Catholic Classroom: The Saints
Question: Do Catholics worship the saints?
If you have ever gotten a funny look for saying that you are going to pray to a saint for one of your intentions, then chances are, the person you’re talking to believes a common misconception about Catholics: that we worship the saints. The truth is that we do not worship saints—worship is reserved for God alone. We are, however, allowed to pray to the saints and ask for their intercession.
When a person becomes a canonized saint, we believe that they are in heaven. We can be confident of their friendship with and closeness to God. When we pray to saints, what we are really doing is asking our friends (the saints) to plead our cause with their closest friend (God). The saint isn’t the one who works the miracle, provides the cure, or finds your lost keys. They simply ask God for that grace on your behalf. This should be a familiar concept, since we are used to asking our living friends and family members to pray for us.
Of course, praying to the saints is not a requirement. They are not mediators between God and us—we can go to God directly. But it can only help to have more souls speaking up on our behalf, especially when we have a close relationship with a saint, and we know that saint is with God. There is also biblical precedent for this kind of intercessory prayer. Think, for example, of Jairus’s daughter (Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56; Matthew 9:18-26). Jairus was a person who happened to have direct access to Jesus as Jesus was passing through his town. He used this access to ask Jesus to heal his daughter. Jairus himself did not heal the little girl, but Jesus performed this miracle in response to his asking. The saints can do this same kind of asking for us. Plus, unlike Jairus, they have access to Jesus all the time!
If you have a particular intention, try finding the patron saint for that intention, and ask them to intercede for you. Even better, try developing a relationship with that saint by reading about them and asking them to help you grow in holiness. As with everything properly ordered in the spiritual life, this will draw you closer to Jesus.