Archive for the ‘Why Do Catholics Do That?’ Category

Below I’ve pasted (in purple) a comment from Ethan that I recently received to an earlier post . My response is the black text which follows the comment.

I think the Bible uses the word “saint” to say those who are fellow believers on earth and also those who are in Heaven. (I can go into this further is need be.) If you were talking of “saints” here on earth and asking for their prayer, then I can agree with that. If you were talking of “saints” in Heaven that are actively interceding for us, I would have to disagree with you. Besides the two verses you listed in Revelation, that I personally don’t think paint a good picture of what you are using them for, where in the Bible does it talk about saints interceding for us? There are 7 verses in the Bible that use the word intercede, or a form of it. 6 of the 7 use the word in the context of Jesus or the Holy Spirit interceding for us (Heb 7:25, Ro 8:26, 27, 34, Isa 53:12 and 1 Ti 2:1). The other verse is using it in a little different context then what we are talking about (Job 16:20).

Can saints hear/see us, I don’t know for sure. But, I can say that from a Biblical standpoint, there is no evidence that can support that. Looking through Revelation again would point us to the fact that saints are spending their time worshiping God.

Ethan, what you and I agree on is that there is LOTS we don’t know. Our finite minds simply cannot comprehend all the things of God. However, I’d like to explain why I believe there is biblical evidence that saints hear, see, and care for you and me.

Now, I realize I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t know when I say that in Romans 12:4-5, 1 Cor. 12:12-13, and Eph. 4:4, we read that there is one Body of Christ. But those verses put together with this next one really opened my eyes:

“For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ” Romans i:38-39

Death does not separate the saints from the Body of Christ and since there is only one Body, we are connected with them in that same Body. And lest you think there are dead people within the Body of Christ, we are told this in Matthew:

“And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, `I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” Matthew 22:31-32

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Eli’jah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Eli’jah.” Matthew 17:1-4

The saints in heaven are very much alive. Our Lord Jesus himself communicated with them and Peter, James, and John witnessed this. So for us to communicate with those in heaven and expect that they hear us isn’t doing anything other than imitating our Lord.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.” 2 Peter 1:3-4

“But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him…” 1 Cor. 2:9

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.” 1 Cor. 13:12

“But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. ” Matthew 22:29-30

Saints are “partakers of the divine nature” and are like angels. We aren’t able to fathom the abilities they have. That just blows me away!

These saints who partake in the divine nature and who live without the same limitations that you and I have are aware of what is going on in our lives:

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?” Revelation 6:9-10

In these verses, the martyrs are crying out in heaven for those who who still dwell on Earth. Other examples of saints having knowledge of Earthly situations include 1 Samuel 28 where Saul “calls up” Samuel and Luke 16:19-31 where the rich man in hell asks that Lazarus (who has also died) be sent to warn his brothers to change their ways. But probably one of the most familiar examples of this can be found in Luke 15:

” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15: 7

“Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10

As I said in my original post, it is not mandated that I ask saints to pray for me. I could just choose to ask my husband, friends, and kids to pray for me. But what of the following verses? Obviously, some peoples’ prayers are more effective than others.

“The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” Jams 5:16

“For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those that do evil. ” 1 Peter 3:12

“None is righteous, no, not one….” Romans 3:10

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.” Hebrews 12:22-23

Could it be that there are instances where the saints in heaven are the only ones righteous enough for their prayers to be heard by God? We see below where God would not accept the prayers of Job’s friends:

“After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eli’phaz the Te’manite: “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” So Eli’phaz the Te’manite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Na’amathite went and did what the LORD had told them; and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer. And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends; and the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. ” Job 42:7-10

I’ll continue to ask my husband, friends, and kids to pray for me but I’ll also ask for the prayers of that great cloud of witnesses which surrounds me.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

Ethan, I’m so thankful for your comments and whether you agree or disagree, I hope this has been helpful. I completely understand where you’re coming from because I was there too once. I had never questioned these things and never even thought to look into them. I’m so glad I did! The more I read, the more I learn, the more deeply I love my Savior! 🙂


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Since my posting has been sparse of late, I wanted to let anyone who might be interested know of an interesting “conversation” going on in the comments box of this post.  If you have anything to add to the discussion feel free.

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Someone (a non-Catholic) asked me this question recently. I was a little startled because the question I would want to know is “Why would anyone NOT want to take their kids to a Latin Mass?” I quickly forget how different my perspective is from many of the folks in my life. In fact, I was so startled, that the best response I had at the moment was about the beauty of the Latin language and the desire to expose our kids to beautiful things. While that’s true, my answer just wasn’t enough….for me at least. 😉

This afternoon, the Runningkids and I did a rare thing. We sat in front of the television together. Every Wednesday, you can watch the Papal Audience on EWTN and see the Pope greet, exhort, pray for and pray with the masses of folks who are on pilgrimage to Rome. Each visiting group is recognized by their country and city of origin. in today’s crowd were folks from England, Ireland, New Zealand, Thailand, Canada, and the U.S. The U.S. contention included a group from our parish so we were looking for familiar faces…..and we saw them! After greeting his audience and giving them some words of encouragement, the Holy Father began to pray the Lord’s Prayer. In Latin. And ALL in the crowd joined in. All the English. All the Irish. All the Thai. All the French Canadians. All prayed together with one voice. In Latin.

There’s more that could be said about the use of Latin in the Mass, but for now, I’m thankful to have been able to pray today with those pilgrims who came from all parts of the world.

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…as in the Proverbs 27 kind:

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. ” Proverbs 27:17

I am truly blessed to have a small handful of good “sharpeners”. The majority of these women are non-Catholic women who are sincerely trying to understand my decision to become Catholic. They could choose to turn away and ignore my decision (or treat me as if I’ve sprouted a second head) but they haven’t done that. Instead they are asking great questions and it’s forcing me to have to articulate what I believe as a Catholic….and why. (That’s the sharpening.) Whenever I have their permission, I’ll post their questions here because other readers of this blog may be asking the same questions. Here’s a good question I received a few weeks ago. My friend’s question is in blue, some scripture references follow in black, finally my reply is in green.

“How is it that Mary could have been a virgin for her whole life? From Matthew 13, Mark 3, and John 7, it seems pretty clear to me that the apostles weren’t writing about cousins or the brethren, but about specific people who were the sons and daughters of Mary.”

“Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?” Matthew 13:55

“While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.” Matthew 12:46

“And his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting about him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Mark 3:31 – 35


“So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples may see the works you are doing. For no man works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his brothers did not believe in him. Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil. Go to the feast yourselves; I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” So saying, he remained in Galilee. But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private.” John 7:3-10

Given the above verses, the Catholic Church’s claim that Mary remained a virgin for the entire span of her life definitely seemed outlandish…even “man-made”….to me in the beginning. Of note is that in some translations (I’m using the RSV above), the word “brother” is used whole others use the word “brethren”. However, as I studied this issue more and more, it really came together in my mind. Here’s why.

The ancient Hebrew and Aramaic languages have no words for special degrees of relationships (i.e. cousin, brother, etc.) like we do in our modern languages. Anyone belonging to the same family, clan, or tribe was called “brethren”. In the Greek Old Testament, a “brethren” can be a cousin, uncle, nephew, or more remote kinsman.

Another basis for the Catholic position is that Jesus never refers to these “brethren” as children of Mary although he, himself, obviously is.

Finally, some say it is doubtful Jesus would have handed over the care of Him mother to the Apostle John is she had other sons who could care for her….that this act would have been a great insult to any biological brother if He had them.

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I’m sure you have seen, either in person, or on television, a Catholic making the Sign of the Cross across their body. It is a gesture observed by Western Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and some Anglicans and Episcopalians as well. When we do this, we are recalling our baptism “in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” We are identifying ourselves as belonging to Christ.

The practice of crossing oneself in some form or another can be noted as far back as the early third century:

“At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign of the cross.” Tertullian, A.D. 211

At that time, it was probably a smaller cross on the forehead. Later on, likely as a result of the Arian Heresy which denied the doctrine of the Trinity, a larger cross was made over one’s body.

The beauty of this practice is its rich symbolism beginning with the use of our right hand (the Lord sits at the right hand of the Father) touching our forehead (“In the name of the Father” who created all things), then our chest (“and the Son” who became human flesh), then left shoulder to right shoulder (there are differing explanations of the symbolism of each shoulder, one explanation is left symbolizing death and darkness while right symbolizes light and truth).

The danger is that the practice of crossing oneself can become habitual and mindless if we are not thoughtful about it. This should never be the case. It is an honor and privilege to identify ourselves, in this physical way, as belonging to Christ. It should always be done with great reverence, gratitude, and humility for we were bought at a great price.

As a matter of trivia, Western Catholics use their right hand and cross themselves in an up/down/left/right manner. Eastern Christians use their left hand and an up/down/right/left direction.

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