REFLECT ON YOUR FAITH WITH COMFORT FROM SCRIPTURE AND THE SAINTS.

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What is All Saints Day? (cont'd)

The feast was originally on the date of the Pantheon’s dedication, May 13, 609, and the date of an already existing feast in the East. It was later moved to its current date on the Roman calendar, where it is followed by the Commemoration of All Souls, that is, those righteous dead being purified in Purgatory.

What is the difference between All Souls Day and All Saints Day?

All Saints Day is in honor of those people who are in Heaven. All Souls Day reminds us to pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory who have not yet attained Heaven. Learn more here:

What exactly is a Saint?

Mother Angelica said, “Saints are ordinary people who love Jesus, try to be like Him, are faithful to the duties of their state in life, sacrifice themselves for their neighbor, and keep their hearts and minds free of this world.” A canonized saint is someone who, after careful consideration, is formally recognized by the Church as being with God in Heaven. These include the holy angels, the Just of the Old Law (King David, the prophets, etc.), holy men and women mentioned in the New Testament (Mary, Joseph, the Apostles etc.), as well as those recognized in the early Church by inserting their name into the canon of the Mass (canonization). In the Second Millennium this process of “canonization” became more formal.

Are all souls in Heaven saints?

Yes. The Church has declared some people canonized saints, but there are countless others who have never been recognized as in Heaven, either in the early Church or by a formal canonization process.

Are there any living saints?

The word “saint” means holy, so St. Paul refers to the just of the various churches as “the saints of” those churches (cf. Eph. 1:1, Phil. 1:1). As used formally by the Church, however, those who are still alive might still lose their state of justice by grave sin, and even die in that condition. Thus “Saint” is usually reserved for those who have both persisted in justice until death, and been recognized as having done so by the Church, for the purpose of both honoring them and holding them up to the Church as an example of following Christ.

Are there any non-Catholic saints?

The Church canonizes only Catholics as examples for the faithful, but recognizes that those in ignorance of the truth of the Catholic Faith can still live for Christ and die for Christ. In the 20th Century the numbers of non-Catholic martyrs under the Nazis and Soviet systems alone is likely in the many thousands, as well as the innumerable millions who faithfully lived their faith in and love for Jesus. These just, too, are with God, and like Catholics, any imperfection of their communion with Christ and His Church perfectly healed in Purgatory.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…" - Hebrews 12:1

Should you pray to saints?

Yes. If we would ask our friends and family to pray for our intentions, why would we not also ask those closest to God – the saints, angels, and particularly the Blessed Virgin – to pray for us? After all, God is not the “God of the dead but of the living, as all are alive in Him” (Luke 20:38).

Can the saints hear our prayer?

Yes, they can. Although the saints do not have ears with which to hear, in God we can pray to them and be “heard,” just as we can to Him.

Who is the most esteemed member of the Communion of Saints?

Mary, the Mother of God, is the most honored saint. She is in fact the Queen of Heaven and Queen of the Saints.

“We should not aim to be a great saint for the purpose of being a great saint. The saints’ goal is to get as close to God as they can, not for their own sake, but for His sake. The aim is to give honor and glory to God, and to totally forget the self.” – Mother Angelica

Is praying to the saints considered idolatry?

No, it is not idolatry because Catholics are not worshipping the saints. Catholics only worship the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It would, in fact, be sinful to worship anyone other than God. Theologians call divine worship latria, or the adoration due only to God.

However, in English the word worship is equivocal. In Britain it is often used of high personages, with the meaning of revering or honoring them due to the dignity of their office. David gave such honor to Saul, for example, because God had placed him as king over Israel. Such “worship” is derivative, sourced in the Father, as St. Paul taught (Eph. 3:14-15), analogous to that which the Decalogue commanded for parents (Ex. 12:20; Dt. 5:16).

Unfortunately, the English word “worship” doesn’t convey the subtlety of the Latin used by the Church, and in the United States is reserved for God. The Church’s theological term is dulia, from the Latin word for service. It is the reverence and respect owed to all the faithful servants of God (Mt. 24:21-23), the angels and saints whom God Himself honors with crowns of glory (Prov. 16:31; 1 Tim. 4:8; 1 Pet 5:4; Rev 4:4). We honor them and, in turn, join with them in honoring God, the source of all holiness (Rev. 4:9-11).

Is praying to saints biblical?

Sacred Scripture shows us that saints do intercede for humans on earth.
For example, Revelation 6:9-10 says,

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

We also see explicit mention of the role of the angels accompanying the prayers of the faithful in Rev. 8, and implicitly that of human beings in Rev. 4, where the 24 crowned elders, standing for the 12 tribes and the 12 apostles, the just of the Old and the New Covenant, share in Christ’s kingly and priestly function.

Rev. 8:3-4 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God. (cf. Tobit 12:15-22)

“Do not be afraid to be saints. Follow Jesus Christ, who is the Source of freedom and light. Be open to the Lord so that He may lighten all your ways.” - St. John Paul II

Is it wrong to worship saints?

Yes. Only God should be the object of our worship. When we worship anything or anyone other than God, we are sinning against the first commandment.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says,

Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God…. (CCC 2113)

Why do Catholics pray to saints?

The saints, who are in the Beatific Vision, are better capable of praying for us than we are. They are no longer able to sin, and their close relationship with God allows them to intercede well for our intentions. Also, the fact that they are shown praying for us in Rev. 6 and with having crowns in Rev. 8, symbolizing Christ’s own kingly and priestly role, shows that their work for the kingdom did not stop at death.

Why do we ask the saints to intercede for us?

Lumen gentium, paragraph 49, says,

For by reason of the fact that those in Heaven are more closely united with Christ, they establish the whole Church more firmly in holiness, lend nobility to the worship which the Church offers to God here on earth and in many ways contribute to its greater edification. For after they have been received into their Heavenly home and are present to the Lord, through Him and with Him and in Him they do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, showing forth the merits which they won on earth through the one Mediator between God and man, serving God in all things and filling up in their flesh those things which are lacking of the sufferings of Christ for His Body which is the Church. Thus by their brotherly interest our weakness is greatly strengthened.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 956, references the above passage as well as these two quotes from saints:

“Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life.” – St. Dominic, on his deathbed, speaking to his brothers.

“I want to spend my Heaven in doing good on earth.” – St. Thérèse of Lisieux

"Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society." - St. Francis of Assisi

Why are there saints?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The communion of saints is the Church” (CCC 946).

And Lumen gentum paragraph 50, says,

When we look at the lives of those who have faithfully followed Christ, we are inspired with a new reason for seeking the City that is to come and at the same time we are shown a most safe path by which among the vicissitudes of this world, in keeping with the state in life and condition proper to each of us, we will be able to arrive at perfect union with Christ, that is, perfect holiness. In the lives of those who, sharing in our humanity, are however more perfectly transformed into the image of Christ, God vividly manifests His presence and His face to men. He speaks to us in them, and gives us a sign of His Kingdom, to which we are strongly drawn, having so great a cloud of witnesses over us and such a witness to the truth of the Gospel.

Why do Catholics have saints?

Lumen gentium, paragraph 50, says, “Fully conscious of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the pilgrim Church from the very first ages of the Christian religion has cultivated with great piety the memory of the dead…”

God has blessed us, as the Church on earth, with the Communion of saints. The saints both intercede for us and provide us with wonderful examples of Christian piety.

"You cannot be half a saint. You must be a whole saint or no saint at all." - St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Why are saints important to Catholics?

Lumen gentum paragraph 50, says,

For just as Christian communion among wayfarers brings us closer to Christ, so our companionship with the saints joins us to Christ, from Whom as from its Fountain and Head issues every grace and the very life of the people of God. It is supremely fitting, therefore, that we love those friends and coheirs of Jesus Christ, who are also our brothers and extraordinary benefactors, that we render due thanks to God for them and "suppliantly invoke them and have recourse to their prayers, their power and help in obtaining benefits from God through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is our Redeemer and Saviour." For every genuine testimony of love shown by us to those in Heaven, by its very nature tends toward and terminates in Christ who is the "crown of all saints," and through Him, in God Who is wonderful in his saints and is magnified in them.

How many saints are there in the Catholic Church?

While the official Martyrologium Romanum (2004) lists many thousands of saints and blesseds by name, it recognizes tens of thousands only as “companions” of named martyrs. For example, in the case of the Martyrs of Vietnam, Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions, there are estimated to be somewhere between 130,000 to 300,000 martyrs in that persecution. All are considered canonized and honored, even though only a few are known by name. Thus, the actual number of the canonized is unknown, just as the number of uncanonized saints is innumerable, as all who are in Heaven are Holy.

It is likely, as well, that there are far more holy angels than holy human beings. The Fathers who spoke of the matter held, based on Rev 12, that one third of the angels fell, and based on the aptness of the Divine Justice, that human beings would take their places.

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Is Veneration worship?

Since “veneration” indicates deep respect, this is not worship. The word venerate comes from the Latin word “venerari,” which means “love.” We venerate (love and respect) the saints, but we only worship God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

In fact, the Church understands the 4th Commandment (5th in some Protestant lists), as obliging not just honoring our natural fathers and mothers, but also those whom God’s Providence has placed in relationship over us as natural and spiritual fathers and mothers, in civil society, and in the Church, on earth, and in Heaven. Thus, St. Paul could say to the Corinthians that he was their father through the Gospel (1 Cor. 4:15; 2 Cor. 12:14-15), and Catholics call priests “Father.”

Why do we venerate saints?

We venerate (honor and respect) the saints because they are our Heavenly friends. They intercede for us much better than another human being on earth is capable of doing, since they are in God’s presence.

Also, the saints are great examples to us of living out our Christian vocations. We can see the courage of the martyrs and the wisdom of the Doctors of the Church. We see strength, innocence, piety, and tenacity. As Pope St. Clement I said, “Follow the saints, because those who follow them will become saints.”

Are statues a form of idolatry?

No, they are not. Just as you might display pictures of your family, statues of the saints remind us about their stories and help us to emulate their holiness. Since we love the saints as our heavenly friends, it stands to reason that we would want to think of them often.

The Council of Trent says,

Moreover, that the images of Christ, of the Virgin Mother of God, and of the other saints, are to be had and retained particularly in temples, and that due honour and veneration are to be given them; not that any divinity, or virtue, is believed to be in them, on account of which they are to be worshipped; or that anything is to be asked of them; or, that trust is to be reposed in images, as was of old done by the Gentiles who placed their hope in idols; but because the honour which is shown them is referred to the prototypes which those images represent; in such wise that by the images which we kiss, and before which we uncover the head, and prostrate ourselves, we adore Christ; and we venerate the saints, whose similitude they bear… (Council of Trent, Section 25, Decree 2)

“There is no saint without a past, and no sinner without a future." - St. Augustine

What is a relic of a saint?

First-class relics of saints are the physical remains, such as flesh, bone or blood. Second-class relics are items that were regularly used by saints and holy people. Third-class relics are items that have been touched to first-class relics. There are also relics that are associated with Jesus, such as the True Cross and other relics of the Passion.

To ensure against abuses in this matter, the Church controls the distribution of relics for legitimate purposes. She also requires formal ecclesiastical documentation of its authenticity before it can be used in any public veneration.

Why do Catholics keep relics?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church's sacramental life, such as the veneration of relics…” (CCC 1674).

In addition to the teachings of Catholic Tradition, relics are clearly mentioned in Sacred Scripture. In Acts of the Apostles, we read this account:

“And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them” (Acts 19:11-12).

It is important to note that God is credited with these miracles, not St. Paul. God chose to work these miracles through the relics of a saint.

In addition, Acts 5 says,

“Now many signs and wonders were done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high honor. And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and pallets, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them” (Acts 5:12-15).

In this case, they only wanted St. Peter’s shadow to fall on them in order to possibly be healed.

It stands to reason that the saints are associated with these miracles. In John 14:12, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father.”