband, and a prayerful life dedicated to the reformation of her son (Augustine), are legendary and heroic. Saint Monica was said to have prayed and wept every night for her son Augustine’s conversion.
Monica was married to a Pagan named Patricius, though like so many his religion was no more than a name; with a violent temper, he was drunkard and quite a carouser.
Monica seemed to spend a lifetime of worry centering on one of her three sons, Augustine; who was wayward and lazy. He was sent away to school, but lived there “dissolutely.”
Always the arrogant “intellectual,” Augustine had been living an “immoral life,” and adopted a heresy called Manichaeism. When he returned home, he shared his new theological views and Monica drove him away from her table. However, she is said to have experienced a strange vision that convinced her to reconcile with her son.
Monica followed her wayward son to Rome, where he had gone secretly; when she arrived he had already gone to Milan, but she followed him. Here she found and pleaded with the local bishop St. Ambrose for assistance. Through him she ultimately had the joy of seeing Augustine convert to Christianity, after seventeen years of his resistance, and decades of her prayers.
Augustine would become one of the most influential thinkers in all of history. Considered a “Doctor of the Church,” St. Augustine’s writings and teachings including his Confessions, have shaped Church teachings, as well as philosophy forever.
St. Monica is forever remembered as the “Patron Saint of parents,” especially “parents of troubled or wayward children.”
Being a “Cradle-Catholic,” I also wasn’t aware that other Christian denominations (and non-denominations) had a problem with “praying FOR the dead.” This was just something we always did, without really wondering if it was necessary or helpful.
Hadn’t the deceased already determined their destiny by their Faith (or lack of it), and consequential actions manifesting that Faith during their lifetimes? Of course they had.
So, of what good would prayers be for them? Not being a theologian, I’m not really sure; being a Catholic there was the issue of “purgation,” mentioned numerous times in scripture. Regardless of whether or not Purgatory is real or figurative; lasting “the blink of an eye,” or some longer element of time; and whether or not we can actually aid those in that position, I can’t be sure. Again, this has been argued for centuries by folks much smarter than I, but suffice it to say, it all becomes different when you lose someone you love.
I really have no knowledge whether or not it helps my Cullen grow a bit closer to God, or whether he’s there with Him already. I am relatively sure, however, of two things.
(1) The act of praying for my son certainly does no harm (Pascal), and (2) You would do so also if it was your own son.
Several Masses were said “for” my son, as well as for Mom and Dad this past year. The “Prayers of the Faithful” is a part of the Catholic Mass where we pray for each other, the world, victims of natural disasters, guidance for our leaders,etc, etc, with a special intention for the individual for whom that Mass was being said. “For the remission of their sins and the repose of their soul.”
It may or may not help my son on his journey.
It certainly helps me on mine.