The people of God, that is; the children of God, those born not of blood nor the will of man are the saints that forms the Church. The Angels are also saints, they are not outside the Church, they are part of the Church of Christ, hence we have St. Michael the Archangel, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael. The blessed Virgin Mary is part of the Church of Christ, she is a saint.
The Church is the gathering of the people of God in communion with one another in one faith. The Church which is the gathering of God’s people (the saints) is the mystical body of Jesus Christ with one head; Christ Jesus. Death does not separate one from this one body, in life or in death we belong to Jesus. St. Paul says that “if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then; whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s (Rom. 14:8). Death has no power over us, death does not separate anyone from the body of Christ. St. Paul wrote: “death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?. The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Cor. 15: 54-57). Standing on the victory of Jesus Christ therefor, death cannot stop us from being Christians, it cannot stop us from being believers neither can it separate us from the body of Christ.
The Church is a body with different parts in communion with each other and with the head. The Church is divided basically into three: The Church Militant,the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant.
This division does not translate into separation as such but into communion. The Church Militant, the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant is one Church, one body with one head.
The Church Militant comprises of all those (saints)still living on earth, still struggling with temptations and sin; You and I are part of the Church Militant. The Church Suffering refer to those saints that are no longer on earth yet have not made heaven, they are the saints or the Souls in Purgatory. Please, note that Purgatory is not a place where sinners repent but a place where the redeemed are purified.(see the column for doctrine for more about Purgatory) The Church Triumphant are the saints or the Souls of those who are in heaven, those that have made it to our eternal home and they are the ones popularly known as saints even though St. Paul addressed us as saints.
These three groups of believers form one mystical body of Christ, the Church. There is a communion between these believers, that is, there is a communication or relationship between these groups. The Suffering Church can do nothing about there situation and so, the Church militant and the Church Triumphant can intercedes for them. The Church militant, though can pray for herself also needs help from within the Church militant itself and from the Church Triumphant. The Church Triumphant on the other hand needs no help from us because they’ve made it into heaven.
Some people ague against this doctrine of the Catholic Church, they ask: do the saints actually hear our plea for help, are they not far removed from the earth? And even if they hear our plea for help, can they really be of any help? Some argue that the call for the saints to intercede is a violation of the sole mediatorship of Christ (1Tim.2:5). But It is not true, the intercessions of the saints does not in anyway violate the sole intercessory role of Jesus Christ; he is the way, the truth and the life. Asking somebody to pray for you does not in anyway violate the mediatorship of Jesus Christ. The intercession of fellow Christians which the saints in heaven are doing is not a violation of the scripture but its fulfilment. St. Paul appeals to Christians to pray for each other, “I urge that supplications, prayers, and intercession, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions…” (1Tim. 2:1-2). If you and I can pray for each other, if you believe that together with the saints in heaven we are Christians and members of one body, then tell me what can stop them from praying for us?
We do not pray in the name of any saint; there is only one name by which we can be saved and that name is Jesus. He is the only one before whom the four living creatures and the twenty four elders must bowl in worship, and the scripture says that each holding a harp and golden bowl full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints (Rev. 5:8). One may argue here that the prayers being offered to God by the saints were made directly to God and not through the saints. This argument sounds logical but it goes a long way to show that the saints hears our plea for help, they cannot be offering what they know nothing about. The prayer of the saints cannot be for themselves but for others; for you and me.
One may want to argue that the saints referred to in John’s revelation are not those in heaven but on earth; this argument itself also prove that the saints can intercede.
Apart from the fact that the Church teaches this doctrine, so many people have had personal encounter with saints, personal devotions to saints have produced positive results through Christ the Lord. Devotion to saints does not equal worship. In our devotion to the saints we give glory to God just as the success of our children brings us honour. In our devotion to the saints, we unite with the church triumphant to fight the world of darkness through Jesus Christ our head. That is what we are doing tonight, to join the Church triumphant to ask the Father in the name of Jesus to listen to our prayers and answered them in accordance with his riches in glory.
May the Saints in heaven intercede for us tonight, and may the father grant our heart desires through Christ our Lord. Amen