Chapter One: Grace and Devotion to Mary
Chapter Two: Mary, Holy Objects and God
Chapter Three: Primary Teachings - Mary the Virgin
Chapter Four: Mary and Jesus
Chapter Five: Deeper Teachings -
Chapter Six: Teachings Not Yet Declared Dogmas -
Jesus and Mary
A Mediator with our Mediator
Chapter Seven: Final Thoughts and Reflections
of the Holy Spirit
of Jesus Made Present
and Church Unity
Consecration to Mary Individual and
Litany of Mary's Faith Journey
© Copyright, J. Roy MacIntyre 2009
Prayer to the Dead
It seems fitting at the outset to give a brief explanation of the legitimacy of prayer to those who are "absent in body but present to the Lord (2 Cor 5:8)", that is, the dead in Christ. Since, Mary is no longer bodily here on this Earth we cannot go to her physically and ask her in person to pray for our needs. However, I wish to present sufficient information here to allow the reader to understand that it is reasonable to approach Mary through the Holy Spirit and there ask for her help.
Since the Reformation some Christian groups have taught it is not proper to pray to those who have died in Christ and inappropriate to ask their intercession before the throne of God. This teaching was a turning away from what was universally taught in both the Eastern and Western churches for more than 1500 years. However, it was likely a reaction to some perceived abuses in the practice such as seeing Mary as more merciful or more powerful than Jesus. This turning away was also based on the prohibition of consulting with the dead through the use of mediums (Dt 18:11).
So, let’s begin with an understanding of the meaning of Deuteronomy 18:11. There are other similar statements (Ex 22:17-18, Lv 19:31) but in each case the prohibition was against gaining hidden knowledge by means other than from the hand of God. In other words; fortune telling. This is also covered in the first of the Ten Commandments, “I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have strange god’s before me”. In other words, by going to some occult source to gain knowledge we are putting another god before God. In other words, rather than trust in the guidance and protection of the True God one seeks to bypass God by searching for knowledge not from Him. Similar to the idea of consulting the dead for knowledge the Scriptures declare it is wrong to cast spells (Dt 18:11, Ps(s) 58:6, Is 47: 9 & 12) because that is about invoking a spirit other than our God.
Despite the prohibition of consulting with the dead or casting spells, it is, nevertheless, perfectly acceptable to ask God to enlighten us and guide us in our lives. We may even ask about certain directions. However, we accept in faith confirmations and no obvious confirmations and conduct ourselves accordingly trusting God. Secondly, it is also not wrong to pray a blessing for others because we are asking God’s assistance for them.
Furthermore, even soliciting a living person to cast a spell or tell your fortune is in contravention of the law contained in Deuteronomy 18. The issue here is that instead of relying on God, a person confers with an unknown spirit in order to obtain knowledge thereby disregarding God's will. This is precisely what King Saul did when he consulted with the witch of Endor (1Sm 28 or 1Kings 28) and as a result he went to his ruin. Those knowledgeable of the world of spirits also tell us that we can be contaminated by spirits and even become possessed. Therefore, any activity that brings us in contact with spirits who act contrary to the will of God are to be avoided for one health, wellbeing and spiritual safety.
However, if a person asks a friend for prayer (Jas 5:16) or a prophet (1Cor 12:10) for a word from God or a healer for healing we are not in contravention of the law. Christians have generally understood that God will answer us according to His will. This may mean getting answers directly but usually God shows us His will in some indirect way where we still need to rely on Him in faith. God always answers our prayers and petition but in His own way, which, of course, is for our greatest good. When we ask for prayer, word, healing and so forth we ask in faith and God blesses us and those who pray for us. Similar to asking those around us for prayer, direction from God and healing we are able to ask those who are living in heaven with God to intercede for us to God for direction, healing and consolation.
Those who are dead in Christ are able to pray for us because as Jesus Himself says, “God is a God, not of the dead, but of the living” (Mk 12:27: Mt 22:32 and Lk 20:38) and “all are in fact alive to Him”. After all, Jesus, Himself consulted with Moses on Mount Tabor (Mt 17:3) and Moses had died (Dt 34:5, Jos 1:1). Therefore it is clearly not against the law of God to ask for the intercession of those who are with Him. Even the convicted criminal, Dismas, the Good Thief, who was crucified with Jesus, is in Heaven as Jesus himself foretold, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Lk 23:43). Therefore, even he can intercede for us to Jesus, but how much more powerful the Apostles, martyrs and heroic Christians throughout the history of the people of God.
Some people I have met have suggested Christians who die do not go directly to the Lord. They are thought to experience a kind of sleep, until the parousia or rapture of the Church, around the end of the world. However, this seems quite contrary to a number of scriptures. The clearest scripture on this issue is in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, the fifth chapter. Here St. Paul says that whether we are at home (in the body) or away (with the Lord) we make it our aim to please Him (2Cor 5:9). That means that when we are absent from the body, that is dead, we are present to the Lord and there we aim to please him. This ‘we aim to please Him’, implies action. Therefore the souls who die in Christ are still actively pleasing Him.
Moses, who had died, spoke to Jesus on Mount Tabor also implying an active role in the hereafter. The death of Dismas shows that we can be with Jesus the very day we die. It seems obvious that the dead in Christ are alive and active. This is certainly the case of the holy martyrs praying before the throne of God in the Book of Revelation, chapter six.
Another argument I have heard against asking the intercession of the dead in Christ is that they cannot be seen. How can we ask the intercession of someone we cannot see? Obviously, we cannot see God but by our faith in His omniscience we know that he knows all things including our prayers to him. Nevertheless, if it can be shown that the dead in Christ witness us in our lives then they should also be able to hear our petitions to them. Chapter 12 in the Letter to the Hebrews seems to fully comply with this requirement.
The author of Hebrews begins Chapter 12 by stating that we are surrounded by a mighty (so great a) cloud of witnesses. These witnesses are the holy people of the Old Testament (Chapter 11) and also the myriads of angels and just men made perfect. In fact, the author suggests that because of the cloud of witnesses we should conduct ourselves accordingly by laying aside sin and run the race (of the Christian life) with perseverance. They are actively involved. They not only witness but they join in the spiritual warfare with the angels of God on the side of the saints on Earth. Therefore it is eminently obvious that we can ask and if we ask one or all of them to pray for us they will.
The prohibition of consulting with the dead cited above also includes any involvement with the world of the dead, that is, the spiritually dead, which is the realm of Satan, the prince of death (Heb 2:14). He uses mediums and the like to deceive the faithful offering pleasure, power and prestige. When he uses these lures, as he did with Jesus Himself (Mt 4:1-11), he is trying to bring the poor banished children of Eve to bow down and worship himself in his many forms. Yet, it is evident that people can consult the dead, evil spirits and Satan himself. Perhaps people with doubts about praying to the dead in Christ should ask themselves how is it possible to consult the dead, Satan and his evil spirits, and not be able to ask prayer from those alive in Christ. After all Satan is only a creature like us. He is a fallen angel not a god. If one were to take a moment to discern the difference between the prayer to the living, in and through Jesus Christ, compared with consulting the dead, a clear distinction can easily be made.
The majority of Catholics prayer to those who are absent in the body but present to the Lord. Those who move in the dark world of séances, mediums and spirit guides often produce equally dark fruits. They seek money, power and fame instead of seeking what God wants for them. I don’t wish to identify any such individuals in this edition but I would like to illustrate the difference between praying to the dead in Christ and consulting the spiritually dead by citing the missionary to the poorest of the poor, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Mother Teresa, who prays asking the intercession of the Mary and other saints, produced the fruit of a truly Christian lifestyle. What I mean is that she did not seek her own glory but by serving the poor she was actively seeking the will of God in her life. Of course, Mother Teresa’s life that was dedicated to the work of God had a great love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit first and foremost.
Jesus has said, "By their fruits you will know them." The fruits of the saints, who prayed asking the intercession of other saints, throughout the history of the Church bear witness to the spiritual benefit of this kind of prayer to saints and angels. We don’t have to look far to find those who seek their own money, power and glory and the fruits they produce.
We should also keep in mind what it means to be in Heaven. In heaven every tear will be wiped away (Rev 21:4). St. Paul said, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heart nor has the mind of man conceived what God has prepared for those who love him (1Cor 2:9)”. Saint Paul himself had some experience of Heaven. He said he was taken to the ‘third heaven’ in 2Cor 12:2. So, Heaven is a place of bliss, a place free from the sadness and disappointments of life, a place where the saints give themselves fully to prayer and praise of God and where they can intercede for us.
Jesus said in describing Heaven, "Those judged worthy of a place in the age to come and of the resurrection from the dead do not (marry)" but "become like the angels (Lk 20:36, Mt 22:30) and are no longer liable to death". Angels are the messengers of God and instrument of His protection. It would seem that the dead in Christ are free to join them in these activities as the Lord gives them leave to do so. Saint Paul not only says that alive or dead we belong to the Lord (Rm 14:8) but he is quite clear that "to die is to gain" (Phil 1:21) and "to depart and be with Christ, is far better" (Phil 1:23). He is saying that when we die we are with the Lord and therefore we are better off.
In that blessed place we are certainly able to intercede for our brethren remaining in their mortal bodies on earth. Therefore, since the saints, like St. Paul himself, are dwelling in glory in the presence of the Lord, we can ask them to intercede for us to God. In so doing we are entering the courts of the living God and there conferring with the closest friends of God as we ask for their prayerful help.
To consult with mediums or channelers, no matter how beautiful Satan may make them and their gifts look, is to enter the dark and smoky realm of the truly dead. It is these spiritually dead that we must avoid with their promises of power, pleasure and prestige. But, on the contrary, praying to the saints increases our humility, gives us peace and we will receive only what is good for us from God.
We, therefore, need not be troubled with scruples that confuse us about entering the court of God to solicit the aid of His friends who are watching us as a cloud of witnesses. Rather, with the freedom of the children of God (Rm 8:21), we can enter freely into the heavenly realm in the power of the Spirit of God, and there avail ourselves of the assistance of the prayers of the holy departed. They dwell there in the presence of the Holy Trinity, the Father, Christ, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit and are continually witnessing our trials, our successes and our failures.
All the faithful departed are like the martyred souls praying for justice in the Book of Revelations (Rv 6:10) they are in the presence of God and are able to pray. On that same basis they are also able to pray for us. Surely, it is evident that if they can pray that God's justice be visited on the wicked they can also pray that His mercy be dispensed on us, their poor brethren, still suffering in the body on Earth.
Baptized Christians, who are not cut off from Christ through sin, are one with the faithful departed in the Mystical Body of Christ. Since the faithful departed are already perfected in Christ, through Him, they are not only able to perceive our needs but can intercede to God on our behalf. They can even intercede for those of us who are dead in sin that we may have the grace to repent and thus return to spiritual union with our God. The saints in glory may pray for those of us who are dead in sin because God's love and mercy demand it.
Often our friends in Heaven pray for us because they have been asked specifically by us when they were here on Earth. For instance, a person might ask a dying person to pray for him once the person has arrived in God's glory. It also may happen that a person, while still on earth, will resolve to pray for certain people. For example, a woman who is dying leaving a husband who has fallen away from the faith may resolve to continue her pray for him when she is with the Lord. In this way, even the dead in sin may be given the grace of repentance by the prayers of the dead in Christ.
It is, of course, also true that we on Earth can pray for the conversion of sinners although our prayers are likely more feeble than those who are already perfected by being fully united to Christ after their deaths. Nevertheless, a great Christian work is to pray for the conversion of sinners. This message is one that is constantly repeated by the children of Mary who believe they receive this message to pray for conversions from her. We will briefly focus on this later in this book.
There is another somewhat obscure but factual example of the faithful departed praying to God in Heaven and it is found in the book of Revelations (Rev. 8:3-4). Here, we see described incense rising into the throne room of God. This incense, we are told, represents the prayers of the saints praying on Earth. As the incense of the prayers of those on Earth enters heaven, it is then seen mingling with the incense in heaven. What is this incense already rising in heaven? It is the prayers of the saints who have previously arrived and whose prayer is coming before God with, and for their brethren on Earth.
It is beyond the scope of this treatise to attempt to explain in any detail the workings of the Mystical Body of Christ, which being a mystery does not lend itself easily to explanations. Nevertheless, Paul's references (Rom 12:45; 1Cor 12; Eph and Col) to the different functions given to each Christian to build up the whole Body, should not be seen to end when the person dies. Those who are departed in Christ and those on earth make up the one Body of Christ. In heaven we of Christ’s Mystical Body join with Holy Michael the archangel and all of the Heavenly hosts in our spiritual warfare against Satan and his cohorts.
It is likely that whatever one's gifts were on Earth coupled with how one responded, in love, to God's call, will determine the depth and type of intercession possible from Heaven. So, if a person had a particular devotion to attending compassionately and consistently to the sick on earth that person might be given a grace by God to continue the ministry to the sick by interceding for them. For instance, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, known as the Little Flower, who died in a cloistered convent at the age of 24, was considered to be so fervent and determined in her prayers for the Church's evangelizing missions that after her death the Church named her patroness of missions.
St. Thérèse’s ability to pray for the missions is seen to continue even more effectively from her place in Heaven. The Church reminds us that the Body of Christ includes those in mortal bodies and those who, in the Spirit, await their resurrected bodies. When we die we are still members of the body. In fact, throughout the history of the Church it has been accepted that when a soul is with the Lord after death she or he can function even more powerfully to help build the Body that still struggles in the world. St. Thérèse of Lisieux once said that she would do far more in Heaven than she could do on Earth. She said she would spend eternity showering down roses (symbolizing blessing) on Earth.
One final scriptural reference demonstrates the early Church’s belief in the life of the dead. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he refers to the practice of baptizing, by proxy, those who had already died (15:29). Although he is arguing for belief in the resurrection, he implicitly recognizes that those who have had a bodily death are spiritually present to those left on earth who in turn can pray for them. If we on earth can pray for those who have already died, it is reasonable to believe that those who are dead in Christ can pray for those still alive on earth. Since the baptism of the dead implies praying for the dead I think I should include a brief note on purgatory and related issues but first let me conclude this section.
There are three arguments that give testimony to the intercessory power of the dead in Christ, their closeness to us, their knowledge of us, and their freedom from mortal limitations. Let us take a closer look at this evidence. Angels are not members of the Mystical Body of Christ but they intercede for us as Jesus Himself indicates in the Gospel of Matthew (18:10). We find many other places in the Bible where angels are protecting or interceding, such as in the book of Zephaniah. Jesus, points out that the faithful departed are like angels (Mt 22:30-32). Angels are very close to us as the psalmist says, "the angel of the lord is encamped around those who fear Him (Ps 24:7)." The departed, who are like angels as noted above, must also be closer to us than while living with us here on Earth.
Secondly, the saints in glory are able to know our needs because they know as they are fully known (1Cor 13:12). That means that they share in the knowledge of the things of God to the full extent of their being. It should be a small matter for them to know what is happening with us who remain on earth. They form a mighty cloud of witnesses (Heb 12) and I would add prayerful ones.
Finally, since the dead in Christ are fully one with the Lord, there is nothing that could limit their intercessory gifts. We too are one with Him in His Body and can intercede for one another, yet we see "indistinctly as in a mirror" (1Cor 13:12). We know only in part while the departed in Christ know fully. We pray and intercede imperfectly but the dead in Christ are free of all imperfection and therefore are more powerful in there intercessory ability.
These arguments point to the fact that the dead in Christ can pray for us and that we can ask our departed brethren in the Lord to pray for us. It seems logical that if we are able to pray to them asking their intercession it must mean that God wants us to ask their intercession. After all God is God and whatever He does or allows is not done by accident but part of His divine will. Therefore, it is not only quite reasonable and helpful for us to pray to the dead in Christ for our needs but it is God's will that we do so. So, let us avail ourselves of the intercessory power of the dead in Christ.
A clear understanding of the fact of and the appropriateness of the intercession of the faithful departed can be obtained by asking ourselves the following questions. When I am in heaven experiencing the glory of the Beatific Vision, the glory of the Presence of God, will I not spare a prayer to Almighty God for my poor brethren left struggling with the trials and tribulation of the mortal life on Earth? And if some poor mortals ask me to pray for him will I refuse? Would God, who is Love, not allow me to pray for these labouring comrades of mine still toiling in the world? I think the answer to all these questions is a resounding YES.
I certainly intend to pray for those still in the body and would not refuse any request for my intercession, feeble though it may be. In Heaven, I am sure, the reader too will joyfully intercede for the people of God still labouring in His vineyard of the Earth. Therefore, we need not be bound by fear, the tool of the enemy, rather let us exercise our freedom as children of God to ask our brothers and sisters who have died in Christ to pray for us as we will in turn do when we are with the Lord in Heaven. Mary, the mother of our Lord, is our greatest intercessor in His presence as I hope will become clearer as you read what is presented here. Now, as promised, something on purgatory.