"Why do Catholics pray to the saints? Cant they just pray directly to God?" said a non-Catholic woman I was talking to beside my car in a parking lot recently. I raised this same question myself years ago when I was young. Why do I need these saints?
Since that time I have come to see the Church as Gods big family that includes those on earth, in Purgatory and in Heaven. And when you approach the saints this way, it is not surprising that one would seek the help of another family member when in need. The Catechism of the Catholic Church under the section on the Communion of Saints speaks about us being "in the one family of God" and how we "form one family in Christ." (paragraph 959)
The non-Catholic woman I was talking to is very inquisitive about the Catholic Faith. I told her about being part of Gods family. I also pointed out how as a Christian she must have asked someone else to pray for her at some time. Why did she do that if one should only pray directly to God? The family idea really caught on with her. She remembered going through her mother at times to get some favor from her father. In a family setting, asking the help of the saints made sense.
I told her how we as Catholics believe we have the fullness of the Truth. And that she had been missing out by not knowing about all these members of the Church that she had never thought of asking help from before. She said, "Why didnt anyone tell me about this before?"
Then we moved on to the most special member of the Communion of Saints, Mary the mother of Jesus. "Why was she so special to Catholics? Isnt she just like any other mother? Didnt she have other children? Why did she have to remain a virgin?" I proceeded to use my lottery illustration. Suppose everybody alive today bought a lottery ticket for the biggest lottery ever winner takes all. Wouldnt everyone think the winner of this lottery was super special or lucky to be chosen? Now imagine Mary and all the women who have lived or ever will live. Mary was chosen to be the mother of Gods Son. That is one amazing lottery winner with the most valuable prize imaginable!
That got her thinking. Then I moved on to her being ever virgin. At the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel announced to Mary, "you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son." (Lk. 1, 31) Notice the future tense "will." Mary responds, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" (Lk 1, 34) Mary was already betrothed to Joseph. She will soon marry Joseph who could be the father of this prophesized son. So the only reason for her to ask how this future son could possibly come about was only if she already made a vow of virginity!
Mary being so special is first pointed out by the angel Gabriel with his greeting "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you" (or in another translation, "Oh, highly favored one".) (Lk 1, 28) Then Mary herself points out in her magnificat inspired by the Holy Spirit, "Behold, from now on all ages will call me blessed." So she is super special and all generations will recognize this fact. So Catholics are fulfilling this prophesy of Sacred Scripture.
Standing in a parking lot I could not give a whole course on the Communion of Saints or on Mary. But I got her curiosity going. She could learn more through the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Ethiopian eunuch was pondering a verse of Sacred Scripture when Philip asked him, "Do you understand what you are reading?" He replied, "How can I, unless someone instructs me?" (Lk 8: 30, 31) The Church has the fullness of the Truth. Lets not keep it a secret from those we meet!
Brother John Raymond, co-founder of The Community of The Monks of Adoration, received his M.A. in theology from Holy Apostles Seminary.