"Intercession of the Saints"
Notes compiled by Andrew Adamany
Catechism of the Catholic Church
956 The intercession of the saints. "Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness. . . . They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus . . . . So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped."
If you are new to the Catholic faith, or learning more about your Catholic faith in Christ, you may wonder why we ask the Saints to intercede for us when Paul wrote that we have one mediator in Christ Jesus, who intercedes for us:
"Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us?" (Romans 8:34)
“For there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5)
If this is your thought, I invite you to consider this question:
Why does Paul, in the verses immediately before calling Jesus our one mediator between God and man, then encourage we offer intercessions for each other, when he also taught that we have Jesus in heaven interceding for us?
"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men,
for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.
This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:1–4)
Really think about why. Not just because the Bible tells us to, because Paul taught it first before it was ever written in the Bible. Why is it good to God that we participate with Christ in making intercessions even though he can do it all himself?
Consider that it is because in baptism we become children of God, fellow heirs with Christ, participating in his divine Sonship with him in his One Body.
"but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!”
it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him." (Romans 8:15–17)
And we are not only members of Christ's body, but members of each other as well, and that we are not to say we have no need for other members of Christ's body.
"For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another." (Romans 12:4–5)
"As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable,
and those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty,
which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part,
that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it." (1 Corinthians 12:20–27)
So if we are all members of one body in Christ, receiving his sonship as fellow heirs with him, and we have need of each other as members of his body, it follows that we are called to make intercessions for each other because we are to participate in Christ's ministry of interceding for us.
Should that participation stop at our physical death? Because even though members of Christ's body pass on through death Paul also taught that death cannot separate us from the love of God.
"For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38–39)
So even through death, God does not separate us from his love. If we are One Body, members of both Christ and each other in the Body, and death does not separate us from Christ– the head of the Body, why would he then separate his body from each other, no longer able to participate in Christ's love and intercession? Why would he not allow the members of the Body in eternal life in heaven to know what is happening with the members of the body in the earthly life, so that they may continue to pray for the other members of the body that need intercessions? James wrote in 5:16 that we are to pray for each other because the "prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects." Which members of the Body are more righteous than those in heaven?
THE OLD COVENANT: A SHADOW OF THE NEW
Some who have trouble accepting this pious tradition of praying for the saints’ intercession, may be because Ecclesiates 9:5 says “the dead know nothing.” But when the Sadducees asked Jesus about the resurrection of the dead, Jesus responded:
“have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living;" (Mark 12:26-17)
Here Jesus speaks of the Father's of the Old Covenant, long since decreased, their spirits dwelling in Sheol in the current moment. Yet even in Sheol, Jesus considers them alive by calling God "God of the living" because he is God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If the spirit in Sheol were called alive, how much more alive then are the Spirits that dwell with God in heaven?
Think of Rachel in the Old Covenant. Even in death, her soul in Sheol, Jeremiah wrote that she was aware of Israel's doom and lamented over it. God heard her prayer of sorrow for Israel and granted her intercession for them.
"Thus says the Lord:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are not.”
Thus says the Lord:
“Keep your voice from weeping,
and your eyes from tears;
for your work shall be rewarded,
says the Lord,
and they shall come back from the land of the enemy." (Jeremiah 31:15–16)
If Rachel, in death and in Sheol, can be aware of Israel's doom, lament over it, and have her prayer of sorrow granted by God for Israel in the Old Covenant, how much more so can the saints be able to make intercessions in the New superior Covenant, not from Sheol, but from Heaven?
SCRIPTURE AND THE SAINTS AWARENESS OF OUR PRAYERS
Hebrews attests to this when it says the the spirits of just men made perfect and the assembly of the first born enrolled in heaven are present with God and Jesus and the angels when we come before them in prayer and worship:
"But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel." (Hebrews 12:22–24)
Putting it all together, the members of the one Body in Christ in heaven are known to be present with Christ when we come before God in prayer. Since we have need of each member of the body, they belong to the body, and are made perfect in righteousness, making their prayer powerful in its effect, then why would we NOT ask for their intercessions?
Is it any wonder why John sees elders with the prayers of the saints:
"And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." (Revelation 5:8)