Fundamentalists tend to disagree with Catholics on praying to
the dead at all, even to the saints. They cite biblical texts such as
Deuteronomy 18:10-11, in which the Lord prohibits any oracles, or
communication, with the dead.
A Catholic response to this
objection begins by reading such texts in context. Then, one realizes
that God condemns communication with the dead apart from Him. Such
communication might be done by wizards or sorcerers who believe they can
manipulate the spiritual realm at will. Indeed, the Church always has
condemned such practices, teaching that they should be avoided.
the Church envisions us properly praying to the dead is in the story of
the Transfiguration. Here, Jesus converses with two saints of the Old
Testament: Moses and Elijah while Peter, James and John observe. This
gave these three apostles an important insight into the life of heaven.
When in heaven, the saints do live and converse with God.
heaven, though, aren’t just those relatively few souls whom the Church
has recognized through the process of canonization. Any soul that has
entered into heaven is considered a saint. This means that even though
our relatives and friends who have gone before us and might never be
recognized by the Church may also be considered saints as they enter
But how do we know if we should pray to my loved one? What if they are in purgatory? Will God still hear my prayer?
must look at how God hears this prayer. As we offer our prayer to them,
we do it through the person of Christ, through whom they receive life
after death. If they’re among the saints, then, we can be assured that
they will hear that prayer in union with Christ and bring our need
speedily to Him as seen in the Transfiguration.
At the same time,
God understands that while we may have a strong intuition or sign that
leads us to believe that our loved one is in heaven, they may still be
undergoing purification of love in purgatory. Be assured that your
prayer is heard or waiting for your loved one to enter into heaven for
God to listen to it. God will hear this prayer and answer your request
for His help when you do ask for it.
Father Mayo is pastor of Holy Rosary Parish in Warrenton.