Why do Catholics ask the saint to intercede for them? Isn’t this just a false doctrine created by man? Why would we ask a “dead” person to pray for us, instead of just asking God directly?
We have all heard these questions before, and unfortunately many people believe what they are wrongly taught about the Catholic religion, and what we believe about the saints.
You may have been told that it is wrong to pray to the saints, claiming that our prayers should be directed to God alone. True worship (as opposed to veneration or honor) does indeed belong to God alone, and we should never worship man or any other creature as we worship God. But while worship may take the form of prayer, as in the Mass and other liturgies of the Church, not all prayer is worship. When we pray to the saints, we’re simply asking them to help us, by praying to God on our behalf, or thanking them for having already done so.
By the year 100 A.D., Christians were honoring other Christians who had died, and asking for their intercession. Many people think that honoring saints was something the Church set up later, but it was part of Christianity from the very beginning. As a matter of fact, this practice came from a long-standing tradition in the Jewish faith of honoring prophets and holy people with shrines. The first saints were martyrs, people who had given up their lives for the Faith in the persecution of Christians.
Look at the picture of your loved ones in your wallet, or around your home or office. Why do you keep these particular pictures? You might answer that you carry those pictures to remind you of people you love, to help you feel that they’re close to you when you’re not together, or to share with people you meet. But you probably didn’t say you worshiped them. These are some of the same reasons we have statues and pictures of saints. Seeing a statue of Saint Therese of Lisieux who lost her mother when she was a child might make us feel less alone when we are grieving.
Have you ever asked anyone to pray for you when you were having a hard time? Why did you choose to ask that person? You may have chosen someone you could trust, or someone who understood your problem, or someone who was close to God. Those are all reasons we ask saints to pray for us.
Scripture is very clear that the “prayer of a righteous man availeth much”. God is pleased when we turn to one another and join together in our prayers. We are members of the same body of Christ (Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:25-27) and of one another (Eph. 4:25), and the Church refers to this mystery as the “communion of saints”.
Those in heaven are alive, closest to God, and more aware of our needs than when they were on earth. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:1-2).
Since saints led holy lives and are close to God in heaven, we feel that their prayers are particularly effective. Can they hear us? Absolutely! The saints are very much alive in Heaven according to Jesus: “And concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, `I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” -Matthew 22:31-32. In fact, they are more alive in Heaven than they were here on earth.
Based on the overwhelming evidence from Scripture, the Tradition of the Church as well as the fact that it is theologically acceptable, we can be assured that the Saints in heaven can hear our prayers and are praying for us.