Revelation 8:3-4- “And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand.”
This audio contains powerful evidence on praying to and venerating saints. It covers this important issue from new angles and with unique points. In addition to covering the biblical basis for the communion of saints, this audio covers the Bible’s teaching on venerating relics, images and statues.
The Catholic Church teaches that there is one God, the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost, three divine persons in one God. Jesus Christ is the second person of the Holy Trinity, true God and true man. God alone is adored and worshipped. This adoration or worship, which is given to God alone, is called latria.
Saints in Heaven are not adored, but are venerated as holy men and women of God in Heaven. The veneration which is given to saints, which is not adoration, is called dulia. The veneration which is given to the greatest of all the saints, the mother of God, is called hyperdulia. Hyperdulia is also veneration, not worship or adoration. Now that this has been made clear, let’s look at what the Bible teaches about praying to and venerating saints, how saintly men intercede with God, the relics of saints, and more. There are many things in the Bible on this issue which you might not be aware of.
We must first consider what the Bible teaches about how holy men intercede with God.
THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT MEN INTERCEDE WITH GOD –
MOSES HAD AN EXTRAORDINARY POWER OF INTERCESSION WITH GOD
Exodus 32:9-14- “And the Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiff-necked people: Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation. And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power… Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants… And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.”
Moses’ intercession with God was so great that God even asked Moses to allow Him to destroy the Israelites. This must not be understood in the sense that the Almighty God can be or was constrained by any man, but rather that He was powerfully swayed and influenced by this man’s close relationship with Him. Moses pleaded with Him not to destroy them, and God relented because of Moses. As we can see, not all men are equal before God. Not all men have the same intercessory power with Him. The intercession of extraordinary and saintly men is powerful and effective.
ABRAHAM HAD AN EXTRAORDINARY POWER OF INTERCESSION WITH GOD
We see another example of this in the case of Abraham:
Genesis 18:26-33- “And the Lord said to him: If I find in Sodom fifty just within the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake. And Abraham answered, and said: Seeing I have once begun, I will speak to my Lord, whereas I am dust and ashes. What if there be five less than fifty just persons? wilt thou for five and forty destroy the whole city? And he said: I will not destroy it, if I find five and forty. And again he said to him: But if forty be found there, what wilt thou do? He said: I will not destroy it for the sake of forty. [And Abraham, because he had powerful intercession with God, bargained Him all the way to ten] What if ten should be found there? And he said: I will not destroy it for the sake of ten. And the Lord departed, after he had left speaking to Abraham: and Abraham returned to his place.”
THE BIBLE SAYS THAT THE PRAYERS OF A MAN WOULD CAUSE GOD TO ACCEPT PEOPLE HE OTHERWISE WOULD NOT
The next example we will consider is one where the Bible says that the prayers of a man would cause God to accept people He otherwise wouldn’t.
Job 42:7-10- “… the Lord said to Eliphaz… My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath. Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly… So [they] went, and did according as the Lord commanded them… And the Lord also was turned at the penance of Job, when he prayed for his friends…”
The Lord was turned at the prayers and penance of Job. The intercession and prayers of saintly men obtain graces and favors that the Lord will not always otherwise give. God said that He would only give this grace to Eliphaz if Job would pray for him.
GOD WOULD ONLY GIVE ISRAEL THE VICTORY IF MOSES (A MAN) HELD UP HIS HANDS
Another example of the intercession of holy men is found in Exodus 17. We read that Israel went out to fight against Amalec. God enabled Israel to have the victory as long as Moses held up his hands. However, if Moses let his hands down, Amalec would overcome the Israelites.
Exodus 17:11-13- “And when Moses lifted up his hands, Israel overcame: but if he let them down a little, Amalec overcame. And Moses' hands were heavy: so they took a stone, and put under him, and he sat on it: and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands on both sides. And it came to pass that his hands were not weary until sunset. And Josue put Amalec and his people to flight, by the edge of the sword.”
This is another prime example of how sometimes God only grants certain things through the intercession of holy men.
THE LORD’S STATEMENT ABOUT THE INTERCESSION OF MOSES AND SAMUEL
Jeremias 15:1- “And the Lord said to me: If Moses and Samuel shall stand before me, my soul is not towards this people: cast them out from my sight...”
God says that even if Moses and Samuel stood before Him, He would still reject this people. This is quite revealing. The people described in this passage were so bad that not even the powerful intercession of the great servants of God, Moses and Samuel, could relax God’s anger against them. However, these words show us that the intercession of extraordinary servants of God, such as Moses and Samuel – who have built up a special credit or influence with Him – impacts how God deals with and looks at people, even if it didn’t make the difference in this particular case because of how bad the people were. The intercession of saintly men helps determine what God does for people and what He does to them, as we saw with the examples above.
WHAT ABOUT 1 TIMOTHY 2:5: JESUS IS THE ONLY MEDIATOR?
Before we cover more biblical evidence for the veneration and intercession of saints, we must consider an objection. One of the main objections that non-Catholics raise against praying to saints comes from 1 Timothy 2:5.
1 Timothy 2:5- “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
Jesus is the only mediator between God and men, they say, so you can’t include saints or prayers to them. This objection is false for many reasons. Just because Jesus is the only mediator does not mean that others do not mediate as part of the one mediation of Christ. For example, in John 10:16 Jesus says that He is the one and only shepherd; but He appoints Peter to shepherd His sheep in John 21:15-17. Ephesians 4:11 also teaches that there are many pastors or shepherds. The point is that these other sub-shepherds all work under and by the institution of the one shepherd, Jesus.
Another example is that Jesus says He is the supreme judge. We read this in John 9:39 and in many other passages. Certain men of God, however, will also act on His behalf as judges in Heaven, even of angels. We read this in 1 Corinthians 6:2, Matthew 19:28, and elsewhere. Yes, Jesus is the unique mediator, because the mediator is the one who unites man to God. Jesus alone did this by His passion and death. We read this in 2 Corinthians 5:18. But that does not mean that within the one mediation of Christ there are not others who participate in His mediation. In fact, the Bible clearly teaches it.
IF YOU CANNOT PRAY TO SAINTS, THEN YOU CANNOT ASK OTHERS TO PRAY FOR YOU – PERIOD
If Jesus’ unique mediation excluded prayers to saints, then it would also exclude asking a fellow man to pray for you. There is no way around the logic of this argument. For when you ask a fellow man to pray for you, instead of going to Jesus directly, you are asking another person to act as a mediator with Jesus for you. That’s what Catholics do when they pray to saints. Therefore, if prayers to saints are excluded by the unique mediation of Jesus, then asking others for prayers is definitely excluded as well.
Not only do most Protestants accept the concept of asking others to pray for them – thus contradicting their rejection of prayers to saints – but, in the New Testament, St. Paul himself repeatedly asks others for prayers.
Romans 15:30- “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.”
Paul also tells others that he is praying for them.
Colossians 1:3- “… praying always for you…”
Paul even says that the prayers of others bestow gifts upon him.
2 Corinthians 1:11- “Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.”
THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT PAUL’S SUFFERING INTERCEDES TO WIN GRACES FOR PEOPLE
The Bible also says this about Paul’s suffering:
Colossians 1:24- “[I] now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church.”
This verse might be a shock to some non-Catholics who are not familiar with it. Paul says that he fills up, for the Church, those things that are wanting or lacking in the sufferings of Christ. Now Christ’s suffering was perfect and of infinite value; so what does this mean? What St. Paul means is that many sufferings are still wanting and needed for the members of the Church to work out their salvation, which was all made possible by Christ’s sacrifice.
He is teaching that his sacrifices and his sufferings, in addition to his prayers, can intercede with God so that God gives others graces to convert or to remain faithful. Those people must still cooperate with the graces, but the efforts, prayers and sacrifices of members of the Church can help grant them. All of this confirms Catholic teaching on the communion of saints, and it refutes the Protestant misunderstanding of 1 Timothy 2:5.
THIS TRUTH IS ROOTED IN THE UNITY OF THE BODY OF CHRIST, WHICH EXISTS AFTER DEATH
The fact that men can go to other men for prayers, and that the saints in Heaven can answer prayers and intercede, is rooted in the biblical teaching on the unity of the Body of Christ. There is a union among the members of the Church of Jesus. This union does not cease when true members die.
St. Paul says in Romans 8:38 and following that neither death nor life separates one from the love of Christ. Nor does it separate the true faithful who abide together in the Body of Christ, whether on Earth or in Heaven.
1 Cor. 12:12, 21- “… all the members of that one body, being many, are one body… And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.”
THE BIBLE SAYS THAT THE PRAYER OF A JUST MAN AVAILS MUCH
While the true members of the Church can assist each other by prayers, the prayers and intercession of saintly men is particularly powerful. That’s exactly what we saw in the cases of Moses and Abraham. That’s why we read:
James 5:16- “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
This is why prayers to saints – which have the purpose of calling for them to pray to God on our behalf – are so effective.
THE BIBLE ALSO TEACHES THAT DECEASED SAINTLY MEN INTERCEDE
In Matthew 17, we see that Jesus, when He was transfigured before three of His apostles, appeared with Moses and Elias.
Matthew 17:2-3- “And [he] was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun… And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.”
This shows us that saints, even after death, are interested in Earthly affairs and are ready to intercede for us. For the spirits of the just men made perfect, as Hebrews 12 calls the saints, are among the cloud of witnesses with the angels in Heaven who help us.
Hebrews 1:14- “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?”
Psalms 91:11- “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”
AFTER DEATH, THE PROPHET SAMUEL APPEARED TO KING SAUL
In 1 Samuel 28 (1 Kings 28 in the Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible), we see a clear example of a dead saint appearing to a man. This was the prophet Samuel, who had been dead for some time. He appeared to King Saul, and rebuked him for his disobedience to God.
1 Samuel 28:12-20- “And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice… And Samuel said to Saul… Because thou obeyed not the voice of the Lord, nor executed his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the Lord done this thing unto thee this day… Then Saul fell straightway all along on the earth, and was sore afraid, because of the words of Samuel.”
Remember, Samuel had been dead for some time.
THE BOOK OF REVELATION (OR APOCALYPSE) SHOWS US HOW THE PRAYERS OF SAINTS INTERCEDE IN HEAVEN BEFORE THE ALTAR OF GOD
The Book of Revelation or the Apocalypse also gives us a glimpse of how the saints and their prayers intercede for men.
Revelation 8:3-4- “And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand.”
We see another example in Revelation chapter 5.
Revelation 5:8- “… elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.”
IN REVELATION CHAPTER 6, WE SEE DEAD SAINTS ASKING GOD TO ACT ON EARTH
In chapter 6, we see dead saints, who were martyred for the true faith of Jesus, asking God to revenge their blood.
Revelation 6:9-10- “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, how long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?”
Notice that the souls of these dead martyrs cry out from underneath the altar. Since ancient times, the Catholic Church has placed the relics of martyrs underneath the altar. The fact that the voices of the martyrs come from under the altar – exactly where their relics are located in Catholic churches – is an interesting biblical confirmation of the Catholic practice.
AFTER HIS DEATH, A HIGH-PRIEST WAS SEEN INTERCEDING FOR THE JEWS
The next example we will look at comes from 1 Machabees chapter 5. This was a book which the Protestants removed from the Bible when they split from the Catholic Church. The comments given in the section on Purgatory demonstrate that the Books of the Machabees are part of the true Old Testament. This is proven by the fact that the New Testament quotes from the Septuagint, which contains the Books of the Machabees and the others which the Protestants reject.
This passage concerns a vision of Onias, a high-priest who had died.
2 Machabees 15:12- “Now the vision was in this manner: Onias who had been high priest, a good and virtuous man, modest in his looks, gentle in his manners, and graceful in his speech, and who from a child was exercised in virtues, holding up his hands, prayed for all the people of the Jews: After this there appeared also another man… Then Onias answering… this is he that prayeth much for the people, and for all the holy city, Jeremias the prophet of God. Whereupon Jeremias stretched forth his right hand, and gave to Judas a sword of gold…”
This fascinating passage (which was removed from the Protestant bible) relates the vision of the deceased high-priest Onias. After his death, he was seen holding out his hands and interceding for the Jews by his prayers. Onias also presents the deceased prophet Jeremias, who gives a sword of gold to Judas Machabeus. Judas Machabeus is not to be confused with the traitor of the New Testament, Judas Iscariot. This passage is, therefore, another clear proof of the intercession of deceased saints, and the effectiveness of their prayers.
BOTH MOSES AND SAMUEL WERE DEAD AT THE TIME GOD INDICATED THEY COULD INTERCEDE
Earlier I quoted the following passage to demonstrate that men intercede with God.
Jeremiah 15:1- “And the Lord said to me: If Moses and Samuel shall stand before me, my soul is not towards this people: cast them out from my sight...”
God says that even if Moses and Samuel stood before Him, He would still reject this people. This shows how God considers the intercessory power of saints, even if it wouldn’t have swayed Him in this particular case. This passage is being quoted again here because it must be pointed out that both Moses and Samuel were dead at the time of Jeremias. Thus, Jeremias 15:1 also provides biblical teaching on the intercession of deceased saintly men.
THE SIGNIFICANCE AND FREQUENCY OF ANGELS IN GOD’S PLAN
As further support for the Bible’s teaching on the intercession of saints, we must consider the Bible’s teaching on the intercession of angels.
1 Chronicles 21:18 (1 Paralipomenon 21:18 in the Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible)- “Then the angel of the Lord commanded Gad to say to David…”
2 Kings 1:3 (4 Kings 1:3 in the Douay-Rheims)- “And an angel of the Lord spoke to Elias… saying arise, go up to meet the messengers… and say unto them…”
Acts 8:26- “And the angel of the Lord spoke unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south…”
Throughout the Bible we see that God uses His angels. There are literally dozens of passages one could quote. He uses them to deliver His messages, to give out His instructions, to deliver His justice, and as an answer to prayers.
GOD ANSWERS PRAYERS BY HIS ANGELS
Numbers 20:16- “And when we cried unto the Lord, he heard our voice, and sent an angel…”
Isaias 37: 15-20, 36- “And Ezechias prayed to the Lord, saying… And now, O Lord our God, save us out of his hand… And the angel of the Lord went out, and slew in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and eighty-five thousand.”
God answers prayers by sending His angels. That’s clear.
ANGELS ARE ALSO IMPLORED, BESEECHED, AND PRAYED TO
The communication and intercession of angels on behalf of God is so frequent, so natural, so intertwined with God’s plan, as dozens of passages show, that angels are not only sent by God, but they are beseeched and entreated by men. Angels are asked; they are implored by the people of God, for answers and for assistance, in their temporal and spiritual needs.
Judges 6:12-13- “The angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said: The Lord is with thee, O most valiant of men. And Gedeon said to him: I beseech thee, my lord, if the Lord be with us, why have these evils fallen upon us?”
Here we see that Gedeon beseeches the angel. That means that he requests something of the angel; he asks something of him. In the book of Osee or Hosea, we see that Jacob made supplication to an angel. A supplication is a humble or earnest request; it’s a prayer. Some translations say that Jacob begged the angel. To beg means to pray.
Osee or Hosea 12:3-4- “Yea, he [Jacob] had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him:”
So the Bible teaches that angels not only deliver God’s messages, mete out His justice, are sent as an answer to prayers, but they are prayed to as well. This is not because the angels are God, of course; but because angels are powerful and supernatural servants of the Most High who have a close relationship with Him in Heaven. Here’s another relevant passage:
Luke 1:10-13- “And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord… And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard…”
We see that the angel heard the prayer and responded. After considering some of these facts and passages, some non-Catholics might say: okay, you have shown that the Bible teaches that angels answer prayers, and can perhaps even be prayed to. But that refers to angels, not saints. In response, I would ask them to carefully consider these words of Jesus:
JESUS SAYS THAT SAINTS SHALL BE AS THE ANGELS OF GOD
Matthew 22:29-30- “Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.”
Jesus teaches that the saints of God in Heaven are as the angels. What Jesus says here not only applies after the final resurrection, but to the saints in Heaven now. For in the same chapter, Jesus goes on to speak of the deceased just men Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as living (Matthew 22:32). The version of this passage in Luke’s Gospel brings out this truth even more clearly.
Luke 20:34-36- “And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.”
So the saints in Heaven are as the angels. Do angels mete out God’s justice? Yes. Do angels answer prayers, on behalf of God, which are sent to Heaven? Yes. Do angels receive supplication and prayer? Yes. Therefore, the saints of Jesus do all of those things.
Now that we’ve seen the link between angels and saints, we need to consider a few more things in this regard. The intercession of angels on behalf of God is extraordinarily powerful and effective. Angels so accurately transmit the message of the Almighty that, in many passages, it’s not totally clear if the angel is speaking or if God is speaking. In some biblical descriptions, the two morph into one, if you will, because the angel is at the full service of the Almighty. Here are just three examples:
Zechariah 12:8- “… the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them.”
Luke 2:9- “… an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them...”
Exodus 3:2-4- “And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush... And when the Lord saw that he [Moses] turned aside to see, God called unto him...”
ANGELS IN HEAVEN (AND THEREFORE SAINTS) ARE INTIMATELY INVOLVED IN MEN’S SALVATION UNDER JESUS CHRIST
We see the importance that Jesus gives to the witness of angels (and therefore to saints) in the following passage.
Luke 12:8-9- “… Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.”
In addition to His confession before His Father (Mt. 10:32), Jesus considers His confession before the angels to be extremely significant.
Jesus also indicates that the angels are intimately involved in, and concerned for, the conversion and salvation of men. Look at what He says here:
Luke 15:10- “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”
This statement of Jesus suggests that angels have a connection with, an influence over, the salvation of men. They rejoice when a man converts because they desire his salvation and their intercession assists His conversion. They cheer for Him; they help Him; they pray for him. That’s why Catholics understand the intercession of saints to be so important, as well as prayers to them. Saints in Heaven are as the angels of God. When one prays to them, they in turn pray to God, who commonly grants His graces on their behalf because of their close relationship with Him.
THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT ANGELS ARE PRESENT AT ASSEMBLIES OF THE FAITHFUL, AND THAT THEIR PRESENCE DESERVES HONOR
1 Cor. 11:10- “For this cause ought the woman to have a power on her head because of the angels.”
This passage concerns head coverings women should have at the worship service. It says they should have this power or covering because of the angels. Think about that. The passage could have said that a woman should have a covering on her head because of God. But it says because of the angels, which indicates that veneration is also due to them. By the way, in the traditional Catholic Church, women cover their heads at Mass. This tradition derives from this biblical precept.
THE BIBLE DESCRIBES ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST AS GOD’S ANGEL
To complete the point and the comparison between angels and saintly men, one should note that Jesus describes St. John the Baptist as the angel who was prophesied to prepare His way.
Matthew 11:10- “For this is he of whom it is written: Behold I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.”
John the Baptist was described as God’s angel [aggelon in Greek] because both angels and saints act as God’s messengers. They are an avenue for His instructions, His graces, and for Heaven’s answers to prayers.
HEBREWS 12: THE CHRISTIAN COMES BEFORE THE “SPIRITS OF JUST MEN MADE PERFECT” (THE SAINTS IN HEAVEN)
Now we must turn to Hebrews chapter 12. This is a very important chapter with regard to this topic. In Hebrews 12, we find a description of the Church of Jesus Christ and its heavenly majesty. Notice that the Christian, in coming before the heavenly description of the Church, comes before the spirits of the just men made perfect (the saints). Let me repeat that: he comes before the spirits of the just men made perfect: the saints in Heaven. The Christian is warned about coming before all of the following:
Hebrews 12:22-25- “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh.”
The spirits of the just men made perfect, the saints, are in Heaven. We see that they are prominently included in the description of those whom the Christian comes before in the image of the celestial Church. This lends further credence to the fact that prayers to them, and their intercession, are biblically-based and of tremendous value. This is because God is glorified, not detracted, by His saints.
GOD IS GLORIFIED BY THE SAINTS
2 Thessalonians 1:10- “When he [Jesus] shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe...”
Saints do not diminish God’s glory; on the contrary, they augment it. They highlight the great and extraordinary things which God does with those who serve Him. Those who are closest to the King can gain favors that are not always given to those who are further away from Him, just like in any other hierarchy, family, company, team, etc. This is the true and Catholic view of Heaven.
THE CATHOLIC VIEW OF HEAVEN, WHICH RECOGNIZES THE INTERCESSION AND PROPER PLACE OF THE SAINTS, GIVES FULL GLORY TO JESUS –
THE PROTESTANT VIEW TAKES GLORY FROM HIM
To use an analogy, the Catholic view of Heaven is like the magnificent palace of a King, where there are dozens of levels of servants and attendants. They wait on the King, and they have dedicated everything to Him. They are His true friends, in addition to His servants. Their joy, their lives of service, and their extraordinary example strike each visitor with awe.
All of the King’s servants possess their own splendor. It has been given to them as a result of their place of honor in the palace. The King has bestowed some of His own glory on everyone with Him, even though theirs is infinitely less than His own. Their personal glory contributes to the glory of the entire palace. The profound glory of the King’s servants and friends strikes one with wonder. What must be the unique glory of the King Himself, whom all of these individuals serve?
As you see more of the palace, and move closer to the King, the glory of His friends and servants increases. Just like in creation itself, the vivid arrangement of God’s design is a delight to behold – with views as diverse as snow-capped mountains to flowing rivers to green jungles to beautiful woods – in Heaven there is a countless variety of people; each has a different story, a different trial, a different sacrifice, a different gift, which were all dedicated and used for God to the fullest, and which culminated in perfect happiness in Heaven. This stunning variety – this brilliant ordering of the heavenly host – inspires one to even more love and awe of the Almighty. This is the Catholic view of Heaven and the heavenly hierarchy. Clearly the glory of the saints does not detract from the glory of God, but magnifies it. As Mary said:
Luke 1:46- “My soul doth magnify the Lord.”
The Protestant view is much different. It’s comparable to a palace which is filled only with the King. In this palace, there seems to be no one else present. Which King is more glorious? Which image of the heavenly kingdom is the true one? Which is the biblical one? The answer is that the Bible teaches the Catholic view, the communion of the saints.
THE BIBLE TEACHES THE CATHOLIC VIEW OF HEAVEN, OF JESUS AND OF THE SAINTS –
IT DOES NOT TEACH THE PROTESTANT VIEW
Daniel 7:10- “A swift stream of fire issued forth from before him: thousands of thousands ministered to him, and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before him: the judgment sat, and the books were opened.”
This passage is striking, not only because it reveals the awesome power of God’s judgment and foreknowledge; but because the mind-boggling number of servants who minister to Him makes the image even more captivating.
Matthew 25:31- “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.”
God comes with and is glorified by His ministers, His angels and His saints.
Jude 1:14- “… Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints.”
As we see, the Catholic view is clearly the correct and biblical view of the heavenly King and the ordering of the heavenly hierarchy.
THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT SAINTS ARE MODELS OF IMITATION
We’ve established that praying to saints is biblical. In consideration of their great fidelity to Christ, the Bible also teaches that saints are to be imitated and venerated.
1 Corinthians 4:16- “Wherefore I [Paul] beseech you, be ye followers of me.”
1 Corinthians 11:1- “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”
In truth, a real Christian doesn’t follow any man. Rather, this verse means that he venerates the saints, and tries to imitate them in their tremendous spiritual lives and fidelity to the Gospel.
THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT GOD SAVED 276 FOR ST. PAUL
Saints are models of imitation because great saints gain so many graces and so much favor with Christ that their intercession, by the grace of Jesus Christ, can literally help save lives and souls. For example, in Acts chapter 27 we read that Paul was on a ship bound for Italy. A great storm arose which threatened to destroy the ship and kill everyone on board.
Acts 27:21-23- “But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.”
An angel told him that all the men would be saved because God has given them all to him. Think about that. It shows the profound intercessory power of holy men. In all, God saved 276 men for Paul.
THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT SAINTS ARE TO BE MARKED OUT FOR AN EXAMPLE
THAT’S WHY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH CANONIZES SAINTS
Philippians 3:17- “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an example.”
That’s why the Catholic Church canonizes saints, and raises them up for our imitation and veneration. In fact, the Bible does that very thing – marks them out as an example – with the champions of the faith in the Old Testament.
James 5:10- “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.”
Hebrews chapter 11 goes through a whole list of the Old Testament exemplars of faith and their deeds to point them out for admiration and imitation. Hebrews 12:1 describes these saints as a cloud of witnesses.
Hebrews 12:1- “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us…”
THE BIBLE ON THE RELICS OF SAINTS
The Bible also teaches that even the relics of these saintly men are venerated and can be miraculous. First, in Matthew 9:20-22, we see that a woman who touched Jesus’ garment was cured of a hemorrhage. Certainly Jesus was God, and not a mere saint. Many non-Catholics will say it’s superstitious or idolatrous to venerate the relics of saints. But the Bible teaches otherwise.
THE HANDKERCHIEFS AND APRONS OF PAUL WERE MIRACULOUS
Acts 19:11-12- “And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.”
Paul was not only given miraculous powers, but the handkerchiefs and aprons which he touched were effective to work miracles. We see a similar thing with St. Peter. In Acts 9, St. Peter raised the dead. In Acts 5:15, we read that his very shadow was considered effective to miraculously heal and cure.
THE CLOAK OF ELIJAH MIRACULOUSLY PARTED THE JORDAN RIVER
In the Old Testament we see the same biblical teaching on the relics of saints. In 2 Kings 2 (4 Kings 2 in the Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible), we see that the cloak of the prophet Elijah miraculously parted the Jordan River.
2 Kings 2:13-14- “He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it… When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.”
THE BONES OF THE PROPHET ELISHA RAISED A MAN TO LIFE
Another example of a miraculous relic comes from 2 Kings 13:21 (4 Kings 13:21 in the Douay-Rheims Bible). We read that the bones of the prophet Elisha were so powerful that they raised a man to life.
2 Kings 13:21- “And it came to pass, as they were burying a man... they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.”
The bones of saints are one of the most common relics used by Catholics. Far from being idolatrous or superstitious, we see that Catholic relics are rooted in biblical teaching and practice.
THE BIBLE ON THE VENERATION OF IMAGES AND STATUES
Many Protestants reject the use of statues and images of the saints. They think they are idolatrous and condemned in the Bible. However, just as we saw with their position on the relics of saints, their position is not correct on this issue either. One of the main verses they like to quote is Deuteronomy 5:8.
Deuteronomy 5:8- “Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any things, that are in heaven above, or that are in the earth beneath, or that abide in the waters under the earth.”
They say this passage condemns making or using graven images. But this argument fails for many reasons. First, if one were to take this passage by itself and as they understand it, it would forbid making the likeness of anything on the earth. “Nor the likeness of any things that are in heaven above or that are in the earth beneath.”
That would mean that one couldn’t make or have a picture of an animal; for such a picture is the likeness of something on the earth. Almost all Protestants, however, would reject that understanding of the passage, even though that’s what it says. Not only do most Protestants accept images such as the likenesses of animals, but they accept images and likenesses of other humans. They carry pictures of their family members with them. That is contrary to their interpretation of the words of Deuteronomy 5:8.
Moreover, many of these same Protestants have no problem even with statues being made of prominent military leaders or other figures. With the few who do object to such statutes, basically all of them accept and use graven images such as coins. The coins in their pockets have graven images of men. According to their understanding of Deuteronomy 5:8, they would be committing idolatry and violating the commandment of God by keeping such coins and/or by using them. The point here is that their understanding of the passage is completely wrong. That’s why they must be quite selective in their application of Deuteronomy 5:8 and similar passages.
So, does that passage really forbid the making of all graven images? Not at all, as we will see. That’s shown by the context of the passage – in particular, the next verse.
Deuteronomy 5:8-9- “Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any things, that are in heaven above, or that are in the earth beneath, or that abide in the waters under the earth. Thou shalt not adore them, and thou shalt not serve them.…”
Thou shalt not adore them nor serve them. That’s the key. That’s what God is forbidding. He’s forbidding the making of statues or images to worship them or to worship creatures, such as animals, etc., which many Jews were prone to falling into.
Catholics do not worship statues or images. To say otherwise is a lie. Catholics only worship God. Images and statues serve as reminders of the holy people and deeds which they represent. But there’s more.
GOD SPECIFICALLY COMMANDS THE MAKING OF RELIGIOUS STATUES
In the Bible God specifically commands the making and use of statues for religious purposes. The following verse should crush, once and for all, the false idea that the Bible condemns the use of true religious statues and images.
Exodus 25:18-19- “And thou shalt make two cherubim of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubim on the two ends thereof.”
God specifically commands the making of two statues of cherubim. Cherubim are angels. So much for the (false) idea that the making of statues or graven images is forbidden. Such an idea is a total misrepresentation of the teaching of Sacred Scripture, which forbids them with reference to the idolatrous worshipping of creatures. Other passages in the Bible where we see references to God’s command to make statues for true religious purposes are: Exodus 26:1; 1 Kings 6 or 3 Kings 6 in the Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible; and 1 Kings 7:25-36 or 3 Kings 7:25-36 in the Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible.
GOD COMMANDED THE ISRAELITES TO USE THE IMAGE OF A FIERY SERPENT
We also find God commanding the use of images to cure people – images which, at first thought, some would find surprising or worse. God commanded Moses to make an image of a serpent for the people to look upon and be healed.
Numbers 21:8- “And the Lord said unto Moses, make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.”
PROTESTANTS WHO CONDEMN USING STATUES AND IMAGES SHARE THEIR (ICONOCLASTIC) BELIEF WITH MUSLIMS
Non-Catholics who consider the use of religious statues or images to be idolatrous not only condemn the Bible passages we’ve just covered, but they also share their belief with Muslims. Muslims abominate such statues and images. In fact, in the 8th century, the Byzantine Emperor Leo III became dismayed at some Christian military losses at the hands of Muslims. He falsely concluded that it was a result of God’s displeasure with the use of statues and images in Christian churches. Such images were in use all throughout the Christian (Catholic) Church from the earliest days. These images and statues are used to raise the mind to God, to remind us of Him, His holy Mother and His heavenly servants. That’s why God commanded them to be made for the temple. But Emperor Leo III undertook a campaign to destroy these images and remove them from Christian churches.
The popes opposed this heresy, which was known as iconoclasm. Iconoclasm, which means image breaking, is a heresy which many Protestants today hold. It was rejected and condemned as false by the Catholic Church at the Second Council of Nicaea in 787. This early Catholic council – which is known as the seventh ecumenical council – is the last Catholic council which is accepted by the Eastern “Orthodox,” the Anglicans and some Protestants.
THE PROTESTANT OBJECTION THAT CATHOLICS WORSHIP STATUES AND IMAGES, BECAUSE CATHOLICS SOMETIMES KNEEL OR BOW BEFORE THEM IN PRAYER, IS REFUTED BY THE BIBLE
Another false idea that must be addressed is the idea that Catholics worship statues because they sometimes kneel or bow before them in prayer. This objection is false and refuted by Sacred Scripture.
The posture of kneeling – and even of lying prostrate on the ground – does not necessarily mean worship or adoration. It does signify that in certain religious contexts and in some false religions; but bowing, kneeling, and even going completely prostrate can be merely a sign of respect, a humble posture.
Anyone who has taken the time to read the Old Testament knows that bowing down prostrate before someone doesn’t necessarily mean worship. Throughout the Old Testament we read that holy figures bowed down prostrate before other men, not as a sign of worship or adoration, but of respect and humility. For example:
Genesis 33:3- “And he [Jacob] went forward and bowed down with his face to the ground seven times until his brother [Esau] came near.”
Jacob bowed down completely with his face to the ground seven times before his brother Esau. He did this as a sign of humility. This is the same Jacob of whom Jesus says in Luke 13:28: “when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God...” He was not an idolater, of course.
We read a similar thing of Abraham in Genesis 23:12.
Genesis 23:12- “And Abraham bowed down himself before the people of the land.”
Lot bowed himself with his face to the ground in order to venerate angels who came.
Genesis 19:1- “And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground.”
There are many other passages like this throughout the books of Kings and Samuel.
2 Samuel 9:8 (2 Kings 9 in Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible)- “And he [David] bowed himself [before Saul], and said, what is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?”
1 Samuel 24:8 (1 Kings 24 in Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible)- “David also arose… and cried after Saul, saying, My lord the king. And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed himself.”
Other passages which show that men bowed, etc. before other men, not idolatrously, but merely out of humility and respect, are Genesis 43:26, Ruth 2:8-10 and others. This is sufficient to refute the false assertion that Catholics worship statues when they kneel or bow to assume a humble and respectful posture while invoking the heavenly figure whom the statue or image represents.
THE EVIDENCE IS IRREFUTABLE THAT PRAYING TO SAINTS IS BIBLICAL
We’ve seen in much detail that the Bible teaches the communion of saints. We’ve seen that praying to saints is biblical. We’ve seen that Jesus teaches that the saints in Heaven are as the angels. We’ve seen that deceased saints and their prayers intercede for men. We’ve seen that relics and statues are not idolatrous, but biblically based. None of this is to suggest that one cannot pray directly to Jesus.
True Catholics pray directly to Jesus every day, but praying to saints and invoking their intercession is extremely effective, powerful, and often grants graces from Jesus that He is not otherwise inclined to give. It’s particularly important and necessary in the case of the greatest of all the saints, the mother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the vessel by which He chose to come to Earth. The veneration and intercession of saints was recognized from the very beginning of the Christian Church, by the fathers of the Church.
CATHOLIC SAINTS SPREAD THE GOSPEL ALL OVER THE EARTH
The miracles, the missionary efforts, and the lives of Catholic saints have been among the most important instruments in the spread of the Gospel throughout the earth. All of what the Catholic saints are and have done is by the grace of Jesus Christ. By cooperating with it, they spiritually conquered the world for Christ, a world that is sadly falling into apostasy and abandoning the Christian Catholic heritage which defined it.
It was the Catholic saint, St. Patrick, who brought the faith of Jesus to Ireland. It was the Catholic saint, St. Boniface, who brought the Gospel to Germany. It was the Catholic saint, St. Augustine of Canterbury, who brought the Gospel to the Angles, to England. It was the Catholic saint, St. Francis Xavier, who brought the Gospel to much of Asia and to the far East. In the 16th and 17th centuries, it was Catholic saints and missionaries, especially Jesuits, who definitively brought the Gospel to North and South America. Many of these lands were inhabited by barbaric and pagan peoples. These would frequently torture and murder foreigners and perceived enemies. In bringing the Gospel to them, these saints often underwent mind-boggling hardships and endured incredible struggles. They meticulously learned arcane languages, customs and cultures in order to teach these people about Jesus Christ and lead them to His faith. Sometimes they were tortured barbarically. Sometimes they had to travel through almost unbelievable conditions, suffering in sub-zero temperatures without sufficient clothing or sleeping in many feet of snow surrounded by the wilderness.
JESUS PREDICTED THE CONTINUOUS TRADITION OF MIRACLES THAT HAS BEEN SEEN IN THE LIVES OF CATHOLIC SAINTS
This conversion of heathen peoples was also facilitated by the miracles which Jesus granted to His saints. There is a continuous tradition of miracles in the lives of Catholic saints which extends right back to the beginning of the Catholic Church. This reality, which is fascinating to read about in the lives of the saints, was predicted by Jesus.
John 14:12- “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”
The communion of saints is biblical. Praying to and venerating saints does not detract from God’s glory. On the contrary, it inspires us to center our whole lives more zealously around Christ and doing His will, as they did. Throughout her history, the Catholic Church has remained faithful to the teaching of Jesus and the Bible on angels and saints. This is because the Catholic Church is the one true Church of Jesus Christ.
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