Answering Objections to the Intercession of the Saints

by Jude Walker

This essay was excerpted from a letter I wrote to a man in Scotland who had written a rebuttal to an article published in a Catholic magazine by a friend of mine. The article had been forwarded to him by his sister who lives in England. The rebuttal was actually addressed to her, but she forwarded it to my friend, who elected not to respond due to the volume of mail that he was receiving. He did however allow me to write a response, a portion of which comprises this essay.

" ‘In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and "because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins" she offers her suffrages for them.’ Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective. "(Lumen gentium 50; cf. 2 Macc 12:45. CCC Catechism 958)

You stated that Scripture expressly forbids communication between the living and the dead, and I agree. Since you neglected to cite any scripture to support this, I must assume that you are referring to Deuteronomy 18:11. (My search of Strong’s Comprehensive Concordance failed to turn up any others.) The context of this passage (Deut. 18:9-14,) is that Moses is warning the Israelites against pagan practices; divination, soothsaying, augury, sorcery, casting spells, consulting ghosts or spirits, and seeking oracles from the dead. I suppose that "consulting ghosts or spirits" could be construed as "praying to dead Saints," but as I searched for more scriptures that would help shore up your case, the incongruity of your argument became suddenly apparent.

Objection: The Saints are "Dead"

In John 11:26 Jesus said, "...and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." All this talk of "praying to the dead" and "the dead praying for the living," when the people of whom we are speaking are not even dead ! Indeed, Jesus said in Luke 20:38, "Now He is not God of the dead, but of the living: for all live to Him." Now if God is not God of the dead, and if the Saints are no longer living, then is He no longer their God ? When you die, will God cease to be your God ?

If you will concede that the Saints are alive, is it reasonable then to suppose that these same Saints, who prayed for each other and for all Christians while on earth, would lose interest in us once they reach the kingdom of heaven? Jerome wrote in the fourth century:

"If Apostles and martyrs, whilst still in the flesh and still needing to care for themselves, can pray for others, how much more will they pray for others after they have won their crowns, their victories, their triumphs? Moses, one man, obtains God’s pardon for six hundred thousand armed men, and Stephen prays for his persecutors. When they are with Christ, will they be less powerful? Paul says that two hundred and seventy-six souls were granted to his prayers, whilst they were in a ship with him. Shall he close his lips after death, and not mutter a syllable for those who throughout the world have believed in his gospel?"

Just as the Saints were once "in the flesh," so we are now. But in Christ, we are all part of the Mystical Body. Romans 12:4-5 says: "For as in one body we have many members, and all members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another." Would you dare to say that when a Saint dies, he ceases to be a member of the Body of Christ? I don’t believe that any thinking Christian would. What then, would you believe their function to be?

The early Fathers of the Church unanimously taught the doctrine of the intercession of the Saints. Hilary, Cyril of Jerusalem, and John Chrysostom all wrote concerning the intercession of the Saints as early as the fourth century. John Chrysostom wrote:

"When thou perceivest that God is chastening thee, fly not to His enemies... but to His friends, the martyrs, the Saints, and those who were pleasing to Him, and who have great power."

Dominic, on his deathbed in 1221 said, "Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you more effectively than during my life."

It is clear that even by the early centuries of the Church, intercession of the Saints was a well-established, widely accepted doctrine; a doctrine that has endured nearly two millennia, and only within the last 500 years has been denied by any calling themselves Christians.

Objection: There is One Mediator

The Catholic Church points to I Timothy 2:5 to show that Jesus is the One Mediator, just as do those who would protest the intercessory prayers of Saints. Let us examine then, exactly what is being said here. I Timothy 2:5-6 says: "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all." In order to put this verse in its proper context, let us look at other verses which discuss Jesus’ role as Mediator. Hebrews 9:15 says: "Therefore, He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the old covenant." Also, in Hebrews 12:24, we find that we have come " Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel."

All three verses make a direct reference to the shedding of Jesus’ blood to redeem us from sin. This clearly refers to Jesus as the One Mediator of a new covenant, who reconciled us to God by sacrificing His life on the cross in payment for our sins.

So you see, by praying to Mary and the Saints, the Church is not usurping the authority of Jesus as the One Mediator. On the contrary, the Church has this to say on the subject:

"Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness... [T]hey do not cease to intercede with the Father for us as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus... So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped." (Lumen gentium 49; cf. I Tim. 2:5. CCC 956)