Catholic Teaching on the Intercession/Invocation
of the Holy Angels and Saints
Intercession by Saint Jude Thaddeus
What does intercession mean? To intercede is to go or come between two parties, to plead before one of them on behalf of the other one.
In ecclesiastical usage, the Greek term entygchanein and the Latin term interpellare are used in the sense of an intervention by the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Angels, and all of the rest of the Holy Saints of God before God on behalf of those of us still in this mortal life who invoke their holy help.
The intercession of the Holy Saints of God on our behalf with God also implies our invocation of the Holy Saints. But we would not be able to invoke any of the Holy Saints for help unless they could actually help us.
The basis for both the intercession by, as the direct result of our invocation of, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Angels, and all of the rest of the Holy Saints of God, is to be found in the doctrine of the Catholic Church known as the Communion of Saints.
What is the Communion of Saints? The Communion of Saints is composed of three groups:
1) the Church Triumphant consists of the Blessed Virgin
Mary, the Holy Angels, and all of the rest of the Holy Saints of God who
are in Heaven;
2) the Church Militant consists of the Faithful who are currently living in this mortal life; and,
3) the Church Suffering consists of the Poor, Suffering Souls in Purgatory.
The members of these three groups compose what is called the one Mystical Body, i.e. the Church, which has Christ for its head. What is of interest to one of the three groups is also of interest to the members of the other two remaining groups.
The members of the Church Militant, i.e. the Faithful in this life, honor and pray to, and otherwise. invoke, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Angels, and all of the rest of the Holy Saints of God who are in Heaven. We also pray and have Masses offered on behalf of the Church Suffering, the Poor, Suffering Souls in Purgatory.
On the condition that the Faithful in this life pray for, and have Masses offered on behalf of, the Church Suffering, the Poor, Suffering Souls in Purgatory, the members of the Church Suffering, i.e. the Poor, Suffering Souls in Purgatory, can pray to, and otherwise invoke, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Angels, and all of the rest of the Holy Saints of God who are in Heaven on behalf of the Faithful in this life who pray for them and/or have Masses offered for them.
The members of the Church Triumphant, namely the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Angels, and all of the rest of the Holy Saints of God who are in Heaven, intercede for those who honor them and otherwise invoke their help.
Council of Trent
The Council of Trent teaches:
"The Saints who reign together with Christ offer up their own prayers to God for men. It is good and useful suppliantly to invoke them, and to have recourse to their prayers, aid, and help for obtaining benefits from God, through His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, Who alone is our Redeemer and Saviour. Those persons think impiously who deny that the Saints, who enjoy eternal happiness in heaven, are to be invoked; or who assert either that they do not pray for men, or that the invocation of them to pray for each of us is idolatry, or that it is repugnant to the Word of God, and is opposed to the honor of the one Mediator of God and men, Jesus Christ” (Session 25).
This had already been explained by the Angelic Doctor centuries before that where he writes that:
"Prayer is offered to a person in two ways: one as though to be granted by himself, another as to be obtained through him. In the first way we pray to God alone, because all our prayers ought to be directed to obtaining grace and glory which God alone gives, according to those words of the psalm (lxxxiii, 12): ‘The Lord will give grace and glory.’ But in the second way we pray to the Holy Angels and to men not that God may learn our petition through them, but that by their prayers and merits our prayers may be efficacious. Wherefore it is said in the Apocalypse (8:4): ‘And the smoke of the incense of the prayers of the Saints ascended up before God from the hand of the Angel’” (Saint Thomas Aquinas, O.P., [b. 1225 A.D. in Rocca Secca, Naples, Italy - d. Wednesday, March 7, 1274 A.D., in Fossa Nuova, Italy], Doctor of the Church, Summa Theologica, Part II-II, Question 83, Article 4).
That this teaching and practice of the Catholic Church is reasonable is attested by one of the Fathers of the Catholic Church, the one who translated the Bible from the original texts into the Latin Vulgate:
“If the Apostles and Martyrs, while still in the body, can pray for others, at a time when they must still be anxious for themselves, how much more after their crowns, victories, and triumphs are won! One man, Moses, obtains from God pardon for six hundred thousand men in arms; and Stephen, the imitator of the Lord, and the first martyr in Christ, begs forgiveness for his persecutors; and shall their power be less after having begun to be with Christ? The Apostle Paul declares that two hundred three score and sixteen souls, sailing with him, were freely given him; and, after he is dissolved and has begun to be with Christ, shall he close his lips, and not be able to utter a word in behalf of those who throughout the whole world believed at his preaching of the Gospel? And shall the living dog Vigilantius be better than that dead lion?” (Saint Jerome, a.k.a. Eusebius Hieronymus, a.k.a. Sophronius [b. Stridon, Dalmatia c. 340 A.D. - d. Bethlehem, Palestine, Wednesday, September 30, 420 A.D.], Doctor of the Catholic Church, Contra Vigilant., # 6, found in Jacques Paul Migne [b. Saint-Flour, France on Saturday, October 25, 1800 - d. Paris, France on Sunday, October 24, 1875], Patrologiæ Latinæ Cursus Completus, published in 221 volumes [1862 - 1864], Volume 23, column 344.)
Of course some have objected to this teaching concerning the intercession and invocation of the Saints as being doctrines opposed to the faith and trust which we should have in God alone and that they are a denial of the all-sufficient merits of Christ, not to mention that they cannot be proven from Sacred Scripture and the Fathers of the Church. For example, in Article 22 of the Anglican Church one finds: “The Romish doctrine concerning the Invocation of Saints is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.”
On the contrary, First - the honor given to the Holy Angels and Saints of God is entirely different from the supreme honor due only to God, and is given to them only as His servants and friends.
“By honoring the Saints who have slept in the Lord, by invoking their intercession and venerating their relics and ashes, so far is the glory of God from being diminished that it is very much increased, in proportion as the hope of men is thus more excited and confirmed, and they are encouraged to the imitation of the Saints” (Catechism of the Council of Trent, III, Chapter 2, Question 11).We can, of course, address our prayers directly to God, and He can hear us without the intervention of any creature. But this does not prevent us from asking the help of our fellow-creatures who may be more pleasing to Him than are we. But this does not mean that our faith and trust in Him are weak, nor because His goodness and mercy towards us is much less, but rather is it because we are encouraged by His own precepts to approach Him at times through His servants.
Cardinal Saint Robert Bellarmine
Saint Thomas Aquinas points out that we invoke the Holy Angels and Saints in a quite different language from that which is addressed to God. We ask God to have mercy upon us and God to grant us whatever we require. But we ask the Saints to pray for us, i.e. to join their petitions with ours. Please understand, remembering Cardinal Saint Robert Bellarmine’s observations:
“When we say that nothing should be asked of the Saints but their prayer for us, the question is not about the words, but the sense of the words. For as far as the words go, it is lawful to say: ‘Saint Peter, pity me, save me, open for me the gate of heaven’; also, ‘Give me health of body, patience, fortitude’, etc., provided that we mean ‘save and pity me by praying for me’; ‘grant me this or that by thy prayers and merits.’ For so speaks Gregory of Nazianzus [Orat. xviii — according to others, xxiv — " De S. Cypriano" in P. G., XXXV, 1193; "Orat. de S. Athan.: In Laud. S. Athanas.", Orat. xxi, in P. G., XXXV, 1128]” (Robert Cardinal Bellarmine, S.J. [b. Montepulciano, Italy, on Sunday, October 4, 1542 A.D. - d. Rome, Italy, on Friday, September 17, 1621 A.D.], Doctor of the Church, DE SANCT. BEATIF.", I, 17)The supreme act of impetration, sacrifice, is never offered to any creature:
“Although the Church has been accustomed at times to celebrate certain Masses in honor and memory of the Saints, it does not follow that she teaches that sacrifice is offered unto them, but unto God alone, who crowned them; whence neither is the Priest wont to say ‘I offer sacrifice to thee, Peter, or Paul’, but, giving thanks to God for their victories, he implores their patronage, that they may vouchsafe to intercede for us in Heaven, whose memory we celebrate upon earth” (Council of Trent, Session 22; c. 3).On the contrary, Second - The doctrine of one Mediator, Christ, in no way excludes the invocation and intercession of the Holy Saints. All merit indeed comes through Christ, but this does not make it unlawful to ask our fellow-creatures, whether here on earth or of those who are already in Heaven, to help us by their prayers. The same Apostle who insists so strongly on the sole mediatorship of Christ, earnestly begs the prayers of his brethren: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the charity of the Holy Ghost, that you help me in your prayers for me to God” (Romans 15:30). He himself prays for them: “Always in all my prayers making supplication for you all, with joy” (Philippians 1:4). So, if the prayers of the brethren in this life do not detract from the glory and dignity of the Mediator, Christ, neither do the prayers of the Holy Saints in Heaven.
On the contrary, Third - As regards the proof from Holy Scripture and the Fathers of the Catholic Church, it can be shown that the principle and the practice of invoking the aid of our fellow-creatures are clearly laid down in both. That the Angels have an interest in the welfare of mankind is clear from Christ's words: “There shall be joy before the angels of God upon one sinner doing penance” (Luke 15:10). In verse 7 He says simply: “There shall be joy in heaven”. Cf. Matthew 18:10; Hebrews 1:14.
That the Angels pray for us is plain from the vision of the Prophet Zacharias: “And the angel of the Lord answered, and said: O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem . . . and the Lord answered the angel . . . good words, comfortable words” (Zacharias 1:12-13). And the Archangel Raphael says: “When thou didst pray with tears . . . I offered thy prayer to the Lord” (Tobias 12:12)
The combination of the prayers both of Angels and Saints is seen in the vision of Saint John the Apostle: “And another angel came, and stood before the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer of the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar, which is before the throne of God. And the smoke of the incense of the prayers of the saints ascended up before God from the hand of the angel” (Apocalypse 8:3-4).
God Himself commanded Abimelech to have recourse to Abraham’s intercession: “He shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live. . . . And when Abraham prayed, God healed Abimelech” (Genesis 20:7, 17). There are also other examples in the Bible, e.g. Job praying for another (Job 42:8).
Intercession is indeed prominent in several passages in this same Book of Job: “Call now if there be any that will answer thee, and turn to some of the saints” (Job 5:1). “If there shall be an angel speaking for him . . . He shall have mercy on him, and shall say: Deliver him, that he may not go down to corruption” (Job 33:23).
Moses is constantly spoken of as a “mediator”: “I was the mediator and stood between the Lord and you” (Deuteronomy 5:5; cf. Galatians 3:19-20). It is true that in none of the passages of the Old Testament mention is made of prayer to the saints, i.e; holy men already departed from this life; but this is in keeping with the imperfect knowledge of the state of the dead, who were still in Limbo. The general principle of intercession and invocation of fellow-creatures is, however, stated in terms which admit of no denial; and this principle would in due course be applied to the Saints as soon as their position was defined. In the New Testament the number of the Saints already departed would be comparatively small in the early days.
The greatest of the Fathers in the succeeding centuries speak plainly both of the doctrine and practice of intercession and invocation.
“But not the High-Priest [Christ] alone prays for those who pray sincerely, but also the angels . . . as also the souls of the saints who have already fallen asleep (ai te ton prokekoimemenon hagion psychai” (Origen of Alexandria [b. Alexandria, Egypt in 185 A.D. - d. Tyre, Phenicia in 254 A.D.], DE ORATIONE, 11, found in Jacques Paul Migne [b. Saint-Flour, France on Saturday, October 25, 1800 - d. Paris, France on Sunday, October 24, 1875], Patrologiæ Graecæ Cursus Completus, 2nd series, published in 166 volumes [1857 - 1866], Volume 11, Column # 448).Origen is fond of using similar terms, so much so that it can be said that there is hardly any treatise or homily in which he does not refer to the intercession of the Holy Angels and Saints.
Bishop Saint Cyprian of Carthage
Saint Cyprian writes in part:
“Let us be mutually mindful of each other, let us ever pray for each other, and if one of us shall, by the speediness of the Divine vouchsafement, depart hence first, let our love continue in the presence of the Lord, let not prayer for our brethren and sisters cease in the presence of the mercy of the Father” (Bishop Saint Cyprian of Carthage, a.k.a. Thaschus Cæcilius Cyprianus, [b. 190 A.D. - d. Martyred on Saturday, August 14, 258 A.D.], EPISTLE 62, found in Jacques Paul Migne [b. Saint-Flour, France on Saturday, October 25, 1800 - d. Paris, France on Sunday, October 24, 1875], Patrologiæ Latinæ Cursus Completus, published in 221 volumes [1862 - 1864], Volume 4, column 358.)
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem:
“We then commemorate also those who have fallen asleep before us, first, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, that God, by their prayers and intercessions, may receive our petitions” (Saint Cyril of Jerusalem [b. 315 A.D. - d. 386 A.D.], Doctor of the Catholic Church, Patriarch of Jerusalem, CAT. MYST, V, 9, found in Patrologiæ Graecæ Cursus Completus, 2nd series, published in 166 volumes [1857 - 1866], Volume 33, Column # 1166).Other Fathers of the Catholic Church write in much the same way. For example:
1) Catholicus Saint Basil the Great [b. Caesarea, Cappadocia 329 A.D. - d. Caesarea, Cappadocia on Monday, January 1, 379 A.D.], Catholicus of Caesarea, Metropolitan Archbishop of Cappadocia, Exarch of Pontus.
2) Saint Ambrose [b. in Gaul, possibly at Trier, Arles, or Lyons in 340 A.D. - d. at Milan, Italy on Friday, April 4, 397 A.D.] Patriarch of Milan [374 A.D. - Friday, April 4, 397 A.D.].
3) Saint John Chrysostom [b. Antioch, c. 347 A.D. - d. at Commana in Pontus on Friday, September 14, 407 A.D.], Patriarch of Constantinople [Thursday, February 26, 398 A.D. - Thursday, June 24, 404 A.D.], exiled from his See the 2nd time on Thursday, June 24, 404 A.D.
4) Saint Augustine, a.k.a. Aurelius Augustinus [b. Tagaste, Africa, Saturday, November 13, 354 A.D. - d. Hippo Regia, Africa, Wednesday, August 28, 430 A.D.], Bishop of Hippo Regia.
Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil
Celebrated by Saint Basil
Prayers to the Saints occur in almost all the ancient liturgies. Thus in the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil: “By the command of Thine only-begotten Son we communicate with the memory of Thy Saints . . . by whose prayers and supplications have mercy upon us all, and deliver us for the sake of Thy holy name which is invoked upon us”. Cf. the Liturgy of Jerusalem, the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, the Liturgy of Nestorius, the Coptic Liturgy of Saint Cyril, etc.
That these commemorations are not later additions is manifest from the words of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem:
“We then commemorate also those who have fallen asleep before us, first, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, that God by their prayers and intercessions may receive our petitions” (Saint Cyril of Jerusalem [b. 315 A.D. - d. 386 A.D.], Doctor of the Catholic Church, Patriarch of Jerusalem, CAT. MYST, V, found in Patrologiæ Graecæ Cursus Completus, 2nd series, published in 166 volumes [1857 - 1866], Volume 33, Column # 113).While much more can written in response to the objections, the above should more than suffice.
Intercession/Invocation of Saint Jude Thaddeus, Apostle and Martyr
Because the Shrine of Saint Jude is devoted to Saint Jude Thaddeus, it is necessary to apply the above teachings of the Catholic Church especially to him. Why? He is the Patron Saint of hopeless, difficult, and impossible cases. He has gotten this title the old-fashioned way - he earned it over the course of centuries, most especially over the last century and into this new century!
Many, many years before the days of the Internet and this web site on which you will find the Testimonials Page to Saint Jude from people Saint Jude has helped as the direct result of the Novenas which I made for them, people would come up to me either before or after Mass and tell me about how Saint Jude had helped them, as the result of Novenas which I made for them way back then, especially in some situations which, to worldly eyes, seemed hopeless, but the spiritual eyes was something which could be done!
The good news is that Saint Jude Thaddeus does not take vacations or holidays! Rather, he will always be there for you and everyone else who invokes his help! The popular 9-Day Novenas to Saint Jude Thaddeus are popular because they have “worked” for many, many people over the years, including members of my own family and even myself! Of course, one must believe that Saint Jude Thaddeus can and will help and one must never give up but be persistent!
God expects us, and even requires us, to be persistent in asking for good things and He delights in our constancy and in our persistency and fortitude in our supplications, including our invocation of the powerful intercession of Saint Jude.
This persistence and fortitude in asking for the good things we need is what this passage means: “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away” (Matthew 11:12).
By invoking Saint Jude’s help, especially through the
popular 9-Day Novenas, you get an intercessor in Heaven who has centuries
of experience in knowing HOW to ask God for what a person needs, plus he
adds to this his own personal merits which he achieved in his life, especially
as an Apostle, as well as by his holy death by martyrdom.
Thank you for stopping by to visit the Shrine of Saint Jude web site. You are welcome to visit us again, as often as you like.
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Have a Wonderful Day!
God Bless You!