Before I embraced Catholicism, I had tons of objections. Coming from a somewhat reformed tradition, I saw Catholics as totally out of wack with biblical Christianity. It seemed like anytime I wanted to take serious the teachings of the Church, I was turned off by them.
Over the past school year (August to May), the internal pull of the Church has been irresistible. What seemed to be issues I didn’t agree with, I slowly became more and more comfortable with. One of those issues is intercession of the saints.
Much has been written in opposition over the centuries about this doctrine including the saints being omniscient, scriptural basis for Purgatory, 2 Maccabees12:45, and authority of Apocryphal texts. However, this post isn’t exhaustive, but simply providing my reasons on why I came to appreciate this ancient belief.
I believe in the Communion of the Saints
In the Apostles’ Creed of the Church, we read this statement. What does it mean? Simply put, communion of the saints is the unity of the three phases of the Church: Church Triumphant (those in heaven), Church Penitent (those in purgatory), Church Militant (those on earth).
Furthermore in the Nicene creed, it professes a church that is “one.” All of these distinct parts of the Church encompass the unity/oneness it has. For example, St. Paul mentioned several times about the members forming one Body (1 Cor 12:12-31;Col 2:18-20; Eph. 1:22-23). They are not individual lone parts, but each of them are tied together by its Head, Jesus Christ. Some might object to the inclusion of the dead and those in heaven, but a scriptural basis that I found convincing is Rom 8:37-39:
38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Because we are united in Jesus Christ, we are also all united together in the Body he instituted.
Asking for others prayers/Mediator argument
At this point in your journey with Jesus Christ, you’ve had an opportunity to pray for someone else. Certainly this person could’ve prayed directly to God themselves, but something about your faith , your close relationship as friends or family, or maybe your relationship with God made them ask you. You didn’t say, “go pray to God yourself” but instead you understood their request.
The bible is filled with verses about intercessory prayer and interceding for others (Gen 18:22-33; Ps 122:6; Jam 5:14; 1 Tim 2:1; Acts 12:15; Rom 15:30; Col 4:2-3). Therefore praying for others is a biblical idea. No one can dispute that. Us praying on behalf of others doesn’t diminish Jesus Christ role as the sole mediator between God and men (1 Tim 2:5). In fact, Jesus even empowered us to do so when he said ,”But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matt 5:44).”
Applying the verse from Rom 8:38-39, we can have certainty that those in heaven are connected to us here on earth. With that said, heaven is an amazing relational space with God. In heaven , the triumphant Church gets to behold the beatific vision, that is the manifestation and fellowship of the Triune God.
The Anthromorphism of “God walking in the cool of the day (Gen 3:8)” becomes a reality to those in heaven. Not that God is human, but in the original paradise man enjoyed closeness with God. In heaven the departed saints obtain that same closeness with God. Those that are in heaven are in an amazing state of face to face direct joy and happiness of being with God.
If this is the case for those in heaven, why not ask them to pray for us? There prayers must be very effective because of their status and relationship with God. On an earthly level, many people admire great Christian leaders and close friends who embody their faith well. Because of this, one would logically conclude their intercession would be more efficacious to God. James mentions that the prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective (Jam 5:16). If the people in heaven are very righteous and we ask for there prayers then much power is expected.
Some might assume asking for saint’s intercession is necromancy. To assume this practice is something occult like is to misunderstand what necromancy is. Necromancy according to Mariam Webster is , ” conjuration of the spirits of the dead for purposes of magically revealing the future or influencing the course of events.” If anyone reads saint intercession as necromancy based on the definition provided then they’re totally confused and misguided. Asking the saints to pray for us isn’t any kind of fortune telling or asking them to reveal events unknown to man. God clearly prohibited this practice in the Old Testament of communicating with the dead (Deut18:10–12).
Also, Jesus emphasized atleast twice about those never dying that trust in God (John 11:25; Mat 22:3–33). For example, Jesus even spoke with two dead saints during his Transfiguration (Matt 17:3). In some mysterious way, those departed saints are still in communion with the body of Christ.
Overall, the saints are there to help us. Them assisting us in prayer doesn’t undermine Jesus Christ because ultimately they bring our request to him.
This is my comprehension on the topic. I didn’t address other defenses about saint intercession, but provided my rationale for loving this practice.