Why Praying to the Saints is Not like Magic

The teaching about the Communion of Saints is oftentimes a stumbling block for non-Catholics and even new Catholic converts in learning about the faith. I know my wife had a few questions about this when she initially converted almost a decade ago. Although I am a cradle Catholic, I try to put myself in the mindset of a non-believer to better understand other people’s perspectives about the Catholic faith. A common misconception about saints is that they provide a sort of magically aid or instant assistance on particular issues. Communicating with the saints solely for the spiritual relief they provide can lead to a sort of idol worship—this is not the intention of the doctrine about the Communion of Saints.

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According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek, rather, that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened. Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself (CCC 957)

Instead of leading us astray from God, communicating with the holy ones in Heaven is a great way to help increase our own holiness. Below are five reasons for why praying to the saints is not akin to usage of magic.

1. Other-centered vs. Self-centered: The primary aim of asking the saints for help through prayer is not about yourself. When I ask the saints for intercession it is usually to assist myself along with my family, friends, and the community around me. On the contrary, magic tends to be geared toward the individual. Fortune telling, Ouija boards, crystal ball reading, and other forms of magic are first and foremost focused on providing answers [usually regarding the future] for the person who uses the magic.

2. Call to Universal is Universal, Cauldron Brewing is a Niche Practice: Throughout the history of the Church, holiness has always been a universal call and not simply for priests and religious life. Saints appeal to everyone. In order for an individual to be officially canonized a saint they must be a guiding light and help to a large amount of people. Truth is universal and if an individual truly lived according to truth their life would appeal to diverse population across time and space. For example, St. Augustine lived in the 4th century A.D., but his struggles with lust and promiscuity still relate to people in the 21st century who struggle with an addiction to pornography or treat sex as a casual act.

On the other hand, magic is not a universal practice. It is a niche field that appeals to a small section of humanity.

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3. Saints Help You Become the Best Version of Yourself: Along with being focused on others and a universal appeal, communication with the saints in Heaven ultimately help you become the best version of yourself. From my experience whenever I struggle with sin, my particular vice is anger, I reflect on individuals who struggled with similar temptations  and ask for help. St. Jerome was known to be quite hot-headed and rash with his words. In fact he minced words with St. Augustine several times throughout his life. Eventually through prayer, study of the scriptures, and the sacraments, Jerome learned to overcome his anger problems. Examples like him serve as good role models for me to mimic. True and honest communication with the saints through prayer will only lead to you finding a better version of yourself!

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4. Magic Seeks Mastery over Material World, Sanctity Seeks Mastery over Spiritual Matters: Magic tends to be focused on worldly matters and manipulation of matter. Alchemy seeks to transform ordinary objects into elements of greater value [i.e. other elements into gold]. Fortune telling seeks to grasp control of an individual’s future. Contrarily, praying to the saints leads to a mastery to spiritual vices and an increase in virtue.

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5. Slow and Steady Wins the Race: Perennial truth exists in Aesop’s timeless fable The Tortoise and the Hare. Although he was much faster, the hare assumed that the race was in the bag. Instead of running consistently through the entire race, the hare lazily snoozed for half of the race. On the other hand, the tortoise knew that the race was long, but he was constant and diligent. By the time the hare woke up the tortoise crossed the finish line. Throughout literature magic is usually a device individuals use as a shortcut to solving a problem or ethical dilemma. Oftentimes the quickest and easiest path is not always equated with the most dependable option—at least not in the long-term outlook.

Whenever I have asked the saints for assistance the relief was not immediately granted. Occasionally I received help quickly but it is not a guarantee in prayer. Regardless of the time-frame on when answers arrive from my prayer request I am always sure to pray CONSISTENTLY and BE THANKFUL.

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A fruit of my of relationship with my spiritual brothers and sisters in Heaven is that I am more closely united with the rest of humanity. By mirroring good and holy role models I am better able to display works of charity and humility toward the poor in both spirit and materially poor in my community. It is not enough to magically state, I love mankind in the conceptual sense, but rather meet the individual in the daily circumstances of my life. My spiritual helpers in the communion of saints draw my closer to Jesus and give me examples of what true love of people looks like!

Thank you for sharing!

Organized Chaos or Chaotic Order: Which Do I Prefer?

My son was recently diagnosed with being on the autism spectrum last year and it is highly likely that I myself am on the spectrum as well. Having my son diagnosed has been both a relief and a trial. I received answers for why I think the way I do. Journeying with my son to embrace the joy of autism in addition to learning new opportunities to grow helped me learn and change as a father and spouse. Struggling to adapt to an ever-changing world following college and during my nascent marriage, I fought temptation after temptation to try to control nearly every aspect of my life. My OCD instead of being strength transformed into a fatal flaw. To be clear I have improved on this area of my life, however, it is a temptation that I need to slay each and every day!

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Unless I utilize my daily strategies and pray daily my mind goes into a frenzied state. Distraction, irritability, low patience, struggle to let things go are just a few of the side effects of my condition. I am so detailed-oriented that I could tell you genus of every “tree in the forest” whether it be a “deciduous or a pine” I focus on the minutiae, the seemingly mundane details in life. Led in the right direction my penchant for noticing daily inconsistencies that escape others’ radar will be an amazing skill. During the last few years my search for control and order has led me to find not organized chaos [i.e. life] but rather chaotic order [a self-imposed hell]. C.S. Lewis states this type of mindset best, “I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside.”

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The best example that comes to mind to describe the difference between “organized chaos” and “chaotic order” is looking at a piece of art. If you stand closely to a painting and only focus on a portion of the painting it may seem chaotic. Yet by shifting our gaze from the portion to the whole of the painting this seeming chaos focuses into a beautiful organization—similar to the din of instruments in a symphony work to produce harmonious music! I need to pray constantly and rely on the help of others—my wife especially who is a special educator teacher!—give me fortitude to slay my controlling tendencies.

St. Jerome struggled mightily against the sin of anger and sought to have control over thing in his life similar to myself. In fact, Jerome had such a hot-temper that he even pissed off St. Augustine himself! Many times I exhibit similar qualities as the great bible scholar: tactlessness, judgmental words, and low patience. Something that has helped me in the past that I need to get back in the habit is praying the liturgy of the hours. St. Jerome’s most famous quip is, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”. The divine office incorporates a salubrious mix of the psalms, saintly homilies, and Gospel readings to medicate my soul. Finally, I need to realize that autism is not a disability it is simply a part of whom I am and who my son is. The only defining characteristic I need to focus on it that I am a child of God and caretaker to my family. May anyone you know who is touched by autism realize that it is a gift from our Creator!

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Thank you for sharing!

Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D Part 8- Joseph and Jesus

Premiering in 1970, the music of Andrew Lloyd Weber merged with the biblical story of an Old Testament patriarch to form one of the more popular musicals of all-time—Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat. I remember seeing this musical during my elementary years at the Catholic school I attended. If it were not for this musical I may not have come to appreciate the significance of the patriarch Joseph. Usually he is overshadowed by other Old Testament figures like Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, and Solomon. What I hope to achieve today is to show that Joseph is every-bit as important as those other figures and has much more in common with Jesus than I used to think.

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Before I get into the specific ways that Joseph is a prefiguration of Jesus I will rely on the catechism to remind us about the importance of reading the Bible as a whole and through a typological lens. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 130, “Typology indicates the dynamic movement toward the fulfillment of the divine plan when “God [will] be everything to everyone.” Nor do the calling of the patriarchs and the exodus from Egypt, for example, lose their own value in God’s plan, from the mere fact that they were intermediate stages.”

Because of the sheer amount of typological examples of Joseph as an Old Testament Christ-like figure I am going to be succinct in my commentary on the examples. I want to be sure to demonstrate the various passages in Genesis that foreshadow Jesus’ life in the Gospels.

  1. Beloved Son: Along Joseph had 10 older brothers he was the first born son of Jacob’s favored wife Rachel. Because of this, Jacob took up a penchant for Joseph and gifted him with an expansive coat that eventually drove his siblings to become jealous. Similarly, Jesus is the beloved Son of the Father. God the Father states in Mark 1:11, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

 

  1. Sojourn to Egypt: Both Joseph and Jesus resided in Egypt caused by a traumatic event. The former ended up in Egypt after being sold into slavery and the latter fled to that country with the Holy Family to avoid King Herod’s massacre of the infants.

 

  1. Rejected by Own People: Joseph’s brothers ridiculed him about his dreams and threw him a pit to die after stealing his coat given to him by Jacob. Likewise, in Mark 8:31 predicted the same type of rejection would happen to Jesus.

 

  1. Faced Temptation: Genesis 39:1-12 details the temptation to commit adultery with his master’s wife. The Gospels portray the temptation of Jesus by the devil during his 40 days in the wilderness. Both men refused to be weathered by such enticement.

 

  1. Stripped: Joseph was stripped of his robe in Genesis 37:23 and Jesus was stripped of his garments in Matthew 27:28.

 

  1. Plot to Kill: The brothers of Joseph planned to kill him in Genesis 37:18 and Jesus’ adversaries in the scribes and Pharisees schemed his demise as well

 

  1. Traded for Silver: According to Genesis 37:28 the Midianite traders sold Joseph into slavery for 20 pieces of silver. The trade value to finalize the treacherous transaction for Jesus’ death was steeper at 30 pieces of silver (see Matthew 26:14-15).

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Joseph is a commonly overlooked Old Testament figure when it comes to hinting toward Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, God as a masterful teacher knew that humanity learns best in stages and progressively taught truth through Scripture and Tradition. The more and more example of typology we notice between the Old and New Testament greater intimacy will flourish better the two halves of the Bible. I leave you with the words of St. Jerome to reflect on, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

Thank you for sharing!