Saint Worship - Part 9

I have shown that the principle on which the intercession of the saints may avail us is that God,, in developing and perfecting or consummating His works, uses the agency of second or created causes, as in man’s redemption and salvation; that is, enables and allows His creatures, in their several orders and according to their nature, to co-operate with Him. This co-operation in purely physical natures is involuntary and blind – from internal necessity; in rational and moral natures it is a free co-operation, voluntary – from reason and free will. Hence God, in the natural world, uses physical agencies and effects His designs by what are called natural laws; and in moral natures, [effects them] by the ministry of angels and of men. He sends His angel to announce to Mary that she shall conceive by the Holy Ghost, bear a Son, and call His Name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins; He sends His angel, too, to deliver Peter from prison, and communicates revelations to Saint John in the isle of Patmos by a like ministry. He uses men as priests to offer the holy sacrifice and to intercede with Him for His people.

This is not because He cannot effect everything by His own direct and immediate action; but because He is good, and delights to communicate Himself as far as He is communicable o His creatures, to make them as near like Himself as creatures can be like their Creator, and to honor them by making them co-workers with Him, and giving them thus a real title to share in His glory. They who faithfully co-operate with Him in winning souls to Christ ,and extending His kingdom on earth, enter, when this work is done, into the joy of their Lord, and share His glory. No higher honor can be conferred on a creature than to be permitted to co-operate with God; than to be employed by the King of kings and Lord of lords in His service – to be sent on His errands, and to hear from Him the words, Well done, good and faithful servant.

As God delights to honor His creatures by employing them in His service, so He must delight to hear and respond to their intercession for their brethren; for this intercession, though free and willing on their part, and proceeding from their great love of Him and of their fellow creatures in Him, in a part of the service in which He employs them. It honors Him as the source of all good, as the giver of ever grace, of every good and perfect gift; honors His love, His tenderness, His mercy, His compassion for His creatures, to which all intercession is a direct appeal.

These remarks, it seems to me, remove every difficulty that can be supposed to exist, to prayer in general, and the intercession of the saints in particular. Nothing prevents God, if He chooses, from hearing and answering prayers, whether they are our own prayers for ourselves or the prayers of the saints in heaven for us. Both are in strict accordance with the order of His providence and the principles on which His works are consummated, souls redeemed, sustained, and perfected. In either case, while prayer and intercession are acceptable to God as a loyal recognition of His sovereignty, His freedom, His love, His mercy, and His tenderness and compassion, they are the greatest privilege, and the highest honor to Him who prayers or intercedes. Man is privileged; he has at all times access to the presence of his Sovereign, and the ear of his God, and by prayer is elevated, in some sort, to companionship with his Maker. Nothing brings God so near to us, raises us so near to Him, as prayer. And what greater honor could even He confer on His saints than to allow them to take part in His providence by interceding for us, and to listen to their prayers and intercessions for those who invoke them? It associates them with Himself in His works of grace.

But the saints have entered into the joy of their Lord, are completely blest, their happiness is full; why should they concern themselves with the happiness of others? They are in the Presence of God, they see Him as He is in Himself, are filled with Him; how can they have any thought for anyone else, or any regard for those they have left behind, or who are still undergoing their probation?

The objection implies too much, and also entirely mistakes the nature of the love of God. God is self-sufficing and eternally blest, happy in Himself. His blessedness can be neither augmented nor diminished. He can be no more, nor happier, with than without creation. Why, then, does He create? Because He is love or charity – Deus caritas est – and love delights to communicate itself; because He would have others love, others share, so to speak, His own blessedness. The saints are not love as God is love, but they are as much like Him as creatures can be like their Creator, for they are made partakers of His divine nature – divinae consortes naturae – and are saints only because they participate in His charity. They must therefore delight to diffuse their love, and desire others to share their blessedness. The beatitude of the saints is not an egotistical or selfish beatitude, which were no beatitude at all, but a beatitude that has its origin and ground in pure, disinterested love: perfect charity.

The saints are indeed in the presence of their Lord, and are filled, satisfied, with His love; but the love of God includes the love of creatures, and no more in heaven than on earth can one love God without loving His brother also. The saint loves all in God, in Whom all live, and move, and have and have their being. The more one loves God the more does he love his brother, and the beloved apostle says: "We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren." Moreover, Our Lord Himself tells us: "There shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance." The saints in heaven are not, then, indifferent to us, their brethren on earth... [It is] the damned, whether angels or men, [who] cannot love, and therefore is their damnation complete and everlasting.

Hence I conclude that the saints in glory take a deeper interest in our welfare than we, even the best of us, do in the welfare of one another, because they love more, are happier, and are freed from all care or anxiety for themselves. Their beatitude is consummated and secure. Nothing can destroy or diminish it, and nothing can divert their thoughts to any selfish end. Nothing can divert them from interceding for their brethren – not indeed to augment their own blessedness, or for their own sake, but for the honor of their Creator, the glory of their Redeemer.

But it is alleged, even by persons who call themselves Christians, that however well disposed the saints might be to intercede for us, they cannot hear our invocations, and therefore our prayers to them are vain and even superstitious. If they cannot hear us, our prayers to them are unquestionably superstitious, and not to be tolerated. But wherefore can they not hear us? Are they not living men and women – even more living than when they tabernacled with us?

Those of the non-Catholic world tend everywhere to heathen rather than Christian views of death. They are rapidly losing all real faith in the life and immortality brought to light through the Gospel, and darkness and despair gather for them once more over the tomb. Nothing is so well fitted to keep living and fresh the Christian faith in the future life as the practice of constantly praying to the saints. There is throughout a close union between Catholic practice and Catholic faith, and while the faith [gives rise to] the practice, the practice keeps alive and real the faith.

We may remark, too, that they who neglect or reject the practice of praying to the saints soon come to look upon the saints as being dim and as unsubstantial as the shades asserted by heathen darkness and superstition, and even to doubt all real future personal or individual existence. To Catholic faith the saints really live, with a real, personal existence, with all the faculties they had in this life even clarified and strengthened. Wherefore should they be less able to hear us than we are to hear one another? Is it said they are too far from us, so removed from us that our voices cannot reach them? But what do we mean by distance when we speak of saints who have entered into their rest? Are spirits made perfect subject to the accidents of time and space? Time and space pertain only to creatures who are yet on the way, who have not yet returned to God, or actualized their potentiality. When their existence is fulfilled, consummated, the angel of the Lord proclaims that for them time is no more; they have entered eternity. Time and space are only relations, and the saints in glory are not subject to them. They are united to God, and in their unison with Him are near unto every one of us – nearer, if we love, then they were before they were called home. They are present wherever there is a thought of them.

We must remember that "the communion of saints" is an article of the Christian’s creed, and even the Calvinist Doctor Watts sings,

"Angels, and living saints and dead,
But one communion make."

There can be no communion when there is no medium of communication. We who live in a medium of communication with those who have gone to their reward and therefore form one communion with them. This medium is Christ Himself, Who is the Head of every man, and Whose Life is the life of all who are begotten anew by the Holy Ghost. The saints know our thoughts and desires because, seeing God as He is in Himself, they see them reflected in Him as images reflected in a glass, visible in His light, clearly seen and known in it. This is nothing anomalous. Even in this life we see and know things only as mirrored to us by the divine light. We see all things in Deo et per Deum, because all have their being in Him and are rendered intelligible by the light of His being, which is the light of our reason. There is no more mystery in the way the saints hear our invocations than there is in the way we hear one another. Mystery there is, but it is the same mystery in both cases, and it would be absurd to maintain that we do not hear one another because we cannot explain how we do it. There being a medium of communication between us and the saints, and they and we forming only one communion, one body of Our Lord, being members of Him and members of one another, nothing can be more reasonable, more natural even, than that we should invoke their prayers, and that they should intercede for us. It is in accordance alike with the order of nature and the order of grace.