February 23, 2007

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Prayer: We ask the saints to intercede for us

John F. Fink(Eighteenth in a series)

One of the ways the Catholic Church differs from other religions is in its devotion to saints. It has honored people who lived heroically holy lives since the beginning of Christianity when it began to venerate St. Stephen as the first martyr.

The Church canonizes people not only to honor them—they couldn’t care less, being in heaven—but, more important, to offer them as role models.

Those of us who are still trying to work out our salvation here on Earth can try to emulate some of the virtues displayed by those who were so close to God that they were recognized for their holiness.

The idea of praying for saints’ intercession comes from the doctrine of the communion of saints that we profess when we pray the Apostles Creed.

Catholics believe that anyone in heaven, not just those who have been canonized, can pray for us, just as those on Earth can do. The Catechism of the Catholic Church assures us that saints’ “intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world” (#2683).

I wonder how many people pray to, as well as for, their parents or close friends. After all, those who knew us intimately here on Earth would naturally be the ones who would be most interested in interceding for us in heaven.

I’m sure that most people have their favorite saints to whom they pray. For some, like me, they’re our patron saints. My favorite saint, though, is St. Thomas More. He is possibly the best example of a man who could be eminently successful in secular life while still maintaining the religious practices that can make anyone a saint. I wrote about him in my book Married Saints.

Come to think about it, I’ve written a lot about saints. Besides Married Saints, other books about saints are my American Saints and two volumes of The Doctors of the Church, all published by Alba House.

Some of the other popular saints these days are St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thérèse of Lisieux and St. Anthony of Padua, to whom people pray when they’ve lost something. We residents of Indiana now have our own saint, St. Theodora Guérin, canonized last October.

Some “devotions” to the saints, though, border on superstition. Novenas to St. Jude that promise the answer to prayers if the one doing the praying distributes a certain number of copies of the prayer come under that category. Catholic newspapers often don’t know what to do with people who want to publish ads that contain the promise of assured answers to prayers. They usually forbid the inclusion of the promise and accept ads that simply thank St. Jude for prayers answered.

There is also a superstitious devotion to St. Martha, similar to the one to St. Jude, which tells people that their prayers will be answered if they circulate a certain number of copies of the prayer. †

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