Protestants, who claim to be obedient to Scripture, are the first ones to level these accusations against Catholics, not without a Bible quote or two, which seem to back them up, but little do they realize that the Bible actually teaches that we should pray to and venerate saints.
God uses His angels as messengers
1 Chronicles 21:18: “And the angel of the Lord commanded Gad to tell David…”
4 Kings 1:3: “And an angel of the Lord spoke to Elias the Thesbite, saying…”
Acts 8:26: “Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying…”
Throughout the Bible God uses His angels to deliver messages, to give instructions, to deliver justice and to answer prayers.
Numbers 20:16: “And how we cried to the Lord, and he heard us, and sent an angel, who hath brought us out of Egypt…”
Isaias 37:36: “And the angel of the Lord went out, and slew in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and eighty-five thousand…”
God answers prayers by sending angels, and this is so frequent and natural that not only are they sent by God, but they are also besought and entreated by men.
Judges 6:12-13: “The angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said: The Lord is with thee, O most valiant of men. And Gedeon said to him: I beseech thee, my lord, if the Lord be with us, why have these evils fallen upon us?”
Angles can be prayed to
Osee 12:3-4: “In the womb he supplanted his brother: and by his strength he had success with an angel. And he prevailed over the angel, and was strengthened: he wept, and made supplication to him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spoke with us.”
Not because they are God, of course, but because they are powerful supernatural servants of God.
St. Luke 1:10-13: “And all the multitude of the people was praying without, at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing on the right side of the alter of incense. And Zachary seeing him, was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him: Fear not, Zachary, for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.”
The angel heard the prayer and responded.
How does this relate to saints?
Matthew 22:29-32: "And Jesus answering, said to them: You err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they shall neither marry nor be married; but shall be as the angels of God in heaven. And concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken by God, saying to you: I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living."
St. Luke 20:34-36: “And Jesus said to them: The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they that shall be accounted worthy of that world, and of the resurrection from the dead, shall neither be married, nor take wives. Neither can they die any more: for they are equal to the angels, and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.”
Saints in heaven are as the angels. Do angels mete out God’s justice? Yes. Answer prayers on behalf of God? Yes. Receive supplication and prayer? Yes. Therefore the saints of Jesus do all of those things. Now that we have made the link between angels and saints, we need to consider a few more things in this regard. The intercession angels, on behalf of God, is extraordinarily powerful and effective. They transmit the message of the Almighty so frequently that in many passages it is not clear if the angel is speaking or if God is speaking.
Zacharias 12:8: “In that day shall the Lord protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and he that hath offended among them in that day shall be as David: and the house of David, as that of God, as an angel of the Lord in their sight.”
St. Luke 2:9: “And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them; and they feared with a great fear.”
The Bible shows us the importance of the witness of angels and saints.
St. Luke 12:8-9: “And I say to you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God. But he that shall deny me before men, shall be denied before the angels of God.”
Jesus considers His confession before angels to be very significant, much like His confession to His Father (Matthew 10:32).
St. Luke 15:10: “So I say to you, there shall be joy before the angels of God upon one sinner doing penance.”
Angles have a connection with and influence over the salvation of men. They rejoice when a man converts because their intercession assits his conversion. They cheer him, they help him and intercede for him. That’s why Catholics understand the intercession of saints to be so important. Saints in heaven are as the angels of God, they are intimately involved in man’s salvation under Jesus Christ. When one prays to them, they in turn pray to God who commonly grants His graces on their behalf and because of their close relationship with Him. The Bible also teaches that angels are present in the assemblies of the faithful.
1 Corinthians 11:10: Therefore ought the woman to have a power (head covering) over her head, because of the angels.
This verse tells us that because of the angels, not God, the woman should cover her head. Veneration is also due to angels, since they are the worthy servants of God almighty.
Jesus described St. John the Baptist as an angel.
St Matthew 11:9-10: “But what went you out to see? a prophet? yea I tell you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: Behold I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.”
In Hebrews we find a description of the Church of Jesus Christ and its heavenly majesty. Notice that the Christian coming before the heavenly description of the Church, comes before the spirits of the just men made perfect, the saints in heaven. The Christian is warned before about coming before all of the following:
Hebrews 12:22-23: "But you are come to mount Sion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to the company of many thousands of angels, And to the church of the firstborn, who are written in the heavens, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the just made perfect"
Prayers to them are Biblical and of tremendous value, since God is glorified and not detracted by His saints.
2 Thessalonians 1:10: “When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be made wonderful in all them who have believed; because our testimony was believed upon you in that day.”
As we see, Saints do not diminish God’s glory, they augment it. Those who are closest to the king can gain favours that are not always given to those who are further away from him. Just like in any other hierarchy, family, company team, etc.
The communion of saints
This is the true and Catholic view of heaven. To use an analogy, it’s like the magnificent palace of the king where there are dozens of levels of servants, assistants and attendants. Each level is full of them, they wait on the king and they have dedicated everything to him. They are his true friends in addition to being his servants. Their lives of service, their extraordinary examples strike each visitor with awe. All of the king’s servants possess their own splendor, which is given to them as a result of their place of honour in the palace.
The king has bestowed some of his own glory on everyone with him, even though theirs is infinitely less than his own. Their personal glory contributes to the glory of the entire place. The thought of the profound glory of the kings servants and friends strikes one with awe at the thought of the unique glory of the king himself whom all of these magnificent creatures serve. As you see more of the palace and move closer to the king, the glory of his friends and servants increases. In creation itself, the brilliant diversity of God’s masterpiece, with differences in snow capped mountains, flowing rivers, serene lakes, green jungles, beautiful woods and rolling hills, strike one with wonder. In heaven there is a countless variety of people, each with a different story, a different trial, a different sacrifice, a different gift, all of which were dedicated and used for God to the fullest and which culminated in perfect happiness in heaven. This stunning variety stirs one to even greater love and awe of the Almighty.
This is the true and Catholic view of heaven and the heavenly hierarchy. It is easy to see in this description how the glory of the saints does not detract from the glory of God, but magnifies it.
St. Luke 1:46: “And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord.”
The Protestant view on the other hand is much different. It’s comparable to a palace that is filled only with the king. In this palace there is nothing and no one that can move your attention away from him. Which king is the more glorious? Which image of the heavenly kingdom is the true one? Which is the Biblical one? The answer is that the Bible teaches the Catholic view, the communion of the saints.
Daniel 7:10: “A swift stream of fire issued forth from before him: thousands of thousands ministered to him, and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before him: the judgment sat, and the books were opened.”
The mind-boggling number of servants who minister to God only enhances the majesty of the appearance of God.
St. Matthew 25:31: “And when the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his majesty.”
God comes with and is glorified by his ministers and his angels and his saints. The Catholic view is the correct and Biblical view of heaven and the heavenly hierarchy. Next we will talk about how the Bible teaches that men can intercede with God.
Jeremias 15:1: “And the Lord said to me: If Moses and Samuel shall stand before me, my soul is not towards this people: cast them out from my sight, and let them go forth.”
Intercession of saintly men helps influence what God does for people and what God does to them, as this last verse shows, even if it wouldn’t have helped in this particular case.0
Exodus 32:9-15: “And again the Lord said to Moses: See that this people is stiffnecked: Let me alone, that my wrath may be kindled against them, and that I may destroy them, and I will make of thee a great nation. But Moses besought the Lord his God, saying: Why, O Lord, is thy indignation kindled against thy people, whom thou hast brought out of the land of Egypt, with great power, and with a mighty hand? Let not the Egyptians say, I beseech thee: He craftily brought them out, that he might kill them in the mountains, and destroy them from the earth: let thy anger cease, and be appeased upon the wickedness of thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou sworest by thy own self, saying: I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven: and this whole land that I have spoken of, I will give to you seed, and you shall possess it for ever. And the Lord was appeased from doing the evil which he had spoken against his people. And Moses returned from the mount, carrying the two tables of the testimony in his hand, written on both sides.”
Moses influence with God was so great that God even asked Moses to let Him alone that he might destroy them, but ultimately He relented because of Moses. Not all men are equal before God or have the same intercessory power before with Him. Moses is an exceptional case as is Abraham.
Genesis 18:26-33: “And the Lord said to him: If I find in Sodom fifty just within the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake. And Abraham answered, and said: Seeing I have once begun, I will speak to my Lord, whereas I am dust and ashes. What if there be five less than fifty just persons? wilt thou for five and forty destroy the whole city? And he said: I will not destroy it, if I find five and forty. And again he said to him: But if forty be found there, what wilt thou do? He said: I will not destroy it for the sake of forty. Lord, saith he, be not angry, I beseech thee, if I speak: What if thirty shall be found there? He answered: I will not do it, if I find thirty there. Seeing, saith he, I have once begun, I will speak to my Lord. What if twenty be found there? He said: I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty. I beseech thee, saith he, be not angry, Lord, if I speak yet once more: What if ten should be found there? And he said: I will not destroy it for the sake of ten. And the Lord departed, after he had left speaking to Abraham: and Abraham returned to his place.”
God at times accepts the sacrifices and prayers of saintly men on behalf of sinners, as in the case of Job.
Job 42:7-10: “And after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Themanite: My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends, because you have not spoken the thing that is right before my, as my servant Job hath. Take unto you therefore seven oxen, and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer for yourselves a holocaust: and my servant Job shall pray for you: his face I will accept, that folly be not imputed to you: for you have not spoken right things before me, as my servant Job hath. So Eliphaz the Themanite, and Baldad the Suhite, and Sophar the Naamathite went, and did as the Lord had spoken to them, and the Lord accepted the face of Job. The Lord also was turned at the penance of Job, when he prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.”
Another example involving Moses, where his intercession played a key role in obtaining the help of God:
Exodus 17:11-13: “And when Moses lifted up his hands, Israel overcame: but if he let them down a little, Amalec overcame. And Moses' hands were heavy: so they took a stone, and put under him, and he sat on it: and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands on both sides. And it came to pass that his hands were not weary until sunset. And Josue put Amalec and his people to flight, by the edge of the sword.”
It is clear that God grants certain things through the intercession of holy men.
Protestants like to argue that praying to saints is against Scripture, and one of the few passages they use to try and prove this is as follows:
1 Timothy 2:5: “For there is one God, and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus”
As we will see, this objection is false for many reasons.
In John 10:16: “And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.”
Jesus calls Himself the one shepherd but, in John 21:15-17, he appoints St. Peter over his flock. “Feed my lambs… feed my lambs… feed my sheep”.
Another example is that Jesus says that He is the supreme judge, in John 9:39 and many other passages. Certain Christians will also act on His behalf as judges in heaven, even of angels.
1 Corinthians 6:2: "Know you not that the saints shall judge this world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know you not that we shall judge angels? how much more things of this world?”
St. Matthew 19:28: “And Jesus said to them: Amen, I say to you, that you, who have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the seat of his majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Jesus is the unique mediator, since He united man to God. Jesus alone did this by His passion and death for those who cooperate with it. That does not mean that in the one mediation of Christ there are not others who participate in His mediation. In fact the Bible clearly teaches that there are.
If Jesus’ unique mediation excluded praying to saints then it would also exclude asking a fellow man to pray for you. There is no way around this. When you ask a fellow man to pray for you, you are asking another person to act as a mediator with Jesus for you. Therefore if prayers to saints are excluded by the unique mediation of Jesus, then asking another to pray for you is excluded as well.
St. Paul himself repeatedly asks others for prayers.
Romans 15:30: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the charity of the Holy Ghost, that you help me in your prayers for me to God.”
He also tells others that he is praying for them.
Colossians 1:3: “Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you…”
The Bible also says this about the suffering of St. Paul:
Colossians 1:24: “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church.”
This verse might be a shock to some non-Catholics that are not familiar with it. St. Paul says that he fills up for the Church those things that are wanting or lacking in the sufferings of Christ. Christ’s suffering was perfect and of infinite value, so what does this mean? What St. Paul means is that many sufferings are still wanting and needed for the members of the Church to work out their salvation, which was made possible by Christ’s sacrifice. This verse is teaching that in addition to his prayers, his sacrifices and sufferings can intercede with God so that God gives others graces to convert or to remain faithful. Those people must still cooperate with the grace, but the efforts, sacrifices and prayers of members of the Church can help grant the graces. All of this proves the Catholic teaching on the communion of saints. It refutes Protestant objections in this area. The fact that man can go to other men for prayers and that the saints in heaven can answer prayers and intercede, is all rooted in the Biblical teaching on the unity of the body f Christ. There is a union among the true members of the Church of Jesus. This union does not cease when members die.
Romans 8:38-39: “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And while true members of the Church can assist each other by prayers, the prayers and intercession of saintly men is particularly powerful. That is exactly what we saw in the cases of Moses, Abraham and Job. These saintly men, even after death, are interested in earthy affairs.
St. Matthew 17:2-3: “And he was transfigured before them. And his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow. And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with him.”
Hebrew 1:14: “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them, who shall receive the inheritance of salvation? ”
Psalms 90:11: “For he hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways.”
Samuel, some time after he had died (1 Kings 25:1), appeared to Saul to rebuke him.
1 Kings 28:18: “Because thou didst not obey the voice of the Lord, neither didst thou execute the wrath of his indignation upon Amalec. Therefore hath the Lord done to thee what thou sufferest this day.”
Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:2-4: “And I saw seven angels standing in the presence of God; and there were given to them seven trumpets. And another angel came, and stood before the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer of the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar, which is before the throne of God. And the smoke of the incense of the prayers of the saints ascended up before God from the hand of the angel.”
In truth, a real Christian does not follow any man, rather this verse means that he venerates the saints and tries to imitate them in their tremendous spiritual lives and fidelity to the Gospel. This is because saints, like the great Saint Paul, literally can help save lives and souls, as seen in the following example. During a voyage by sea of St. Paul, there came a terrible storm that threatened to destroy the ship.
Acts of the Apostles 27:21-25: “And after they had fasted a long time, Paul standing forth in the midst of them, said: You should indeed, O ye men, have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and have gained this harm and loss. And now I exhort you to be of good cheer. For there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but only of the ship. For an angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, stood by me this night. Saying: Fear not, Paul, thou must be brought before Caesar; and behold, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer; for I believe God that it shall so be, as it hath been told me.”
Undeniably, angels and saints are very active and interested in the affairs and events taking place on earth.
Saints, because of their fidelity to Jesus Christ, are models worthy of imitation, as taught by the Bible.
1 Corinthians 4:16: “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ.”
1 Corinthians 11:1: “Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ.”
Philippians 3:17: “Be ye followers of me, brethren, and observe them who walk so as you have our model.”
That’s why the Catholic Church canonizes saints for us to imitate. The Bible also teaches exactly the same thing:
James 5:10: “Take, my brethren, for an example of suffering evil, of labour and patience, the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord.”
Hebrews 11 even goes through a whole list of heroes of faith, the Old Testament saints, including Abel, Noe, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sara, Esau, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gedeon, Barac, Samson, Jephthe, David and Samuel. The first verse of the next chapter exhorts us to have confidence, knowing that all these saints are in heaven praying for us.
Hebrew 12:1: “And therefore we also having so great a cloud of witnesses over our head, laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us.”
Relics of Saints
The Bible teaches that even relics of the saints are to be used and venerated and can be miraculous.
St. Matthew 9:20-22: “And behold a woman who was troubled with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment. For she said within herself: If I shall touch only his garment, I shall be healed. But Jesus turning and seeing her, said: Be of good heart, daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.”
The garment of Jesus is one thing, since Jesus is God. But does God allow miracles to be worked through the relics of his saints, or is this superstition and idolatry? Those who believe it is superstitious or idolatrous are unaware that the Bible teaches otherwise.
Acts 19:11-12: “And God wrought by the hand of Paul more than common miracles. So that even there were brought from his body to the sick, handkerchiefs and aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the wicked spirits went out of them.”
In this verse we see that St. Paul was not only given miraculous powers, but the handkerchiefs and aprons he touched were given miraculous power. Similar miracles are worked through the shadow of St. Peter:
Acts 5:15: “Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that when Peter came, his shadow at the least, might overshadow any of them, and they might be delivered from their infirmities.”
The same is seen regarding relics of saints in the Old Testament.
4 Kings 2:14: “And he struck the waters with the mantle of Elias, that had fallen from him, and they were not divided. And he said: Where is now the God of Elias? And he struck the waters, and they were divided, hither and thither, and Eliseus passed over.”
4 Kings 13:21: “And some that were burying a man, saw the rovers, and cast the body into the sepulchre of Eliseus. And when it had touched the bones of Eliseus, the man came to life, and stood upon his feet.”
This is particularly interesting, because the bones of saints are a common relic used by Catholics, far from being idolatrous or superstitious.
Statues and images
Protestants like to use the following verse as an objection to the Catholic practice of venerating images and statues of saints.
Deuteronomy 5:8: “Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any things, that are in heaven above, or that are in the earth beneath, or that abide in the waters under the earth.”
This argument fails for many reasons. If we take this verse on its own and literally, then that means we can make no likeness of anything at all, such as a picture of an animal or another person. Protestants reject that understanding and even carry pictures of family, coins upon which are the images of men, etc.
To get the full context of the passage all we need to do is read the verse that comes right after it.
Deuteronomy 5:8-9: “Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any things, that are in heaven above, or that are in the earth beneath, or that abide in the waters under the earth. Thou shalt not adore them, and thou shalt not serve them. For I am the Lord thy God, a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon their children unto the third and fourth generation, to them that hate me.”
Thou shalt not adore them and serve them. The idolatrous worship of creatures, that is what God forbids. Catholics do not worship statues or images and to say otherwise is a lie. In fact, God commands the use of statues and images for religious purposes.
Exodus 25:18-19: “Thou shalt make also two cherubims of beaten gold, on the two sides of the oracle.”
Other passages where we see references to images and statues being sanctioned, even commanded by God for use in religion.
Exodus 26:1: “And thou shalt make the tabernacle in this manner: Thou shalt make ten curtains of fine twisted linen, and violet and purple, and scarlet twice dyed, diversified with embroidery.”
There are many more examples of this, for example in 3 Kings 6 and 3 Kings 7:25-36.
Numbers 21:8: “And the Lord said to him: Make brazen serpent, and set it up for a sign: whosoever being struck shall look on it, shall live.”
God commanded Moses to make an image of a serpent for the people to look upon and be healed. It should also be noted that non-Catholics who consider use of religious statues or images to be idolatrous not only condemn the Bible passages we just covered, but they also share their belief with Muslims.
Another false idea that must be addressed is the idea that Catholics worship statues because they sometimes kneel or bow before them in prayer. This objection is false and is clearly refuted by the Bible. The posture of kneeling and even of lying prostrate on the ground does not necessarily mean worship or adoration. It does signify that in certain religious contexts and in some false religions. But bowing, kneeling or even going completely prostrate can be merely a sign of respect, a humble posture. Anyone who has taken the time to read the Old Testament knows this is true. Throughout the Old Testament we see holy figures bowing down prostrate before other men, not as a sign of worship, but of respect and humility.
Genesis 33:3: “And he [Jacob] went forward and bowed down with his face to the ground seven times until his brother came near.”
This is the same Jacob who Jesus says in Luke 13:28 will be in the kingdom of heaven. He was not an idolater of course.
We read a similar thing of Abraham in Genesis 23:12. There are many other examples like this in the books of Kings. Other passages which show that men bow before other men, not idolatrously, but merely out of respect are Genesis 19:1 Ruth 8:10.
These passages are sufficient to refute the false assertion that Catholics worship statues when they kneel or bow to assume a humble and respectful posture while invoking the heavenly figure whom the statue represents.
We have seen in much detail that the Bible teaches the communion of saints, that praying to saints is Biblical and efficacious. We’ve seen that Jesus teaches that the saints in heaven are as the angels. We’ve seen that saints who have died and gone to heaven pray and intercede for men. We’ve seen that relics and statues are not idolatrous, but Biblically based. None of this is to suggest that one cannot pray directly to Jesus. True Catholics pray directly to Jesus every day, but praying to saints and invoking their intercession is extremely effective and powerful and often obtains from Jesus graces that He is otherwise not inclined to give. It is particularly important and necessary in the case of the greatest of all the saints, the Mother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the vessel He chose to come to earth.
The example, the devotion, the miracles and the lives of Catholic saints have been among the most important things in the spread of the Gospel throughout the earth. And the necessity to venerate and invoke the saints was recognized from the very beginning of the Christian Church by the Fathers of the Church. All of what the Catholic saints are and have done is by the grace of Jesus Christ. By cooperating with it they spiritually conquered the world for Christ, a world which is sadly falling into apostasy from that Catholic heritage that defined it.
John 14:12: “Otherwise believe for the very works' sake. Amen, amen I say to you, he that believeth in me, the works that I do, he also shall do; and greater than these shall he do.”
The Bible teaches the communion of saints. Praying to and venerating saints does not detract from God’s glory, on the contrary, it inspires us to center our whole lives more zealously around Christ and doing His will, as they did. Throughout her history, the Catholic Church has remained faithful to the teachings of Jesus and the Bible on angels and saints. This is because the Catholic Church is the one true Church of Jesus Christ. You need to learn the true Catholic Faith, and convert to it, or you cannot attain salvation.