You Worship the Saints?
So wait...You Worship the Saints?
By Joe Martinez
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit...and in the name of Saint Lazarus of Bethany and Saint Michael the Archangel and...."
A very common misconception of Catholics is that we worship the saints. In fact, it is such a prevalent idea that our protestant brothers will often bring it up in debates as evidence that Catholics hold other beings in the same regard as God-- a simple mistake when there is so much confusion surrounding the topic.
Well, friends, allow me to clear the waters a bit for us all.
The proper term that should be used here is venerate and not worship. I looked the word up on a couple of online dictionaries for proper reference and a few definitions popped up.
These are the ones you want to take a look at:
From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language --- Ven-er-ate (tr.v.)
"To regard with respect, reverence, or heartfelt deference. See synonyms at Revere."
From Cambridge Dictionary of American English
"To honor greatly or respect (person or thing)"
So, basically, Catholics honor the saints instead of worshiping them. If you are maybe getting a bit stuck on the word 'revere,' I have a comparison for you. Can you think of a title that we give to really special speakers that is very similar? I'll just give it away: Reverend. That's as in, reverend minister or reverend Monsignor whoever. It just means a good amount of respect is given to the guy (or girl) involved.
Now, let me recap. Saints are not worshipped in Catholicism, they are held in positions of respect. Nice! We've only just begun.
You may say to me, "Joe Martinez, I see where you're going with this. But what about when a Catholic person says that they pray to a saint?"
A hah. Good point. I think the best answer I can give you is that those words are more of a turn of phrase. We don't actually pray to Saint Joan D'arc. We ask for her to pray for us. You may notice next time you're around a number of your catholic friends that they say, "Saint (name) of (biblical place) pray for us!" at the end of a prayer.
Saints play a very special role in prayer. We believe that they add to our prayer requests when we are chatting it up with God. I've had it said to me a number of times, "Why do you need these seperate people to add to your prayer? Isn't your prayer good enough?"
My friend, Mr. Mike 'T' Tenango, provides a very eloquent answer. "When you're grandma's sick, don't you ask eveyone you meet to pray for her? Isn't your prayer alone good enough? The other prayers help right? Well, doesn't it add a little more when the prayers come from people who are in heaven?"
I have my own analogy. You guys are teens, so you should be about 14, 16, 18, whatever. Do you remember the first time you asked your parents if you could hang out with your firends alone somewhere (like last week?) Imagine you're in that scenario again. Now, in this family scenario, your dad is going to make this decision, okay? Dad= God. So you go up to Dad and say, "Can I go?"
He says, "I'll think about it. Come back in a bit." Now, you're smart enough to have a plan. You go up to your mom (who is, of course, Mother Mary) and say, "Momma Mary, can you talk to dad?" And of course she thinks you can handle yourself so she says yes and goes to talk to daddy. Now what do you do?
Talk to all your brothers and sisters, of course! Brother Saint Augistine, Sister Joan, Sister Saint Teres, Brother Saint Francis, etc. etc. And by the end of it, you have an army of support. Of course, dad is going to come to his own decision. But, it helps if you have people on your side, right?
That's one way saints work. They support you. The second way is they act as role models. Oh wait. You have another question. "That's all well and good, Joe Martinez. But what about the Hail Mary prayer? You can't tell me there's no saint worshiping there."
I can. Let me take you through it step by step.
Hail Mary (Translation--Hi Mary)
Full of Grace (You're Awesome)
The Lord is with thee (You're Awesome)
Blessed art thou among women (You're awesome)
And Blessed is the fruit (And that kid in your
Of thy womb Jesus (Stomach, Jesus? He's really Awesome.)
Holy Mary (Holy as in with God)
Mother of God (You're the mother of God, right)
Pray For us Sinners (Did he just say 'Pray'?
Now, and at the hour (Right now, and
of our death. (Until we die)
So, hold up, man. You're telling me that the whole first half of the prayer is just saying Mary is awesome and the second half is just asking Mary to pray for us? That's it? That's it.
Mary has a position in the church as an intercessor. She is our advocate (the official title of the Holy Spirit as well) and goes before God with our wishes to make them known. Mary's like this lawyer I always see on TV, Larry H. Parker. "I'll fight for you." Another way to think about it is, you make a prayer, and Mary takes all your words and covers them up neatly with wrapping paper and ties it with a pretty bow to show to God. Mary's that extra bit of umph to your prayer request. Though, keep in mind that this is only one aspect of her role in the church.
The next question you may be having is, "Why are the saints so special? Who made the call that says these people get the best houses in heaven, Joe?" Well, first off, I'm not Joe. I'm Joe Martinez, and I didn't say they had the best houses in heaven. But I can answer your question about why they are so special.
If you were to actually do research on any given saint, you would find that he or she (they) have a very special story. Saint Lazarus of Bethany (That's my boy) was dead for a few days and Jesus himself went to his tomb and raised him from the dead. That's all aside from Jesus saying that Lazarus was his friend, because that has to be worth some heaven points right? (Kidding). Saint Patrick was a slave and rose from his bindings to become a minister to the Irish people. He's the dude who kicked all the snakes out of Ireland. Saint Don Bosco did so much for the children working in textile factories. Saint Christina rose from the dead by God's power after being shown hell and all the people she knew who would go there.
The point of bringing that up is to to show that these men and women were special and that it was apparent that they lived God's will till death. They have been deemed by the church, through the Vatican, to be people who were worthy of heaven, and anyone in heaven deserves respect (obviously).
Now, does that mean that only those dudes you see on the spooky mexican prayer candles and the laminated trading cards ever get to heaven? No. We are all called to sainthood. Everyone from Cambodia to Argentina to Iraq, Vietnam, England, and America.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is written, "All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. All are called to holiness: 'Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.'"
So, what does that mean? Do I have to get barbequed on a pit as a martyr and tell them "Turn me over I'm done on this side?" Do I have to Spend my whole life in India attending to the impoverished with no income and no romantic love? Of course not. The saints you hear about on TV are in a special category. They are cannonized saints because the Pope has made it known that they have achieved sainthood. But it is Catholic belief that these men and women have been called to something a little greater than most people.
That doesn't mean you're off the hook though. God has His plans, and He has a way of showing you what He wants. Should you choose to accept your mission (this is sounding like Mission Impossible) you may find yourself going down roads you would have never imagined. Something to keep in mind is that people come and go from this earth who live wonderful, God filled lives, and the world never knows it. Yet, to God these people are just as much saints as any of the other cannonized ones are. In the end it's all His decision. More on living a God filled life to come.