Tuesday, 01 November 2016 13:46

All Saints: we are not alone

Written by Shane Dwyer

Saints Stained Glass basilica 895250 1280When former ballroom dance instructor, John Edward, hit the big time getting the bereaved in touch with their deceased loved-ones, he discovered something that the Catholic Church has known for a very long time: human beings like to know that they are not alone. However, there has always been at least one significant difference with the Church’s approach to communion with some of those that have gone before us: each one of us can talk to them – we don’t need to pay someone to do it for us.

One way to look at it is this: along with all the saints, we belong to the Body of Christ. As a result they and we are part of the same family. And so we can talk to them and, as with the living, we can ask them to pray for us. Having gone before us they can provide us with inspiration as we undergo our own pilgrimage to eternal life with God, and we can ask them to intercede for us that we might receive the grace we need to persevere. However, make no mistake, being inspired by them and asking them to help us is not the same as worshipping them. Worship is reserved for God alone. We respect them, we honour them, we can talk to them and ask them to help us, but we don’t worship them – any more than by respecting, honouring and talking to one another we believe we are offering one another worship!

It is for this reason that we need to be aware of what we mean when we say we ‘pray’ to the Saints. “Praying to” in this context has a very specific meaning. We are really saying that we are ‘talking to’ them and we are asking them to pray for us. Any genuine devotion to a Saint will lead almost immediately to the worship of God. After all, Saints are people who have their hearts set on God and wish us to do the same. If we find that our devotion to a particular Saint or Saints doesn’t lead us to the worship of God then we must seriously wonder if our devotion to the Saints is healthy.

On a cautionary note: not everyone who has died is a saint. In layman’s terms: some who have died are occupied getting ready to enter into God’s presence. It is for this reason the Church lets us know who’s available to help us. These are the Saints that the Church publically acknowledges as living here and now in the presence of God. People like St Mary of the Cross Mackillop.

The Church doesn’t say that our uncanonised relatives are not in God’s presence. Instead, the Church is simply indicating that we can’t know that for certain yet. For this reason, it’s best to commune with the canonised Saints and to pray for the uncanonised just in case they need our prayers. And let’s hope that John Edward and co will learn to leave the dead to Rest in Peace while the Spirit of God prepares them to come into the Father’s presence.

More in this category: « Praying for Souls Walking on Water »