Big statues in churches. Votive candles and icons. Prayer cards. Looks suspiciously like Catholics could be worshiping the saints.
If you’re not familiar with Catholic customs and devotions, all the hoopla about the saints might really turn you off.
So let’s take a look at why Catholics pray to – but do not worship – the saints.
On the surface, praying to saints and praying to God seems like the same thing, doesn’t it?
But Catholics don’t pray to the saints in the same way we pray to God. Think of “praying to the saints” as another way to say “asking the saints to pray for you.”
Christians ask other people to pray for them all the time. You tell your friend or relative, “Please pray for me.” And you probably don’t think twice about saying something like, “Please pray for my dad. He’s dealing with some health issues.”
It’s the same principle with the saints. Since we all belong to the Body of Christ together, the saints are like our friends and family whom we ask for prayers.
“But it’s different with the saints,” you might say. “They’re dead.”
And yet, spiritually speaking, the saints aren’t really dead. They’re more alive than ever! That is, they’re alive and well in Heaven. So you can still ask them to pray for you like you would ask people here on Earth.
Going to the saints instead of God?
Now you might still be wondering, Why not just pray directly to God? Or you might worry (like a lot of people do) that you ignore God by praying to the saints.
Think of it this way. You don’t ignore God when you ask someone here on Earth to pray for you. In fact, it’s an act of confidence to ask someone to pray for your request to God. What a gift that God put that person in your life to pray for you!
It’s the same with the saints. When you pray to a saint, they take your prayer request straight to God. Catholics don’t believe saints have any divine powers. But they do recognize that the saints have a wonderful “influence” with God when they ask Him to pray for someone.
If you wanted someone to pray for you, wouldn’t you rather ask a holy, spiritual person? Of course, because you know they live a life “close to God.” Then who better to ask for help than the saints, the holy men and women united with God in Heaven?
What about images of the saints?
One more thing. Why do Catholics put images and statues of the saints in their churches and homes? Well, for the same reason we put up pictures of our family and friends around the house. Because we love them! When you keep the saints visible before your eyes, you’re reminded to imitate their holy example. The saints inspire us and remind us that we are never alone in our spiritual journey.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” - Hebrews 12:1
Fun ways you and your family can grow in devotion to the saints:
Books by the Saints
Originally published on uCatholic as “Do Catholics Worship the Saints?” May 18, 2002. Reprinted with permission.