Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Are Saints Divine?

In my last post PA asks if saints are divine because of the ability to hear millions of prayers.
Here's my response below:

From very early on, the early Christians believed in "the communion of saints." An interchange of "spiritual goods" merited through Christ. The concept of the intercession of the saints is found very early in the history of the Church as evidenced by the writings of many Church fathers, but I like what Augustine says here:

"A Christian people celebrates together in religious solemnity the memorials of the martyrs, both to encourage their being imitated and so that it can share in their merits and be aided by their prayers" (Against Faustus the Manichean [A.D. 400]).

"There is an ecclesiastical discipline, as the faithful know, when the names of the martyrs are read aloud in that place at the altar of God, where prayer is not offered for them. Prayer, however, is offered for the dead who are remembered. For it is wrong to pray for a martyr, to whose prayers we ought ourselves be commended" (Sermons 159:1 [A.D. 411]).

"At the Lord's table we do not commemorate martyrs in the same way that we do others who rest in peace so as to pray for them, but rather that they may pray for us that we may follow in their footsteps" (Homilies in the Gospel of John 84 [A.D. 417]).

"Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ" (The City of God 20:9:2 [ca. A.D. 424]).

Saints are not divine, only the triune God is . Mary is the archetype for all the saints- heroic faith, obedience to God, but not divine. Sainthood cannot equal divinity, because only God is divine. That is the Church's position on the nature of saints. Humans just like you and me but who had shown heroic faith and lived exemplary lives by God's grace. (Now some saints did some pretty interesting things like levitation and bilocation, but that's another blog post)
Does the ability to hear multiple prayers simultaneously in heaven confer a divine status to a saint? I am not sure that it has to.

Now we see through a glass darkly, but then, we will see clearly, face to face. Perhaps that "clarity" includes the ability to listen to millions of conversations at once. We will be purified and completely sanctified in heaven. The shackles of earth no longer weighing us down and our glorified bodies with abilities that could never be manifest on this side of the veil. I don't think we can put limits on our capabilities once we have "crossed the threshold."
Lorraine Boettner who wrote a book that became a popular source used to refute Catholic beliefs discussed this issue here:(cf. Catholic Answers)

"How, then, can a human being such as Mary hear the prayers of millions of Roman Catholics, in many different countries, praying in many different languages, all at the same time?

"Let any priest or layman try to converse with only three people at the same time and see how impossible that is for a human being. . . . The objections against prayers to Mary apply equally against prayers to the saints. For they too are only creatures, infinitely less than God, able to be at only one place at a time and to do only one thing at a time.

"How, then, can they listen to and answer thousands upon thousands of petitions made simultaneously in many different lands and in many different languages? Many such petitions are expressed, not orally, but only mentally, silently. How can Mary and the saints, without being like God, be present everywhere and know the secrets of all hearts?" (Roman Catholicism, 142-143).

If being in heaven were like being in the next room, then of course these objections would be valid. A mortal, unglorified person in the next room would indeed suffer the restrictions imposed by the way space and time work in our universe. But the saints are not in the next room, and they are not subject to the time/space limitations of this life.

This does not imply that the saints in heaven therefore must be omniscient, as God is, for it is only through God’s willing it that they can communicate with others in heaven or with us. And Boettner’s argument about petitions arriving in different languages is even further off the mark. Does anyone really think that in heaven the saints are restricted to the King’s English? After all, it is God himself who gives the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues. Surely those saints in Revelation understand the prayers they are shown to be offering to God."

"There are one billion Catholics and 300 million Orthodox. If one in a hundred of these prayed a daily rosary, Mary would receive 689 million Hail Marys each day! So, even if she could hear the prayers, she’d have to be omniscient to comprehend them all. And where would she get the time?

Since Mary is in heaven, it is literally true that she does not have time to answer all the petitions—she has eternity! Time in the afterlife is not the same as it is here, and so this is not an insurmountable objection.

In regard to the number of petitions, if the number were infinite, then an omniscient mind would be required. So long as the number is finite, then the hearer requires a finite expansion of knowledge, which God could certainly grant to a glorified soul in heaven." (cf Catholic Answers)

To sum up:
Saints are created beings just like you and me, except better!
But they will never be divine.
There are some things that occur in heaven that are beyond our limited view of space and time.

For me, the communion of saints is one of God's many great gifts to his body and their ability to intercede for us is only through the merits of the Lord Jesus. We are to worship the Creator only and not his creation. Mary and the other saints deserve our honor and we have the ability to ask them to pray for us, but divinity is for the triune God alone.



Anonymous Potamiaena said...

Our Catholic book club is reading "My Life with the Saints" by James Martin, SJ. How timely your great post is for my needs! I'm going to print it out and use it later this summer.

Thanks for your blog and your music and your journey. I did watch you on JH! I learn alot from you. Your conversion gives me courage.

June 19, 2008 11:40 AM  
Blogger + Alan said...

Helpful stuff Russ. I think a lot of people have problems with devotion or veneration we might have to certain Saints - or even that we pray to them (asking for their intercession), because it seems as though we may be putting them in a place that only belongs to God.

Some of the things you've shared here can help to say, no, not at all. Only God is God and it will always be this way. But those who are now with/in Him in a more total way are able to communicate with Him for us (as we all do for one another while we're together here on earth) in a fuller way, a more complete way, in a way that lacks the "interference" we have in this realm. That's why I pray to those who have passed on before me - as my older siblings, my more fully transformed brothers and sisters who have a bigger perspective and a fuller knowledge, they are able to pray for me in a way that someone on earth can't as easily.

On the "are they Divine" thing - I think about it like this: They do share more fully the Divine Nature of God. All who are in Christ share in His Divine Nature. And as we are more and more transformed into His Image, we share more and more in that "Divinity" - Divine Nature. This doesn't make us God or gods, it simply means we are being put back in the shape we were originally created in - in union with God.

So, not God, not "Divine" in that sense, but even those of us here on earth who are more completely transformed are more Divine - much more them. Still, we pray to them only in that we are asking for them to pray for us - not that they, in themselves, can "do" anything for us. OK, that's enough from me. Always an interesting subject. Peace.

June 19, 2008 8:03 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

thanks Potamiaena!
I thankful to God that the blog is helpful. God bless you!!

June 19, 2008 10:41 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Thanks Alan. I especially liked what you said about us partaking in the divine nature and that thought occurred to me but I didn't know how to articulate it so well as you have here:
"This doesn't make us God or gods, it simply means we are being put back in the shape we were originally created in - in union with God."
The saints are so much more "put together than us", and give us a model/template to strive for.
Thanks for visiting, hope all is well in your neck of the woods.

June 19, 2008 10:44 PM  

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