Project Conversion

Project Conversion


Calling on the Communion of the Saints to Help with a Cold. Idolatry?

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Looks like I caught a nasty cold over the weekend. I rarely get sick, but when I do, I look/feel like death warmed over. You know the feeling: weakness, headaches, fatigue, sore…symptoms which inhibit an otherwise busy and vibrant daily life.

But thank God, I am blessed, because I happen to be in the company of my wife (a nurse) and two very caring daughters. If I have a new symptom or need something to ease my discomfort, my wife knows just what to do by drawing upon her medical knowledge and experience. My daughters are also there to make me smile even though I am in pain. Their presence and particular skills/characteristics help me confront this nasty cold.

For Catholics, the intercession of the saints works the same way.

Paul described in 1 Corinthians 12-27 the “body of Christ” which is composed of many interdependent parts, all serving the greater whole. None are more important than the other, and none can function properly without its fellow members. This concept deals mainly with our specific gifts and talents, however the implied “body” illustrates the intimate nature of the family of believers to ourselves and Christ.

In the New Testament letter of James (the brother of Jesus and leader of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem), we are asked in chapter 5 verses 13-16 to pray for the suffering and sick.

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

We are to pray for one another, anoint one another with oil. Heal our sick, join together in praise of God…and never is there found a distinction between the living and the dead who do this. God is indeed the God of the living (Mark 12: 27) and the living are called to pray for one another. But Andrew, those in heaven are dead, how can the dead pray for us? What is dead is the flesh, our bodies which bear the soul in this earthly realm. Aside from that, God is the “alpha and omega” the beginning and the end. God’s point of view therefore transcends time and space and we are all one in the great narrative event of creation.

So we see from Scripture the importance of prayer for and with one another–the “saints”–regardless of our distinction within time and place because these qualifiers do not matter to a timeless, omnipresent God. So what’s the big beef regarding prayer to the saints in heaven?

1 Timothy 2:5 reads,

For there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus…

Looks like that ends the argument doesn’t it? No, not really. Catholics acknowledge and insist upon this passage, however the passage does not exclude the participation of others on behalf of ourselves. If you are a Christian, look back at a time when you’ve asked someone to pray with or for you. Maybe you were sick or going through a tough spot in life. If you believe the above verse, why ask someone to pray with you? Because you know that Christ is the one mediator, however we are also called to support one another through prayer, especially seeking those who are close to God or knowledgeable in particular areas (see James 5: 13-16).

That is why today for example, I have prayed to God and asked for comfort and healing in the name of Jesus first, because Christ is my “high priest” and the bearer of my afflictions. I have also asked my wife to help me, my children, and I will eventually ask for your prayers as well. In addition, I will also ask saints in heaven, (such as St. John of God who was known for his selfless service to the sick and poor) who reside close to God and who had earthly experience with the sick and suffering to pray with and for me. The saints are not taking the place of Christ, but joining me in prayer to God for my healing. Devotion is not given to saints, the faithful here only ask for their help just as we would here on earth.

St. John of God

The saints are examples and role models for our daily life, although Christ himself is our supreme example. Saints show us how to live as humans who suffer and triumph as humans toward the feet of Christ. In Christ, we are all one human family whose souls occupy one existence. We must, just as we are called to do, lean on one another and pray together for the strength to successfully navigate this life.

Now I ask for your prayers. You don’t have to be Catholic though because even though I am living as one this month, I am just as fully any of the others I have explored this year. We are all saints of faith as far as I’m concerned.

For my Catholic friends, how do you view the concept of intercession of the saints? Do you have a patron saint?

 

 



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abowen

posted December 7, 2011 at 11:35 am


Lee,

Well done, Lee, and thank you for helping clarify the involvement of the saints!



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abowen

posted December 7, 2011 at 11:34 am


MAO,

You should come around more often : ) Thanks!



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abowen

posted December 7, 2011 at 11:34 am


Art,

Happy to be of service.



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abowen

posted December 7, 2011 at 11:34 am


Cindy,

Very cool common thread you found there!



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Lee

posted December 6, 2011 at 3:34 am


Well, since you asked…I asked Sts. Hubert and Eustace (patron saints of hunters) to intercede and pray with me that I had a safe and successful hunt this past saturday…got the first duck of the season?! …Really I find it fascinating and helpful to study the lives and impact that the saints had on their community and the church, and also the impact God and faith played in their lives. They are true role-models. And my prayers or choice of saint usually depends on the circumstances that I am facing. And of course all prayers are first directed to the Father(God), the Son(Jesus), and the Holy Spirit because they alone have given us the authority to intercede for one another.



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MAO

posted December 6, 2011 at 2:10 am


long time lurker, first time poster…

i never thought of it like this… and none of my catholic friends ever explained it to me… so i never understood.

thank you for all you’ve done this year. you’ve really opened my eyes to worlds i’ve never known.



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Art Sherwood

posted December 6, 2011 at 1:11 am


One more thing, I like how you refered to the “body of Christ” concept and how each of us are an integral part of this body. Many people I talk to don’t understand the purpose of organized religion. Why do you need a church to worship God? Isn’t it just a personal thing between yourself and your creator?

I think the doctrine of the church being the “body of Christ” illustrates how true worship of God is not just a personal thing but it involves those around us as well. God organized His church on earth to give the saints an opportunity to learn and to teach, to serve and be served, to lift and be lifted. I believe that a church that is built on true principles can be of great benefit to us and can help us progress much faster that we ever could by worshiping on our own.

Thanks again Andrew. Hope you get feeling better soon.



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Art Sherwood

posted December 6, 2011 at 1:02 am


Also, I like how you explain the church being the body of christ and all and the importance being part of this body. I’ve talked with a lot of people who can’t seem to understand why you need a church to worship God. Why can’t religion just be a personal thing between yourself and God. As you’ve infered, part of our worship of God involves helping, serving, learning, teaching and communing with those around us. True worship of God is not just a personal thing but it really is also a communal thing.



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Art Sherwood

posted December 6, 2011 at 12:58 am


Thanks Andrew. I’ve always wondered about this practice in the Catholic tradition and never really understood it until you presented it like that. Not that I necessarily agree with it but at least now I understand it.



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Cindy

posted December 5, 2011 at 8:57 pm


Very nice explanation of the “communion of saints”! I recited that for years as a Protestant and never understood what it meant. Now I see that it’s very much in line with my Baha’i beliefs – we believe that all souls in the next world have the ability to intercede for us with prayer (and vice versa). Hope you feel better soon!



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abowen

posted December 5, 2011 at 3:51 pm


Will,

Well done.



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Will

posted December 5, 2011 at 3:40 pm


I have seen polemicists demanding “where does the Bible say to ask the saints to pray for you?” Well, where does the Bible says to ask Andrew to pray for you? And why the brouhouha just because someone is “dead”?
To misquote Chesterton, democracy objects to someone being disenfranchised by accident of birth; Christianity objects to him being disenfranchised by accident of death.



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