As a Catholic Priest, who has a history of dialogue with non-Catholic Christians, one of the most common accusations based upon faulty assumptions is that we worship idols. Namely, that we worship Mary the Mother of Jesus and the saints, those men and women that the Church declares to be in Heaven. Catholics have heard this so much that at times they become immune to its affects. Yet, when we stop to analyze what is being said we should at least be mildly offended that some how we are being accused of not knowing our God. We worship one God in three persons; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Not even a marginal Catholic would lay claim to anything less.
The logic that motivates such a gross assumption comes from a pure idea. Jesus Christ our Lord is the one mediator between God and man. If Jesus is the one mediator then why would I need to ask the communion of saints to pray for me? This is a very good question and one that can be answered clearly.
As people that believe in Jesus Christ we are all connected. To use St. Paul’s example we are one body with Christ as the head. As members of the one body we have been given different charisms, gifts and graces from the Holy Spirit. These gifts are not to be held to ourselves. In fact, they only are effective to the extent that they are shared and given away. Now, “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7)
I have been blessed to know so many incredible men and women in the Church. Each one of them possess talents and gifts that overwhelm me with the realization that God is working in them in mighty ways. I am so convinced of their unity with Jesus Christ that I continually ask for their prayers. As Christians, don’t we all know some pretty incredible people with amazing gifts that can pray for us? Having said that, if we are one body, each with different graces and charisms, why would our communion with one another in Jesus Christ cease because of death?
St. Paul tells us in the book of Romans that nothing can separate us from the Love of Christ, especially death. (Romans 8:35-39) If I ask my brothers and sisters on this side to pray for me then why wouldn’t I continue to ask my brothers and sisters on the other side to pray for me? Especially considering that it is safe to say that the gifts, charisms and graces that we were blessed with in our brokenness on Earth are only stronger, purer and more effective for the building up of the Kingdom of God in Heaven. If my prayers are efficacious now how much more efficacious will they be in the age when I am completely united to God?
Some people have the misconception that once you reach Heaven you are cut off from what is happening on Earth. If a Mother, who prayed and sacrificed on Earth for her children to return to Church and find salvation, suddenly died, would she simply forget about that passionate desire? Or would that desire become all the more intense in light of the true brilliance of Heavenly realities? Some would argue that the Saints have no way of hearing our petitions but if they are united to God completely why is this such a hard thing to believe? In the book of Revelation 5:8 it says: “Each one (of the saints) had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.” The saints are depicted as possessing our prayers and offering them to God. I think it is safe to say that the desires and prayers of the saints are powerful and needed and that through Christ they remain connected to us not just as a memory but in reality. God allows each of us to participate in his mission. We simply do not get to Heaven and float around on lazy river to the strums of angelic harps sipping choice spirits. If we are called to build the Kingdom of God while on Earth the same holds true in Heaven.
Lastly, in regards to Mary the Mother of Jesus, the Angel Gabriel, the mouthpiece of God, greeted her with the term “full of Grace.” (Luke 1:28) Mary was a human being like you and me but she certainly was and is the most special member of our race. Only she was designed and created to become the New Ark of the Covenant. By her profound yes, her fiat as we say, she conceived the son of God in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary carried the second member of the trinity in her womb for 9 months, fed him from her body and raised him. She was and is indeed full of Grace.
Therefore, Mary has the most special ability to intercede for the body of Christ. All the graces, charisms and gifts that she was showered with in this life are only that much more magnificent in Heaven. Can you see now why we call her the Queen of all the Saints? She is not a deity that we worship. She wouldn’t want worship anyway. Her only desire is the same one in the heart of the communion of all the saints, that we all come to the knowledge and love Jesus Christ and are with Him for all of eternity. It is all about Jesus Christ. Our Mother Mary and the saints know that better than anyone on Earth.
Fr. Claude Burns aka Pontifex