Scriptural : Our answers divided it into two parts: (1) Can the saints in heaven actually hear and respond to our prayers — that is, what has God revealed about this in Scripture and Sacred Tradition? And (2) How can they manage it, since they are only human, even in heaven?

1) There are a number of Scripture passages which directly or indirectly relate to our first question:

• Hebrews 11:1-12:1 finishes "Seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [in other words, the heroes and martyrs of the faith from ages past], let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us." Thus, the heroes and martyrs are a good example for us, and surround us like spectators at a running race — therefore, obviously, they know about us and can see our struggles from heaven. 

• James 5:16-18: 'The prayer of the good man has powerful effect." In other words, the most powerful intercessors in the Church are those most advanced in holiness. And who is more advanced in holiness than a soul who is already fully sanctified and in heaven? 

• Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4: "In heaven the elders and angels offer up the prayers of the saints [on earth] as incense before the throne of God." In this passage it is important to note that the New Testament uses the word "saint" of every baptized Christian, not because we are all perfectly holy, but because we have all at least received the gift of the Holy Spirit. So this passage implies that the angels and elders (holy Christian leaders now in heaven) hear the prayers of every Christian on earth, and join their prayer now with ours.

In short, put these passages together, and they certainly imply that the saints in heaven know of our struggles on earth and of our prayers, and join their powerful intercessory prayers with ours. 

Sacred Traditions : 

In the early tradition of the Church, the early liturgies almost all have passages which imply that the saints join their prayers with ours, and that ours are joined with theirs. Some examples of these early liturgical prayers are included in the modern rite of the Eucharist: "Now with angels and archangels, and the whole company of heaven, we sing the unending hymn of your praise ..." (Preface of the Baptism of the Lord). There are invocations of the martyrs inscribed in the catacombs from the time of the late 2nd century onward, and the first prayer directly addressed to the Blessed Virgin Mary, of which we have record, was written in the early 3rd century. By the 4th century the invocation of the angels and saints is universally practiced in the Church, and there is no evidence of any significant division or dispute about it at any stage of this development. Catholic theologians see this consensus as a sign of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church, guiding the Christian people to perceive ever more clearly their relationship in the Body of Christ with the saints who have gone before us into heaven.

The doctrine of the invocation of the angels and saints also fits well with the wider pattern of the Christian Faith. Our growth in faith and holiness is aided by the intercession of other members of the Body of Christ (Eph 6:18; 1 Thess 3:11-13; 1 Tim 2:1-4), and the Church on earth and in heaven are evidently united in some way in Christ (Heb 12:22-24). It is hard to see how asking the angels and saints to pray for us can be misconstrued as "idolatry" (the accusation made by some Evangelicals), while asking one's Christian family members and friends for their prayers is not. Both acts seem to be based on similar principles of charity and intercessory prayer. Idolatry would only occur if one believed that a saint or angel would give you something that our Lord would not (as if praying to an alternate God); but authentic prayers to the angels and saints are no more than requests made to them to pray for us to Him! The final address is still the same, as in the "Hail Mary": "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death." 

Catholic defenders of the invocation of the angels and saints, therefore, would argue that there is a cumulative case for this doctrine, which combines the implications of Scripture, the early Tradition of the Church, and how it all fits into the wider pattern of the Catholic Faith. This makes it "morally certain" (i.e., true beyond a reasonable doubt) that we can indeed ask the angels and saints for their prayers, and that they can hear us and respond to us by praying for us. Add to that the fact that the Ecumenical Councils and Popes have always strongly endorsed this doctrine, and we can go beyond mere moral certainty: we can have "the certainty of faith" that this truth has been revealed to us by God. 

Catechism of the Catholic Church C.C.C. 

Catechism entry 1028 tells us some important things about the souls in heaven:

Because of his transcendence, God cannot be seen as he is, unless he himself opens up his mystery to man's immediate contemplation and gives him the capacity for it. The Church calls this contemplation of God in his heavenly glory "the beatific vision."

Indeed, the Scriptures tell us over and over that in heaven we shall "see" God with our mind and heart, and contemplate God with the eyes of the soul (so to speak) in a new and glorious way: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Mt 5:8); "Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face" (1 Cor 13:12); "We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as he is" (1 Jn 3:2).

Think of it this way: to see God "as He is," "face to face," and to "contemplate" God in all his heavenly glory must be an indescribable experience, but it is the wonderful destiny He has in store for all of us who love and trust Him. We cannot fully understand what that means, from this side of heaven. But we know one thing for sure: to see and know and contemplate God in heaven must include to see and know and contemplate all that God loves — for how could you really see and know God "as He is" without seeing everything He loves, and without seeing how He loves everything? For "God is love" (1 Jn 4:8). And one of the things God loves best of all is human beings, the creatures He made in his own image, and for whom He gave His life on the Cross. The saints in heaven, therefore, must surely see and know all about us on earth, because they see us reflected in the mind and heart of the God who loves us, whom they behold face to face. The saints in heaven know us because they know all about God's love for us, and — being filled with His love for us — they love us too. 

The Early Church Fathers on Intercession of the Saints 


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 (On Prayer II [A.D. 233]). 

Let us remember one another in concord and unanimity. Let us on both sides always pray for one another. Let us relieve burdens and afflictions by mutual love, that if one of us, by the swiftness of divine condescension, shall go hence the first, our love may continue in the presence of the Lord, and our prayers for our brethren and sisters not cease in the presence of the Father's mercy (Letters 56[60]:5 [A.D. 252]). 

Cyril of Jerusalem

Then [during the Eucharistic prayer] we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition... (Catechetical Lectures 23:9 [A.D. 350]). 

Liturgy of St. Basil

By the command of your only-begotten Son we communicate with the memory of your saints . . . by whose prayers and supplications have mercy upon us all, and deliver us for the sake of your holy name (Liturgy of St. Basil [A.D. 373]). 

Gregory Nazianzen

Yes, I am well assured that [my father's] intercession is of more avail now than was his instruction in former days, since he is closer to God, now that he has shaken off his bodily fetters, and freed his mind from the clay that obscured it, and holds conversation naked with the nakedness of the prime and purest mind . . . (Orations 18:4 [A.D. 374]).

May you [Cyprian] look down from above propitiously upon us, and guide our word and life; and shepherd this sacred flock . . . gladden the Holy Trinity, before which you stand (Orations 17 [24] [A.D. 376]),

Gregory of Nyssa

Do you, [Ephraem] that art standing at the divine altar . . . bear us all in remembrance, petitioning for us the remission of sins, and the fruition of an everlasting kingdom (Sermon on Ephraem the Syrian [A.D. 380]).

Ambrose of Milan

May Peter, who wept so efficaciously for himself, weep for us and turn towards us Christ's benign countenance (Hexameron 5:25:90 [A.D. 388]).

John Chrysostom

He that wears the purple . . . stands begging of the saints to be his patrons with God, and he that wears a diadem begs the tent-maker [Paul] and the fisherman [Peter] as patrons, even though they be dead" (Homilies on 2 Corinthians 26 [A.D. 392]).

When you perceive that God is chastening you, fly not to his enemies . . . but to his friends, the martyrs, the saints, and those who were pleasing to him, and who have great power [in God] (Orations 8:6 [A.D. 396]).


A Christian people celebrate together in religious solemnity the memorials of the martyrs, both to encourage their being imitated and so that it can share in their merits and be aided by their prayers (Against Faustus the Manichean [A.D. 400]).


You say in your book that while we live we are able to pray for each other, but afterwards when we have died, the prayer of no person for another can be heard . . . But if the apostles and martyrs while still in the body can pray for others, at a time when they ought still be solicitous about themselves, how much more will they do so after their crowns, victories, and triumphs? (Against Vigilantius 6 [A.D. 406]). 

* Note the early church fathers were preachings about praying to the Saints in Heaven even before the Bible was compiled in the 4th Century..

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