When I ask you, “How many friends do you have?” what pops into your mind? Is it …
How many “true” friends?
How many Facebook friends?
How many friends in my whole lifetime?
Actually, it’s far more than any of those numbers. In truth you have more friends than you can count. The saints in heaven are the best friends you could ask for – and they’re pulling for you.
What We Believe
Just to make it very clear up front, Catholics and Protestants believe firmly in the command that we are to pray to God constantly, and without reservation. We agree on that.
The Catholic Church does not and has never encouraged folks to take their attention or prayer off of or away from Jesus.
When I, Mark, pray to Christ for you, as your friend, it’s called secondary mediation. I am doing the same thing that the saints do for me when I ask them to pray with me to Jesus … to join their prayers to mine, en route to Christ. Since they’re closer to Him than I am, it actually makes even more sense for them to pray for me, than for my earthly friends to pray for me.
Let me explain more …
Different types of prayer
It’s important to explain that there are different types of prayer. Prayer to God includes worship. Prayer with Mary and the saints includes honor, but not worship.
Many people are confused about what “mediation” really is and quote something like 1 Timothy 2:5 – speaking about how Christ is the only Mediator between man and God (which the Catholic Church agrees with, by the way).
But mediation in a more general sense is any one of us praying for or with each other. This is what St. Paul encourages in the four verses immediately preceding that verse about Christ as the one mediator (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
Prayers on our behalf to Christ by either saints living in Heaven, or friends living on earth would be called a secondary mediation.
The saints in Heaven are alive and are perpetually in prayer. They are absolutely living in Heaven, just as you and I live, but to an even fuller extent, because they are back home with God. He is “the God of the living, not of the dead” (Mark 12:26-27).
Since they are far closer to God than we are (2 Corinthians 3:18), as sinful humans walking the earth, their prayers are more powerful.
Deserving of honor
As Christians we’re supposed to honor those worthy of it (Romans 12:10, 1 Peter 2:17) … and the saints are absolutely worthy of it! To give honor is not the same as “adoration” which is only appropriate to give to God. It’s less a matter of praying to Mary and the saints as it is praying with or through them, to Christ.
After all, the Mother of our Lord prophesied that “all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48). No other faith on earth fulfills this prophecy with the degree of faithfulness that the Catholic Church does. We honor Mary and the saints not because they desire it, but because they deserve it.
Obedience is Godly
Lastly, we are commanded to “honor father and mother” (Exodus 20:12). In honoring Mary – who was given to us as our spiritual Mother (John 19:26-27) – we follow in Christ’s footsteps and fulfill God’s command.
Mary is the new Eve, perfectly obedient and mother to all the living. Christ proves this by calling Mary “woman” at Cana (John 2) and upon the cross (John 19). This was not a sign of disrespect (since Jesus is sinless – Hebrews 4:16) but, rather, to demonstrate that Mary fulfills the prophecy in Genesis 3:15.
Best Friends Forever
Do you see how the saints really are your friends? They’re praying harder for your salvation than any soul on earth. Pretty cool, huh?
If you want to learn more about the communion of saints and the “goings-on” of prayer in heaven, check out Hebrews 12:1, 12:18-19 and 12:22-24 and Revelation 5:8, 14 and then Revelation 6:10 and 8:3-4.
Mother Mary, through your humble intercession lead us even closer to your Son, Jesus Christ. May all the saints and angels, pray for us!