First, we believe that some of those who die are in heaven (I John 3:2, I Corinthians 13:12, Revelations 22:4), some are in purgatory (II Maccabees 12:46, I Corinthians 3:15, I Peter 1:7), and some are in hell (I John 3:14-15).
Of those, there are some whom we are SURE are in heaven. We look at their lives, their love for God and neighbor, and the fact that praying to them results in what Jesus calls “good fruit.” (Matthew 25:31, I Corinthians 15:26-27, Ephesians 4:16)
If someone is in heaven, they are perfectly united with Jesus. Like the apostle Paul, we believe that those who are dead in Christ are really alive. (Philippians 3:21, I Corinthians 15:44) They are in heaven praising and worshiping God.
We who are alive and worship Jesus are also united with Him, or as Scripture puts it, we are “taken up into His body.” (I Corinthians 6:13-15, 19-20, Colossians 2:12, 3:1)
Since we are united with Christ through our baptism, we are also united with those who have died and are in heaven with the Lord. (II Maccabees 12:45, Ephesians 4:1-6)
It is proper for us to ask those who have been raised and are united with Jesus to pray for us.
Literally, for those who believe in the resurrection of the dead, asking someone who has died to pray for us is like asking our neighbor to pray for us – but even better.
Why? Because people in heaven understand God and His plan for us in a way we will not until we are raised up with Christ Jesus. They can take our prayers and refine them and make them more in accord with what Jesus wants.
In terms of devotions then, we have stylized ways of praying to the saints. A format is always helpful in that regard, isn’t it?
So, the next time you are needing God’s guidance on something or in need of help, ask your friends to pray for you. The friends you can see and the friends you cannot.
St. Thomas Aquinas would say that it is in the middle.
Devotions are a perfectly valid and powerful way for Catholics to express our faith in Jesus. However, like all good things, it sometimes gets taken to an extreme. It’s like country music in that regard. I guess a couple songs a year on the radio can be acceptable, but entire radio stations dedicated to it? That is a sin of SOME kind, I’m sure.
Seriously, though, sometimes, there are people who take their devotions too far and neglect all other areas of spirituality and prayer. Folks may get to the point where they teach that if you don’t pray their specific kinds of devotions, you are in jeopardy of hell. That is devotionalism and it is a bad thing.
However, completely neglecting devotions is bad also, right? We need the intercessions of the saints or God would not have offered them to us.
So, let’s make sure we find the meeting place in the middle and pray as we should.
Enjoy another day in God’s presence!
by Father Joseph Krupp