Many non-Catholics believe we "worship" the saints by praying to them. This is not the case at all. We ask them to pray for us, with us; much the same way we ask those family members and friends here on earth to do. This practice has been part of Christianity since the very beginning. Early inscriptions, like those in the Roman catacombs, support this - that the early Christians prayed for those who had died and even asked for their prayers.
While those Christians who have physically died are indeed separated from us for the time being, they are still united with us in Christ. We are all alive in Christ and part of the body of Christ. That does not change merely through earthly death. Those in heaven are actually in a better position to intercede in prayer for us because they are already with God.
One example might be if you´re having trouble with unanswered prayers you might wish to ask for help from St. Monica. She prayed for the conversion of her son for twenty years. Her prayers were answered in a truly amazing way - not only did her son, Augustine, convert, he became a Doctor of the Church and a canonized saint.
Must we only ask for the intercession of those saints who are canonized? Not necessarily. Canonized saints are those who God has made known to us to be with Him. There are obviously many more of our loved ones with God, but we just don´t know for sure who they are. Of course, we can speculate and might have a very good idea based on a person´s life. If we have a pretty good idea that a certain person is with God then we can certainly ask for their prayers as well. For example, my maternal grandmother was an exceptionally spiritual woman and very dedicated to our Lord, and she was very strong in her prayer life. For many of her last years she was confined to bed and most of her days were spent in prayer. Naturally, I have no way to be 100% sure that she is in heaven, but I feel pretty certain that she is. If she is not, then I would have to wonder if there is such a place - rest assured though, I definitely believe there is a heaven.
The saints are men and women who have experienced the same miseries, heartaches and traumas that you and I experience. Most of them lived in obscurity during their lives on earth. They were ordinary people who fought the good fight. They understand our weaknesses and struggles; they give us courage to carry on. Their friendship enhances our spiritual life and gives us a sense of companionship. Reading their lives inspires us to strive for holiness. And asking their intercession gives us a sense of family and assurance.
- Mother Angelica, Mother Angelica´s Answers, Not Promises
The saints are just one of the many gifts God has given us to help us along our spiritual journey.
Peace in Christ,
© Melissa Knoblett-Aman