What the Catholic Church Teaches
Worship / Veneration
people misunderstand what the Catholic
Church teaches about saints, and some
mistakenly think that the Church
promotes idolatry. In reality, the Catholic
Church teaches that God alone is to be worshiped with the worship of
latria (click here) and that His saints are to be given a form of veneration
appropriate to creatures - the 'worship of dulia' (click
here). Saints are never worshiped as God (or gods).
Intercession of the Saints
The Church also teaches that those in Heaven can pray on
our behalf (or "intercede" for
us). By asking those in Heaven to intercede for
us, we are simply calling upon
a holy friend and asking them to pray for
us. Calling on a saint for assistance is not
the same as praying to them, as though they had power of their own.
Since a phone line to Heaven isn't
available, we merely speak to them in the
only form that we can, prayer. We do not worship the saints as God (or
gods) or believe they have power apart from God.
The Saints Can & Want to Help Us
The saints have
lived holy lives, are good examples, are
pleasing to God, are trustworthy, and they
understand our situation. We also know
that they are interested in our welfare
and want to see us in Heaven. Since they
are close to God, their intercession is especially
powerful. As stated in Jms. 5:16, "The
fervent prayer of a righteous person is
very powerful." If prayers of sinners
on earth are very powerful, how much
more so are the prayers of the blessed in Heaven! The evidence of their power has been
demonstrated countless times through extraordinary
miracles of healing, conversion, and many other
special occurrences. Often this occurs as a result of contact with their
relics. Even in Holy Scripture, we can see that a dead man was
brought back to life after making contact with Elisha's bones (2 Kgs. 13:21)
and cures were effected through the shadow
of Peter (Acts 5:15-16) and cloths of Paul
(Acts 19:11-12). The earliest
Christians honored relics of saints and built altars on relics of
martyrs (even the basilicas of St. Peter and
St. Paul are built on the martyrs'
Further, it is clear from Scripture that God wants
us to intercede for each other, otherwise
passages such as these wouldn't make sense:
20:17: Abraham then interceded with
God, and God restored health to
Abimelech, that is, to his wife and
his maidservants, so that they could
SAM 2:25: If a man sins against another
man, one can intercede for him with
the LORD; but if a man sins against
the LORD, who can intercede for
him? But they disregarded their
father's warning, since the LORD had
decided on their death.
12:23: As for me, far be it from me to
sin against the LORD by ceasing to
pray for you and to teach you the good
and right way.
KGS 13:6: Then the king appealed to the
man of God. "Entreat the LORD,
your God," he said, "and
intercede for me that I may be able to
withdraw my hand." So the man of
God entreated the LORD, and the king
recovered the normal use of his hand.
MACC 1:6: Even now we are praying for
42:2-4: "Grant our petition; pray
for us to the LORD, your God, for all
this remnant. We are now few who once
were many, as you well see. Let
the LORD, your God, show us what way
we should take and what we should
do." Very well! the prophet
Jeremiah answered them: I will pray to
the LORD, your God, as you desire;
whatever the LORD answers you, I will
tell you; I will withhold nothing from
4:38-9: After he left the synagogue, he
entered the house of Simon.
Simon's mother-in-law was afflicted
with a severe fever, and they
interceded with him about her.
He stood over her, rebuked the fever,
and it left her. She got up
immediately and waited on them.
15:30-1: I urge you, (brothers,) by our
Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of
the Spirit, to join me in the struggle
by your prayers to God on my behalf,
that I may be delivered from the
disobedient in Judea, and that my
ministry for Jerusalem may be
acceptable to the holy ones
COR 1:10-11: He rescued us from such great danger of death, and he
will continue to rescue us; in him we have put our hope (that) he
will also rescue us again, as you help us with prayer, so that
thanks may be given by many on our behalf for the gift granted us
through the prayers of many.
1:9: Therefore, from the day we heard
this, we do not cease praying for you
and asking that you may be filled with
the knowledge of his will through all
spiritual wisdom and understanding
4:2-4: Persevere in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving; at the same time, pray for us, too, that God may open a door to us for the word, to speak of the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, that I may make it clear, as I must speak.
THES 5:25: Brothers, pray for us
THES 1:11: To this end, we always pray
for you, that our God may make you
worthy of his calling and powerfully
bring to fulfillment every good
purpose and every effort of faith
We also see very clearly in Scripture that the
Blessed Virgin Mary interceded directly with Christ at the wedding at Cana
even though His hour "had not yet come" (cf. Jn. 2:1-11).
who feel that requests for the saints' intercession cannot be beneficial since saints are no
longer living on earth, are denying
evidence of their continued existence such
spoke with Elijah and Moses many years after their lives on earth
ended (Mt. 17:3)
told the thief on the cross that he
would be with Jesus in paradise after their deaths (Lk. 23:43)
souls of the just are in the hand of
God (Wisdom 3:1)
vision of Jeremiah presenting a golden sword to Judas (2 Macc.
He is not God of the dead but of the
living (Mk. 12:27)
is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive
When he broke open the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar
the souls of those who had been slaughtered because of the witness they bore to the word of God.
They cried out in a loud voice, "How long will it be, holy and
true master, before you sit in judgment and avenge our blood on the
inhabitants of the earth?" Each of them was given a white robe,
and they were told to be patient a little while longer until the
number was filled of their fellow servants and brothers who were
going to be killed as they had been. (Rv. 6:9-11)
we often have much on our minds & our
memories may fail, Catholics frequently obtain pictures
or statues of saints to comfort and remind us to request the help of our holy
friends. Also, these items may help us feel closer to these dear friends.
This is really no different than images of deceased relatives many people
keep on desks, mantles,
in wallets, etc. Catholic images
are reminders of our friends in
Heaven, just as photographs are to the
rest of the world. We venerate the images but do not worship the
images as gods (doing so, of
course, is condemned by the Church). Just as one may kiss a photograph
of a deceased loved one, Catholics may venerate images of saints. Such
veneration does not constitute idolatry as no power is believed to be
had in the images, nor are they looked upon as gods. Rather, our love
and devotion pass on to the persons - these friends of God - who are
represented in the images.
Although God condemned images in the Bible, he was condemning the act of idolatry, not
the images themselves. We know that God, Himself,
commanded that images be made, as can be seen in the following passages
from Holy Scripture:
25:18-22: Make two cherubim of beaten
gold for the two ends of the
propitiatory, fastening them so that one
cherub springs direct from each
end. The cherubim shall have their
wings spread out above, covering the
propitiatory with them; they shall be
turned toward each other, but with their
faces looking toward the
propitiatory. This propitiatory
you shall then place on top of the ark.
In the ark itself you are to put the
commandments which I will give
you. There I will meet you and
there, from above the propitiatory,
between the two cherubim on the ark of
the commandments, I will tell you all
the commands that I wish you to give the
21:8-9: [A]nd the LORD said to Moses,
"Make a serpent and mount it on a
pole, and if anyone who has been bitten
looks at it, he will
recover." Moses accordingly
made a bronze serpent and mounted it on
a pole, and whenever anyone who had been
bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze
serpent, he recovered.
Honoring the Saints
also celebrate the virtues and accomplishments of
saints, just as various national holidays
honor the memory of important
people from our country's past. It is quite clear
in Holy Scripture that God wants us - and even
commands us - to honor those people who
are worthy of honor. For example, consider
the following passages:
21:8: Honor him as sacred who offers up
the food of your God; treat him as
sacred, because I, the LORD, who have
consecrated him, am sacred.
3:2: For the LORD sets a father in
honor over his children; a mother's
authority he confirms over her sons.
3:3: He who honors his father atones
3:5: He who honors his father is
gladdened by children, and when he
prays he is heard.
7:27: With your whole heart honor your
father; your mother's birthpangs
10:19: Whose offspring can be in honor?
Those of men. Which offspring are in
honor? Those who fear God. Whose
offspring can be in disgrace? Those of
men. Which offspring are in disgrace?
Those who transgress the commandments.
38:1: Hold the physician in honor, for
he is essential to you, and God it was
who established his profession.
12:9-10: Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is
good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another
in showing honor.
13:7: Pay to all their dues, taxes to
whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll
is due, respect to whom respect is
due, honor to whom honor is due.
5:3: Honor widows who are truly widows.
5:17: Presbyters [priests] who preside well
deserve double honor, especially those
who toil in preaching and teaching.
2:17: Give honor to all, love the
community, fear God, honor the king.
In fact, God himself honors worthy
human beings as indicated in 1 Sam 2:30:
therefore, is the oracle of the LORD,
the God of Israel: 'I said in the past
that your family and your father's
family should minister in my presence
forever. But now,' the LORD declares,
'away with this! for I will honor those
who honor me, but those who spurn me
shall be accursed'
God clearly honors the saints by working miracles
through them (as may be seen time and again both in Holy Scripture and throughout
the history of the Church).
addition, giving honor to the saints
actually gives honor to God since the saints are the work of God and
since the Church is inseparably united with Christ: "If
(one) part suffers, all the parts suffer
with it; if one part is honored, all the
parts share its joy" (1 Cor. 12:26).
Those in Heaven Know What Transpires on Earth
We know that those
in Heaven know what transpires on earth
and are concerned about our welfare.
For example, note what St. Paul wrote in 1 Cor.
4:9: "For as I see it, God has
exhibited us apostles as the last of all,
like people sentenced to death, since we
have become a spectacle to the world, to
angels and human beings alike."
Also note that Jesus said people have
angels who "always look upon the face
of my heavenly Father" (Mt. 18:10) and that there will be more joy in
heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous
people who have no need of repentance (Lk. 15:7).
Those in Heaven Help Us
Holy Scripture tells us that our friends in Heaven
help us. For example, consider the following passages:
12:12: I can now tell you that when you, Tobit, and Sarah prayed, it was I
(the angel Raphael) who presented and read the record of your prayer before the Glory of the Lord; and I did the same thing when you used to bury the dead.
MACC 15:11-16: When he had armed each of them, not so much with the safety of shield and spear as with the encouragement of noble words, he cheered them all by relating a dream, a kind of vision, worthy of belief.
What he saw was this: Onias, the former high priest, a good and virtuous man, modest in appearance, gentle in manners, distinguished in speech, and trained from childhood in every virtuous practice, was praying with outstretched arms for the whole Jewish community.
Then in the same way another man appeared, distinguished by his white hair and dignity, and with an air about him of extraordinary, majestic authority. Onias then said of him, "This is God's prophet Jeremiah, who loves his brethren and fervently prays for his people and their holy city." Stretching out his right hand, Jeremiah presented a gold sword to Judas. As he gave it to him he said,
"Accept this holy sword as a gift from God; with it you shall crush your adversaries."
12:7: Suddenly the angel of the Lord
stood by him and a light shone in the
cell. He tapped Peter on the side and
awakened him, saying, "Get up
quickly." The chains fell from
5:8: When he took it, the four living
creatures and the twenty-four elders
fell down before the Lamb. Each of the
elders held a harp and gold bowls
filled with incense, which are the
prayers of the holy ones.
8:3: Another angel came and stood at
the altar, holding a gold censer. He
was given a great quantity of incense
to offer, along with the prayers of
all the holy ones, on the gold altar
that was before the throne.
8:4: The smoke of the incense along
with the prayers of the holy ones went
up before God from the hand of the
In fact, we have 2,000 years of history showing
that those in heaven assist those on earth, sometimes in the most extraordinary
Praying Directly to God
Those outside the Church often criticize Catholics
for their invoking of the saints. They argue that "there is one
mediator between God and man" (1 Tm. 2:5) and that recourse should not be made to others, especially those
who are "dead". Those outside the Church even claim that
Catholics practice idolatry by invoking the saints. Although they claim
to be biblical regarding their assertions, they fail to note that
Scripture clearly tells us that we should intercede for others (see above), that those in heaven do hear our prayers, and that
all are alive
to God. As indicated above, various passages in Scripture wouldn't make
sense if we weren't to intercede for one another. Such intercession
doesn't detract from God's honor, any more than asking a person on earth
for prayers detracts from God's honor. And, clearly, the simple act of
talking to a person (praying, requesting prayers), does not constitute idolatry.
Catholics know that the saints can help us, want to help us,
and do help us. We know they are friends of God and that they deserve
honor. We also know that they have no power of their own and that they
are not "gods". They are, however, our friends in heaven who
can present our requests to God in the most pleasing manner possible (as
one might ask a friend's mother to ask her child on their behalf,
knowing that the petition will be well-received when coming from her).
It is quite clear that the earliest Christians (that is, Catholics)
accepted and appreciated the Church's doctrine regarding the Communion
of the Saints, as can be demonstrated by numerous written testimonies.
Since then, evidence has repeatedly shown - even in the most extraordinary
of ways - the truth of this doctrine. Those who fail to have recourse to
the saints deprive themselves of a great means of assistance.
The saints truly are your "friends in
heaven". They love and care about you. They will pray for you and
assist you in your difficulties. They enjoy the Beatific Vision in
Heaven and have influence with God Himself. What amazing
friends to have.
to Saints / Prayers in Honor of the Saints
Saint Paul exhorts us to pray for one another, and we gladly
think it right to ask every poor man to pray for us, should we
think it evil to ask the holy saints in heaven to do the
same?" (St. Thomas More)
if the Apostles and martyrs while still in the body can pray for
others, at a time when they ought still be solicitous about
themselves, how much more will they do so after their crowns,
victories, and triumphs?" (St. Jerome, Doctor of the
Church, c. 406 A.D.)
that when the saints lived in this world they were at liberty to
roam the earth, do you really think that in heaven God would
have them tied to a post?" (St. Thomas More)
St. Paul beseeches the brethren (Rom.15:30; 2 Cor. 1:11;
Col.4:3; Eph. 6:18-19) to help him by their prayers for him to
God, we must with even greater reason maintain that we can be
helped by the prayers of the saints, and ask their intercession
with humility. If we may beseech those who still live on earth,
why not those who live in heaven?" (Catholic Encyclopedia)
say you see no reason why we should pray to the saints since God
can hear us and help us just as well, and will do so gladly, as
any saint in heaven. Well, then, what need, I ask, do you have
to ask any physician to help your fever, or to ask and pay any
surgeon to heal your sore leg? For God can both hear you and
help you as well as the best of doctors, He loves you more than
they do, and He can help you sooner." (St. Thomas More)
first commandment does not forbid us to pray to the Saints,
because if we are allowed to ask the prayers of our fellow
creatures upon earth, we should be allowed also to ask the
prayers of our fellow creatures in heaven. Moreover, the Saints
must have an interest in our welfare, because whatever tends to
make us good, tends also to the glory of God." (Baltimore Catechism)
is offered to a person in two ways: first, as to be fulfilled by
him, secondly, as to be obtained through him. In the first way
we offer prayer to God alone, since all our prayers ought to be
directed to the acquisition of grace and glory, which God alone
gives, according to Psalm 84:11, 'The Lord will give grace and
glory.' But in the second way we pray to the saints, whether
angels or men, not that God may through them know our petitions,
but that our prayers may be effective through their prayers and
merits. Hence it is written (Apocalypse 8:4) that 'the smoke of
the incense,' namely 'the prayers of the saints ascended up
before God.' This is also clear from the very style employed by
the Church in praying: since we beseech the Blessed Trinity 'to
have mercy on us,' while we ask any of the saints 'to pray for
us.'... To Him alone do we offer religious worship when praying,
from Whom we seek to obtain what we pray for, because by so
doing we confess that He is the Author of our goods: but not to
those whom we call upon as our advocates in God's
presence." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and
"greatest theologian in the history of the Church")
holy Synod commands all bishops and others who hold the office
of teaching and its administration, that in accordance with the
usage of the Catholic and apostolic Church, received from
primeval times of the Christian religion, and with the consensus
of opinion of the holy Fathers and the decrees of sacred
Councils, they above all diligently instruct the faithful on the
intercession and invocation of the saints, the veneration of
relics, and the legitimate use of images, teaching them that the
saints, who reign together with Christ, offer up their prayers
to God for men; and that it is good and useful to invoke them
suppliantly and, in order to obtain favors from God through His
Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who alone is our Redeemer and Savior,
to have recourse to their prayers, assistance, and support; and
that they who deny that those saints who enjoy eternal happiness
in heaven are to be invoked, think impiously, or who assert that
they do not pray for men, or that our invocation of them, to
intercede for each of us individually, is idolatry, or that it
is opposed to the word of God, and inconsistent with the honor
of the 'one mediator of God and men Jesus Christ' [cf. 1 Tim.
2:5], or that it is foolish to pray vocally or mentally to those
who reign in heaven. Also, that the holy bodies of holy martyrs,
and of others now living with Christ - which bodies were the
living members of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Ghost, and
which are by Him to be raised unto eternal life, and to be
glorified - are to be venerated by the faithful; through which
(bodies) many benefits are bestowed by God on men; so that they
who affirm that veneration and honor are not due to the relics
of saints; or, that these, and other sacred monuments, are
uselessly honored by the faithful; and that the places dedicated
to the memories of the saints are in vain visited with the view
of obtaining their aid; are wholly to be condemned, as the
Church has already long since condemned, and now also condemns
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