Catholicism and Saints

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I’m not very religious, but whenever I travel to European countries there’s always a local “Patron Saint” that the locals admonish or pray to (like Saint Sebastien – Patron Saint of Mallorca, or Saint Lucy in Venice being the Patron Saint of the blind). My question is, how is this not technically polytheistic? I thought you were only supposed to pray to God? Thanks!

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Anonymous 0 Comments

Saints were humans who “performed miracles” and had other religious accomplishments, for which they were given the “sainthood” by the pope. It is not that different, in concept, than being knighted in the UK. The knights are champions, but still below the King and the Queen, and the saints are just servants and representatives of the one God.

Anonymous 0 Comments

All Christians agree that it’s good to share your prayer requests with living fellow Christians (like “The doctors think I might have cancer. Can you pray for me?”).

Catholics (and Orthodox, and Anglicans, etc.) believe that those who have died and are in heaven are able to observe everything happening on earth, and they continue to pray to God while in God’s presence. There are verses in the book of Revelation discussing this prayer occurring in heaven.

Therefore, Catholics (and Orthodox, and Anglicans, etc.) combine these two beliefs and do not discriminate between “living” Christians and “dead” Christians in sharing their prayer requests. A particular “patron” saint might be mentioned when sharing a prayer request because of a particular connection to the person, the place, or the challenge–just like you might share your troubles in a targeted support group, or share a challenge with someone you know has been through a similar challenge in the past.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Saints are not gods. They are just people with a special relationship with God. When people pray to saints, they’re really just asking the saints to pray to God for them.

At least, that’s the Catholic stance on the matter. There are some churches (chiefly Protestant ones) that do regard this practice as a form of idolatry, and thus don’t allow it.

Anonymous 0 Comments

A religion makes its own internal rules that do not need to conform to any outside logic. So if mainstream Christianity says that saints are not gods, they are not gods, regardless if from the outside they might conform to a different definition or not. Religions do not have to make any sense to anyone but their believers – why is it harder to believe that praying to saints is not polytheistic that that praying to a magical tripartite “being” is real?

Anonymous 0 Comments

The phrase to keep in mind is “intercessory prayer”.

The Catholic process of naming someone as a saint involves observations that they use as proof that the dead person’s soul is in heaven with God. That’s it. That’s what a saint is. It’s entirely possible that every human who has ever died is in heaven, but saints are ones the Church is *sure* are there.

An intercessory prayer is the faithful asking someone in heaven to also make their case to the big man to help you with your problems. Martyrs are good examples as it’s basically assumed that they go to heaven. It’s like if you’re a screw-up in school but you ask your teacher’s-pet buddy to speak up for you to the teacher when you get in trouble.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Your question is one that has been asked by lots of people over the years. For example, some African religions have a similar concept of intercession between lesser gods and greater gods in their pantheons, so when Catholic missionaries were trying to convert them the locals would ask why the priests were saying the saints are somehow different than the lesser gods. There’s a theological justification for why it’s different, but really it comes down to, “Catholicism is defined by Catholics, and we say so.” There’s nothing wrong with that, that’s how all religions work, but there’s not really an ELI5 that gives any answer that can be justified outside Catholicism.

From another angle, the concept of sanctity/sainthood predates Christianity by a long time – there are references to Holy people in the Hebrew Bible and in the scriptures of many other ancient religions. So it’s really not a unique concept, but Catholicism has their own “rules” for how sainthood works.

Anonymous 0 Comments

I can’t speak to other denominations, but Catholics believe in intercession which is praying on behalf of others. They’re basically asking the Saint to pray to God for them. Saints are believed to be closer to God and therefore able to bend his ear more than some random person on Earth. When a saint is associated with particular groups of people or activities, they are called a patron saint and people will pray to them for that specific purpose. This usually comes from something they did during their life. 

Catholics believe this isn’t technically polytheism because they are asking the saints to pray to God for them. This is a controversial belief and they have historically been accused of idolatry for exactly this practice, particularly with Mary, mother of Jesus. 

Anonymous 0 Comments

A town only has one mayor. As a citizen you can go ask the mayor about something you need, there is nothing against it.

But you can also go find one of the local councillors or officials or public servants responsible for specific sectors in town and ask them instead. They will either help you themselves or bring your case to the mayor and council if they think it is worth their attention.

Your town still has one mayor, it just has other people in the local government.

That is how Christians view God, Saints etc. Having mane saints does not make the religion polytheistic in the same way your town is not polymayoral 😀

Anonymous 0 Comments

We aren’t praying to them. We’re asking them to pray *for* us. It’s in the responsorials: St. Andrew *pray for us*. 

Patron saints are what those saints are associated with. If I lose something, I know St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost things. When I pray to God, I can ask St. Anthony to help me with my prayer to God to help me find it. 

Anonymous 0 Comments

Yes and no.

As someone else mentioned, the concept beind saints is that they are already in heaven and therefore in a prime position to “pray for us” as in ask God to answer our problems.

But tradition evolved to the point that people literally “make (…) a likeness of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth;” and “bow down before them”, blatantly violating the “10 commandments”.

In fact, if you ask an average catholic person (at least here in Portugal, but I bet Spain is exactly the same) they will tell you that they pray to [insert saint here], not to God. Heck even local festivities are literally in honor of [insert saind here], never in honor of God.