Praying to the saints to intercede on our behalf is a particularly Catholic belief. It is a teaching and tradition that has been practiced for centuries in the church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church helps us to understand how the saints can be of help to us.
The intercession of the saints. “Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness. . . They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator -between God and men, Christ Jesus . . . So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.” (CCC 956)
From time to time, certain individuals stand out as holy examples of Christian life and virtue. They make Christ present in an extraordinary way by the way in which they have lived their lives.
Many saints lived simple and ordinary lives. But because of their love for Christ and His Church, their lives of prayer and self-sacrifice are remembered and known about by those of us struggling to live faith-filled lives ourselves. This gives us many powerful witnesses down through the ages who we can look to and believe in as we make our own pilgrimage through life.
When someone is canonized as a saint, the Church is declaring that the person has lived a holy life, is indeed in heaven, and is honored by the Church. Those who have been canonized as saints and have attained heavenly glory provide a trustworthy example of a sure path we can follow in this life.
Forms of Devotion
Various forms of devotion to the saints have come into practice over the centuries. Among these are such practices as praying novenas and praying to specific saints for help in particular situations. Carrying an image of a favorite saint became common and remains so today. Carrying a holy card, or wearing a medal with an image of a saint is also a way to remind oneself constantly to emulate the saint’s life and to remain diligent in prayer.
It gives me a great deal of comfort knowing that I am a part of the Communion of Saints and knowing that I count on the saints in heaven to help guide me toward the destiny that I hope to attain. In studying how Christ worked through various individuals who lived before me, I am encouraged to try my best to imitate them and grow in holiness like they did. It makes me feel as though I am part of a big family, and I have grown to feel about certain saints the same way I do about relatives like aunts and uncles.
Strive for Sainthood
The saints had a deep devotion to the Church, defending it forcefully, sometimes with their very lives. For someone like myself, living in today’s world, it gives me a great deal of confidence to know of their faith and beliefs. It reinforces my own beliefs and provides a solid foundation for me to grow on, and not be influenced by the opinions of modern society.
Those who have been canonized are declared to be in heaven and so it makes perfect sense to believe that if we imitate their lives and follow their paths we will end up where they are. We can also believe that it is good and possible to strive to become what they became – people who excelled in virtue and grace and holiness. Yes, it is possible to become a saint, maybe not a canonized one, but a saint nonetheless.
Learning From The Saints
By reading about their lives, the time in which they lived, the sacrifices that they made, the writings and teachings that they left for us, and most especially the way in which they have been elevated to the altar at Mass, we can strive to interiorize Christ the way that they did. With the help of God’s grace, they became saints and now serve as examples for us to follow in our own quest for holiness.
The saints in heaven are not subject to the time and space limitations of this life like we are. This does not imply that they are omniscient like God is. But the Church teaches that the Saints can and do intercede for us. So we can know that God wills it and therefore allows it to happen. The saints in heaven know us because God allows them to.
One of the ways that we can grow closer to the saints is to know and identify them by how they are remembered, and to then pray to them accordingly. For instance, if you want to grow in prayer you might pray to St. Theresa of Avila who is remembered for that. If you want to grow in charity towards others, you might pray to St. Theresa of Calcutta who is known for that. I personally make devotion to St. Theresa of Lisieux and her “little way” part of my daily life. I have also had a special place in my life for St. Faustina of the Divine Mercy devotion, which I recite daily and St. Bridget of Sweden and her devotion to our Lord’s passion, which I also practice on a regular basis.
A Sense of Belonging
Our goal is to be united with Christ in heaven forever. The saints have attained this union and want the same thing for all of us. We truly are one family, with God as our Father, Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and Brother, the Holy Spirit as the unifying force that binds everything together, and Mary as our heavenly mother.
Learning about the saints, remembering how they lived their lives, and practicing devotion to the saints is a good way to learn the faith, stay focused on the truth, and not be swayed by the changing attitudes of the world or the times in which we live. It produces a feeling and sense of belonging to a real community of believers. It provides the security of having a real history with real lives that we are part of. And most importantly, it provides a clear path that helps guide us to where we are going.
I am glad and thankful to be Roman Catholic. I feel blessed to be able to know about and believe in devotion to the Saints. It is such a warm and comforting feeling knowing that I have brothers and sisters who went before me who can be counted on to lead the way safely home to Jesus Christ. Hopefully, one day, we will no longer be praying to the saints, but instead, we will be praying with them.