Friday, May 22, 2009
Excedrin Headache #4
Wasn't it just last Friday yesterday? Where does the time go? Our answer to the question of marrying a non-Catholic has elicited quite a great response. Be sure and check all the comments from yesterday's post for some great insights and stories.
One woman explained that her husband only knew enough about religion to fit in a thimble, which is why, I suppose, he wanted to know the answer to this question:
I actually have a saint-matching question for you. We were talking about patron saints and my husband wants to know if there is a patron saint of people who don't believe in saints. I told him I didn't know but I knew someone who could find out if there was one. :-)
Since it's Friday and we are cruising into a three day weekend, let's answer this light hearted, if not bone headed, question.
I think your husband does believe in saints. It's just that he doesn't really know what the word saint actually means, or what he really means is that he doesn't believe in is praying "to" saints.
Poor addled thing.
He might think that saints are people who are perfect and since there are no perfect people, there are no saints. And any actually saint would tell you that they were far from perfect and in fact were mentally tortured at their imperfections. No saints were perfect. They were virtuous on a heroic level, though.
Does he think saints are people here on earth (as in, "that woman is a saint!")? Then he is correct. There are no saints.
Saints are people who lived a life of heroic virtue and landed in heaven. Anyone who is dead and in Heaven is a saint.
Does he not believe in Heaven? Poor thing. A lot of people don't believe in Heaven. Are they in for an surprise!
I suspect that what he is trying to say in his impoverished, inarticulate way is that he doesn't believe in praying to saints. He is correct again! We don't believe in that either.
Here is where the rubber meets the road. Does he believe in prayer at all? Many people don't. But if he does and he asks people to pray for him then he's just being pig headed about the saints.
I can't tell you how many people I've met who are pig headed about the saints. I take some responsibility. We often tell people to, "Pray to St. Anthony" when they've lost something, or "Pray to St. Jude" when life becomes impossible. That confuses people, because we are not saying what we mean.
Nobody goes around saying, "Let me call you on my cellular phone." Few people ask for decaffeinated coffee. We call on our "cells" and we ask for "decaf".
When a Catholic person says "Pray to St. Anthony", it's 'decaf' for "Pray for the intercession of St. Anthony". Intercession means prayer. We are asking St. Anthony to pray for us.
It is no different that if I asked you to pray for me, as we believe that in Heaven, as most people who believe in Heaven at all believe, there are people who lived here on earth who are up there (or over there, wherever Heaven is).
So if I'm willing to ask you to pray for me, why in Heaven's name would I not want to ask someone who has achieved Heavenly perfection to pray for me? That's just....dumb.
There, I've said it.
I can't tell you how many times I've had some separated brethren inform me, nose in the air, that they only pray straight to Jesus. "Well, good for you, " I always say. "I pray to Jesus, too." And then I say, "Do you ask other people to pray for you? Do you say things like, 'keep me in your prayers" And they say, "Oh yes, of course." And then I patiently explain that we do not pray to the saints, we simply ask them to pray for us, too, that they are the Church Triumphant, that they are people who have achieved heavenly perfection and they are right there in Heaven next to the Holy Trinity and their prayers must be perfect (since they have achieved Heavenly perfection) and they must be so very good at praying and why wouldn't you ask them to pray for you, if you're going to ask me, or your cousin, or your mom to pray for you, you may as well ask the people in Heaven to pray for you, too.
At this point, without fail, the person to whom I am speaking curls their upper lip and tilts their head back just a little further and repeats, "Well, I only pray to Jesus."
I'd like to say, "Well, fine. But please keep in mind that while you are praying to Jesus, if you ask me to pray for you, I am going to pray to Jesus, too, and if you ask St. Anthony to pray for you, he is going to pray to Jesus as well. I don't know what you have against St. Anthony. You could have the army of Heaven praying to Jesus for you. WE ARE ALL PRAYING TO JESUS. "
But I never do. I just say, "That's very good."
So to answer his bone headed if not light hearted question about what patron saint would be good for people who do not believe in saints, I'm going to go with St. Paul.
St. Paul certainly did not believe in saints. He did not believe in praying to Jesus, either. Ironically, he created the very first saint. St. Paul was in the crowd that stoned St. Stephen, the very first martyr (and the patron saint of headaches, because he got hit in the head with rocks). Martyrs go straight to Heaven.
Of course, there are quite a number of people who used to be saints and then got, well, dumped off the saint list because they never existed in the first place. He could go with St. Philomena, St. Christopher, St. Expeditus, the Fourteen Holy Helpers.....then he wouldn't have to re-think anything.