SR. LOUISE ZDUNICH, NDC
November 11, 2013
Catholics keep asking so many saints to pray for us. We rely for help on their constant intercession. Do we really believe the saints are constantly praying for us? Isn't there something more exciting to do in heaven than this constant chatter of the saints? Not even Jesus prayed constantly.
There are several aspects in your question. What is prayer? How are the saints praying for us? What is the communion of saints in which we express our belief through the Apostles' Creed?
The Hebrew word for "holy" means someone set apart from the rest of the world. The opposite of holy is the ordinary, commonplace. Paul uses the word "holy" for all his sisters and brothers but we often reserve it only for those officially declared saints by the Church.
Yes, Jesus did pray always as he lived in a state of prayer. That is, he was constantly attuned to the Father. He taught his disciples to pray with words in the Lord's Prayer, but he taught much more by example. The Gospels frequently mention Jesus raising his eyes to heaven and going off by himself to pray.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux
Jesus has told us that God hears prayers: "Whatever you ask for in prayer, . . . it will be yours" (Mark 11.24). St. Paul declares: "I urge supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone" (1 Timothy 2.1) for "it is right and acceptable in the eyes of God" (v.3).
He also tells his followers to pray "without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5.17), and he indicates that he "prays night and day" (3.10).
We often equate prayer with a bunch of words, but it is much more than that. Prayer is more Christ's work than ours.
Christian prayer is always a response to God's initiative. It is an awareness, a consciousness of God's action in our lives. Paul tells us that when we don't know how to pray, "the Spirit prays in us" (Romans 8.26).
When we become aware that the Trinity make its home in us, all is prayer. Every breath we take is prayer. Every action is prayer.
Prayer is heart-to-heart communication. When parents worry about and pray for their children, they aren't muttering words to God; they're breathing a prayer and sending a heartbeat to God. When a mother gives her child a cookie, she is conveying her heart-to-heart exchange, hence a prayer.
We pray for others and ask others to pray for us. We do this because being "baptized into one body" (1 Corinthians 12.13), we are the one Body of Christ irrevocably committed and responsible to one another. Early Christians believed that Baptism really inserted them into the person and life of Christ and each other.
Paul tells us "Christ is the head of the body, the Church" (Colossians 1.18), whose energizing principle is charity. Charity "promotes the body's growth" (Ephesians 4.16). The members are the saints of this world and the next: "He destined us as his children" (Ephesians 1.5).
There is no loss of individuality but a profound interdependence - "though many, are one body in Christ and individually, we are members one of another" (Romans 12.5). They share the same blessings; "in the one spirit we were all baptized into one body" (1 Corinthians 12.13), pray for one another - "persevere in supplication for all the saints" (Ephesians 6.18) - and partake of the same sacraments and life.
We are all part of the communion of saints - "those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified and the blessed in heaven" (Pope Paul VI's Credo n. 30). Those who have entered into glory with Christ do not cease to be part of this one body. They are aware of what is happening on earth, and they do care.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux said "I will spend my heaven in doing good on earth." They pray for us, not by constant chatter, but by their presence to God in adoration, in heart-to-heart communication.
Just to be in the presence of God must be the most sublime activity for "eye has not seen nor ear heard nor the human heart conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2.9).
As a young child, St. Thérèse of Lisieux would enclose herself in her bed curtains and just "think" about God. We all need time to think, to become more aware of who we are as members of the Body of Christ and how we live out that connectedness to God and others.
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