Ask a Franciscan

Why Pray to Mary and the Saints?

Blessed Virgin Mary statue

Why do Catholics pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to various saints? Is there anything in the Bible to back this up? Can’t this be considered idol worship? Why not pray directly to God?

The mother of Jesus Christ and the other saints have no meaning or power independent of God. Catholics and many other Christians venerate the saints as ongoing examples of what a life generously open to God’s grace can look like in a great variety of circumstances.

Jesus was a celibate, first-century man—and fully God—who faced certain situations and challenges that no longer exist in the 21st century. We pray to Mary and the saints because they encourage us to be holy now.

In Hebrews 12:1‚àí2, we read: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.”

In the previous chapter, that author extols the faith of Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets (vv. 1-32). “Women [of faith] received back their dead through resurrection” (11:35a). Similar praises of women and men who exemplified great faith are found in Sirach 44:1-50:24 and 2 Maccabees 15:12-16.

The great variety of holy men and women refutes any suggestion that faith was once easier than it is now. It is possible in every social class, century, and geographic area.

In the eighth century AD, especially in the Byzantine Empire, the objection arose that praying to Mary and the other saints (represented by icons) is a form of idol worship. At the Second Council of Nicaea in 787, this assertion was rejected—with the clarification that adoration is given to God alone, that veneration is given to the saints, and that a unique veneration is given to the Virgin Mary.

Saints are not some court of final appeal, where petitioners can receive from them what God has declined to give. Officially recognized deceased saints encourage us to become living saints.

With this understanding, prayers to Mary and the other saints are a win-win situation, taking nothing away from God, but rather, prompting the person who prays to be as open to and to cooperate as generously with the grace of God as this saint did.

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27 thoughts on “Why Pray to Mary and the Saints?”

  1. The bible says that the dead have no knowledge or contact with the living..why do the Catholics pray for the dead who’s spirit is in the presence of the Lord. They no longer need our prayers.

    1. We adore Jesus Christ and only venerate the Saints and the Mother of God.
      We do not pray for them to do miracles for us. We ask them to pray to God the same way that we may be asked by a friend or congregation to pray for a injured or sick relative.
      Yes, they have died on this earth, now, we assume there in heaven and are closer to God to than us. Who better to ask to pray for us then God’s Jesus Christ’s holy mother?
      If, they are nothing now, then what will we be when we die?
      I promise and friends said but she’s dead and now she’s nothing.
      Really? The mother of God on earth is nothing? This young woman was chosen by God Almighty as worthy to bear his son to redeem us as well as to teach us.
      And some would call her nothing?

      1. She is in heaven with all other believers who died in Christ.
        She also needed Jesus as her savior, but she can do nothing for you now.

      2. I see no reason to worship or venerate any human being in prayer. We are supposed to pray for the will of the Creator God who appeared to us in Jesus. It is in Jesus’ name we pray. If we dont pray to Jesus as the Son of Man in Him, I do not believe we are praying to God. Jesus said we are supposed to love God with all of our hearts and minds, and to love our fellow man. This means we are to love man through Him. If we all love one another through Him, than this is His will. We must pray for God’s will through Jesus, who was always the Son of man, with who God was well pleased.

        1. We are taught and need to direct our prayers to God the Father and in the name of his Son Jesus Christ. God is a jealous God, meaning we can love and respect prophets and apostles and other followers or disciples of Christ, but we are not to pray to them or worship them. Only God the Father in the name of Jesus, for they are one in purpose, but 2 separate beings.

          1. The Lord counseled, or perhaps even commanded, “After this manner therefore pray ye” (Matt. 6:9). Now, focus your minds, and your hearts, on how He began this noble prayer: “Our Father [who] art in heaven” (Matt. 6:9). What a stunning moment it was. What a revelation. “Our Father,” He declared, “Our Father.”
            He could have chosen so many ways to begin the prayer: “O mighty Creator of heaven and earth, O mighty God who is omnipresent, omniscient, or omnipotent.” These grand titles contain grand and noble truths. But He taught in one single word, “Father,” so very much that we need to know, that indeed we long to know. God is our Father. And we are His children and we should direct our prayers unto him in the name of the savior.

          2. Jesus first miracle on Earth was the result of Intercession to Mary. Notice the Servents at the Wedding of Cana ,went FIRST to Mary,to ask for wine..Mary then approached Jesus for a Miracle! The Bible also mentions Intercession in the form of Prayer(Pray ye for one another) Catholics believe the Saints are very close to God(Jesus) ,so wh better to pray to for us?

      3. Hi Jan, thank you for providing your insight. It triggered a question in me regarding Jesus as our ultimate High Priest. In Hebrews, the author describes Jesus as the mediator of the new covenant between God and mankind. Hebrews 7:25 specifically says Jesus lives forever to intercede to God on our behalf. Jesus prays for us, isn’t that amazing!? Now if I have the King of Kings sitting on the right hand of the Father interceding for me, why not pray to Jesus directly? He has the ear of the Father more than any angel or saint. Is He not the greatest intercessor? The highest priest? The best advocate? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Blessings.

      4. There is a lot of mention about saints who have gone to be with the Lord, but do not mention anything about the saints who are still living that God references in many scriptures. God is the God of the living not the dead. Good Godly people do not become saints just when they die. In several scriptures He is referring to His people who are still living and breathing in His Kingdom on earth. Eph. 1.1 says, “To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Ps 16:3 says. “As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.” We need to be careful of venerating people that God chose for Himself and put more emphasis on Jesus our Savior, otherwise we are guilty of breaking His commandments. “You shall have no other God’s before me.
        Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images. …” Allow Jesus to be your example and encouragement. There is no love greater than what God did for us and no one else can do what He did! This is what the Bible teaches us. I pray the peace and understanding and wisdom of God over you all!

        1. I think the concept of the Dead is misunderstood..Death isn’t what we think it is..
          Obviously ,they are very much “alive” the Transfiguration.Moses and Elijah were very much alive appearing with Jesus!

      5. Mary is not the “mother” of God. That is a misnomer.God doesn’t have a mother. The created doesn’t create the creator. Mary was the vessel that brought Jesus’s earthly body in the world. Before she was created Jesus existed. She did nothing but follow God’s wishes. Yes it says she was blessed but that was because she willingly believed and obey God.Also she is one of the few blessed to hold the Son of God in her hands.But to say she is the Mother of God (like it’s some kind of office to achieve the requires special devotion to or dare I say worship) is wrong. When people say well we’re not praying to Mary we’re just asking for her to help us find God’s will but she is dead.Is there anywhere in the bible someone asked a very prominent dead person for help to find God’s will? the answer is yes. 1Samuel 28:1-19. Saul did and payed the price. God does not want us to practice necromancy. Leviticus 20:27, Deuteronomy 18:10-12. Now some may say well Saul went to a witch and did it that way, all we’re doing is asking Mary to pray for us as we would ask our family or friend to pray for us. the problem is they are missing the point of necromancy. Necromancy is asking help from the dead(words have meaning people necromancy: communicating with the dead in order to predict the future) also how did Jesus teach his disciples to pray? Did he say Our Father or Mother in heaven? No. If it was important to pray for help from Mary wouldn’t Jesus have taught that principle to his disciples? You see the bible is full of principles and lessons for us to guide us through this life so we must test the spirits (churches and teachers ) to see if they are teaching us what the Bible says.

      6. Marcin, the Bible is clear when it states that there is a chasm between the dead and the living and that there is no communication between these two. You may read it in the account of Lazarus and the rich man in the New Testament. Mary and the saints are in the same category, they are dead in the body. Our words directed towards them is futile. Also, God’s word says there is only one mediator between men and God and that is Jesus Christ who also taught us to pray in His name. He never instructed us to ask his earthly mother to ask Him for what we need. There is only one mediator, Jesus Christ.

    2. (Short answer: Praying for the Living and Dead is the Seventh Spiritual Work of Mercy… These prayers make intercession for the spiritual benefit of another, for the living — that the person would receive a special grace or blessing — or for the dead — that the deceased person would be forgiven any remaining temporal punishment for sin, be aided along the journey to heaven and be warmly welcomed by God, as well as the angels and saints, and take the dwelling place that has been prepared in the Father’s house.)

      Long answer:
      When Catholics serve others, they give witness to Jesus Christ. As acts of love that help us care for the needs of others, the Works of Mercy are an opportunity for Catholics to give witness to Christ. Jesus entrusted his followers the responsibility of caring for others. One way that Catholics fulfill this responsibility is by performing the Works of Mercy. Mercy is one of the fruits of charity, which enables us to show love & compassion to those who are suffering in any way, whether in mind, body, heart, or soul. The Works of Mercy are divided into two categories: The Corporal Works of Mercy (dealing with the body) & the Spiritual Works of Mercy (dealing with the mind, heart, and soul).

      Furthermore, the word “justice” appears 371 times in the Catholic Bible & indicates that God, who values justice, will expect each of us to pay our debts after death if we haven’t paid for them fully on earth. It is our duty as the living, the Church Militant, to pray for the Church Suffering, the souls in purgatory, so that their debts may be paid and they may join the Church Triumphant in heaven. The souls in purgatory need our prayers & personal sacrifices because they can no longer gain merit for themselves (meaning the souls of the faithful departed are unable to pray for themselves in the afterlife, prayer os a God-given privilege of the living, not the deceased).

      Our charity & gratitude not only demand that we pray for them, but our faith requires our prayers to help them reach their eternal reward, it is the ultimate act of mercy. It’s also in our own personal interest, since one day we may expect others to help us in the same way- Praying, almsgiving, offering Masses & mortifications for the departed souls are the ultimate acts of charity because we are helping to deliver the powerless from unimaginable suffering. If a loved one (or any departed soul for instance) is already in heaven, our prayers are not wasted. The soul receives an increase in its intimacy of God’s love & an increase in its own intercessory power. And, in an act of filial love & piety, we pray for the deceased with the hope they will rest eternally with God in glory. Praying for the Holy Souls is also a fulfillment of the Golden Rule given to us by Christ—to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Praying for others will help us acquire the virtue of charity & combat the sins of pride & greed.

      The dead need our prayers as we do not know their final destination. Most likely they are in purgatory (we have no way of knowing) and our prayers do help them draw closer to Heaven. Praying for the dead is a great work of mercy that helps shape our own souls. It reminds us of our mortality and the fact that we must work hard for our own salvation on earth.

      1. I believe the scripture in Luke 16:19-31 The Rich Man and Lazarus can attest to what God will have us NOT to do concerning the dead.
        19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

        22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

        25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

        27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

        29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

        30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

        31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

    3. In addition to my previous reply I would also like to add a personal note pertaining to what Mario states about the dead having no knowledge or contact with the living… (Oh yes they do & I speak from my own personal experiences..) One month after my daughter was born we started experiencing strange activity in our home which the archdiocese later defined as demonic, but when it all began I had absolutely no clue as to the true nature behind the bizarre & unfortunate events taking place, it wasn’t even a notion I had ever thought possible nor considered could be the case. It wasn’t until almost 2-years later I realized there was something very wrong with our environment & what was happening was something so far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Every single photo I took from that point onwards with my iPhone kept getting photobombed by these things in the unseen world or the picture itself was just a complete mess without any logical explanation found or justifiable cause. Basically, going through all that we did (& still are to a lesser degree) for such a prolonged period of time it caused me to develop a new heightened sense of awareness (unfortunately) & left me open to experiencing the kinds of things I only ever saw depicted in movies. I was strongly advised by the team of exorcists assigned to my case to stop taking photos for a awhile so I did & then that’s when I started seeing the things with my own eyes (my child included). The point being is this- at least one departed soul in my current home has enough knowledge of my existence to address me as a “she” saying one day, “I think SHE can me!” (I heard this twice….with an increased element of surprise the second time…) I try to avoid eye contact with them at all costs while home but still find myself surrounded & followed closely the minute I walk through the door..So yeah we are very much aware of each’s existence & they are constantly trying to make contact..

    4. We pray for the dead because those who have died and in Purgatory ,can no longer pray for themselves.Evidently,there is communication between the living and dead as in the story of the rich man and poor man Lazarus.

  2. I understand very well what you mean but when you say that those who are with the Lord are more qualified to pray to the Father than we who are alive, isn’t that a form of disrespect to the Holy Spirit?
    Because, by the help of the Holy Spirit, we have been made sanctified and qualified to connect to the Father, the Bible clearly states ask your father who is in heaven for anything as long as it’s His will, not ask someone else who you feel is more holy than you to ask the Father on your behalf, that era has passed in the old testament, where a priest would intercede for the people, Jesus Christ the Son of God has paid the price already, therefore through Jesus who is the Way, we can have direct access to the Father.
    Imagine if you need something from your earthy father, and anytime you want to ask him for it, you always tell your mother to pass the information to him, how do you think your father would feel about your relationship with him?
    Put yourself in your father’s shoes. Thanks.

    1. Haha!Happens all the time,you ask your Mom for something from Dad! Seriously ,Jesus first Miracle on Earth was a result of asking Mary first! The Miracle at the wedding of Cana..

  3. if saints can hear the prayers of each and every faithful person in every corner of the earth, then does this mean, saints are omnipresent people too like God? Also, with the thousands of people praying to the deceased saints every second, every minute of the day, then you could just imagine how busy these deceased saints must have been doing nothing but pray, pray, pray in heaven to help pray for those people praying on earth? an eternity of praying? not my idea of how saints spend the afterlife. just unbelievable.

    1. Actually yes..St Therese once said when she died,she would be able to help those on Earth still alive and in need of help..and she has!! Read up on MIracvles of her Intercession..

  4. why is it that when a person is sick they don’t inject the whole body but some parts on the body and he or she by God’s will gets healed

  5. I agree. John 14:6 says, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

    1.…..I am a christian,, follower of Jesus the son of God…I ask for everything through christ…..needs…health….loss souls….the word of God tells me Jesus…saves…and intervenes…my prayers to Jehovah God…I don’t need priest….or saints…or trinkets to remind who I belong to.The Holy Spirit is my reminder…..People make salvation so hard!!

  6. 2 Corinthians 5:6–9 (ESV):
    So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
    >> So from St Paul’s writing, it is very clear that when we are away from the body (i.e. when we passed on), we will be at home with the Lord. Paul did not mention we will be waiting at purgatory for our sins to be purged before we can be at home with the Lord.

    Romans 5:1 (ESV): Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
    >> Again scripture is clear, we are justified by faith in Christ. How can one has peace with God if you still have unpaid debts or sins waiting to be purged? Can you have peace when you are still in debt? Do not undermine the finished work of the cross by our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 6:47 (ESV): 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

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