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La Leçon de catéchisme (Catechism Lesson), 1890, by Jules-Alexis Muenier (1863-1942), oil on canvas, Musée des beaux-arts et d’archéologie de Besançon

Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you the reason for the hope that is in you, but do so with gentleness and reverence.”

cf. 1 Peter 3:15-16


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Why do you pray to dead people?


The saints in heaven are not dead.  Jesus said…

Have you not read ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

Matthew 22:31-32

Those who die in Christ are now alive in Christ in Heaven.

Other References:  Mk 9:4Lk 23:43Rev 6:9-111 Cor 12:12-27Heb 12:112:22-24

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from the author

A common objection is Catholics pray to dead people, and doing so is not allowed in the Bible.  Well, as we read in the twenty-second chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, God is God of the living, not the dead (Mt 22:31-32).  As Catholics we believe in the Communion of Saints, which holds that there is a communion of the faithful departed in heaven (Church Triumphant), of those holy souls in purgatory (Church Suffering), and of those of us on earth (Church Militant).  In heaven, we live with God and are more fully alive than we are on earth.

A following objection for some of our Protestant brothers and sisters is there is only one mediator, Jesus Christ, between God and men (1 Tim 2:5).  Well, no Catholic disputes that.  Yet, as the reasoning goes, if there’s only one mediator – Jesus – then we have no need for any saint to mediate or intercede on our behalf.  Sounds reasonable, but let’s play out this scenario together to see where that reasoning falls short:

Suppose I have a child who is experiencing some serious health challenge.  I turn to my Protestant friend, Joe, and explain to him our family’s situation.  Then, in a plea for my friend’s help, I say, “Joe, will you please pray for me and for my son?”

Most reasonable Christians would agree that would be an acceptable form of prayer for one another.  It would be an acceptable request for me to ask my friend, Joe, to pray for us.  In fact, I’m asking for Joe’s intercession.  Some might say, I’m asking Joe to mediate for me because I’m asking Joe to pray – to God – for me and for the health of my son.

Could you imagine where even the most hardcore anti-Catholic Fundamentalist Evangelical Protestant would not pray for another in such a scenario?  If your child was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, would you not pray for your child?  Would you not ask others to pray for your child?  Would, perhaps, whole communities – like an entire congregation – not possibly start a prayer chain for the child?

Hopefully your answer is, of course we’d pray for one another in such a situation.  So it is when Catholics ask the saints – who are our friends in heaven – to pray for us.

Do Catholics think the saints have the power to ease my son’s suffering in the scenario presented?  Do we think the saints can cure my son?  Well, would you expect your friend to have the power to ease one’s suffering to the point of actually curing your child’s illness?  No.  The same holds true in the Catholic tradition:  We believe the saints do not have the power – not directly.  What they do have is the ability to lift up their prayers to God, in and through Jesus Christ, to pray for us.  It is the holy power of Jesus we ask for when we pray, and when we ask the saints to pray on our behalf.

That’s what Catholics mean when we pray to the saints.  They are our special friends in heaven who are among the living, and not the dead (cf. Mt 22:31-32).  We ask for their intercession as we would ask for the help from a friend, family, and neighbor.

Many a well-intentioned non-Catholic Christian has erred in his objection to the Catholic Church’s understanding of prayer to the saints.  Don’t make the same mistake.  Rather, be careful when interpreting scripture and whose guidance you receive in trying to understand the Bible.  Remember also St. Peter’s exhortation that scripture is not for private interpretation (cf. 2 Pt 1:20).  If you hold fast to the teachings of Holy Mother Church you won’t be led astray.

Be not afraid!  Please visit our blog site often, and join us each day as we share stories of the many saints in our tradition whose fidelity and courage are a great witness to the Christian faith in Jesus Christ, and to the fullness of the Christian faith found in the church He founded – the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.  Peace be with you!

catholic answers

trent horn

Isn’t Christ the only mediator between God and man? Trent Horn answers a caller on Catholic Answers Live who objects to the Catholic practice of praying to saints.

catechism of the Catholic Church

For information about what the Catholic Church believes, answers to FAQs, and an encompassing resource addressing common objections and misconceptions non-Catholics and Catholics alike may have about the Church and what it teaches, we invite you to visit the online version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. 


Let us pray.

Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.

Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.

May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.


St. Michael the Archangel, by Reni Guido, 1635, 17th Century, originally oil on silk. St. Michael stepping on Devil’s head while holding his sword.

It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you.”

Saint John Paul II, pope


Jesus, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (cf. John 6:68).


Be not afraid!  And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always.  Holy Family, pray for us.  Amen.

The Holy Family, Murillo
The Heavenly and Earthly Trinities (c. 1675-82) by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617 – 1682)

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