Friday, June 27, 2014

Praying to the Saints: Why Wouldn't You?

(My apologies for my silence over the last several weeks, but as excuses go I think I have a good one: I got married! Last Saturday, I took the hand of my beloved and pledged my lifelong love and fidelity to her before God and His Church, and the ensuing days have been the happiest of my life. The preceding days were filled with errands and shopping trips and picking things up and dropping things off and, oh yeah, moving into a new apartment. So, I was a wee bit occupied, and I appreciate your understanding.

I ought to write a post on the joys and wonders of married life, but I feel that would be better left to a time a bit farther in the future, when I've gone far enough down the road to be able to describe it... you know, like a week or two.

Instead, as a brief warm-up exercise to get myself back into the swing of blogging things, I offer this thought.)

I cannot understand why many Christians cannot understand why Catholics pray to the saints. I do not see their objection, or why they find the practice so objectionable.

Let me amend that: I can understand their difficulties if they equate prayer with worship, so that the phrase "praying to the saints" is no different from the phrase "worshiping the saints"; this I can understand as objectionable, because God alone is to be worshiped.

But it is not the case that prayer is an act of worship, or it is not necessarily so. It would depend on the content of the prayer. If I prayed, "O Divine Joseph, you are all-powerful and all-knowing, you are worthy of all honor and glory and praise," yeah, that would be worship, and that would be wrong, for such things can only be truly said of God. I get that.

That isn't what happens when Catholics pray to the saints, though. Such prayer is not filled with such worship language. Look at the text of any established or approved prayer to a saint. It's not worshiping. It's asking, just as if I were to say, "Prithee, open the door." (Prithee = I pray thee) To pray to a saint is to ask for their intercession before God for a particular petition.

Why do Protestants find this repugnant? They ask other Christians to pray for them all the time. What's the difference between my asking my friend to pray for me and my asking St. Irenaeus to pray for me?

The standard objection I hear is, "The saints you pray to are dead. If you try to invoke them, that's like necromancy or conjuring spirits, and that's forbidden by the Old Testament."


First off, the saints ain't dead. Not totally. Their souls are separated from their bodies, yes, but their souls, which include their intellects and their wills, are still, well, awake, and active in the presence of God. The saints are those who have died in Christ, in the friendship of God. Anyone in the friendship of God, in the state of grace, is part of Christ's Body, be it a saint in heaven or a pilgrim on earth. We're all part of Christ's Body; His Sacred Heart pumps a flow of grace throughout his whole Body, connecting every part. We are not divided from the saints!

Also, the Book of Revelation tells us that the saints in heaven are praying for the Church on earth, and that they carry to God the prayers of the Church (Revelation 5:8). If they're carrying our prayers, wouldn't it make sense that our prayers be directed to them first? "To: God, c/o: St. Athanasius."

Any good Christian cares for his fellow Christians and prays for their good, and desires to know what they need so that they can pray for it. Why would that stop after death? Don't prevent the saints from praying for us. You make them into bad Christians!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

This Tremendous Lover

I've been reading a book given to me by my fiancee, a beautiful work of sound teaching and deep spirituality: This Tremendous Lover by Dom Eugene Boylan, OCR. Dom Boylan was an Irish monk of the Trappist order, and in 1946 he published this book, which would be held to be a masterpiece.

I've been working through it slowly, as one savors a flavorful steak or sips a sweet wine, and have found many a thought-provoking, challenging, or uplifting point or passage; my copy is filled with underlining and starred sections and marginal notes. I thought I'd share a few of my favorites with you, to give you a taste so that you might want to order this spiritual delicacy yourselves.
Mercy is the attitude of goodness confronted with misery. (22)
The love of our hearts is something unique, something no one else can give Him. True, He could create other hearts to love Him, but once He has created us and given us free will, the love of our particular heart is something unique and in a way irreplaceable. (70-71)
It must be remembered that although the spiritual life is a life of love, it is not a life of sentiment. On the contrary, love is based on knowledge give by faith and reason. In a word, devotion is founded on dogma. (112) 
In prayer, it is the movements of the heart that matter. Words are good insofar as they help the movements of the heart. But words for the sake of words, or repetition for the mere sake of repetition, should be avoided. There is no need to keep talking all the time. (131) 
If we remember that the most fruitful life of any human being was that lived by our Lady, and that her life was essentially ordinary, obscure, and laborious, we shall, perhaps, find a new value in the ordinary things in the day's round when done for God. (195)
The whole trouble is that--literally--we do not know what is good for us; and what makes the trouble still worse is that we think we do. (200)
Our own notions of perfection are often full of error. We imagine holiness as the perfecting of our own life; whereas, in fact, it is the perfecting of the life of Christ within us. We imagine that the really important part of a life of holiness is the good works we perform and the fruit we produce; whereas the thing that primarily matters is the love, the supernatural love, with which they are performed. (260)
I'm fast approaching the chapter on the married life. My fiancee has read passages from this chapter to me before, which merely whet my appetite. And since we're getting married in 17 days, it seems appropriate!