Apologetics for the Masses #481 - Should Christians Pray to Mary?

Bible Christian Society


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Are Catholics going against the Bible by praying to Mary and the Saints?

General Comments

Hey folks,
I have a question for you: Would you have any interest in a weekend "Blue Collar Apologetics" retreat? Or it could be called an "Apologetics for the Masses" retreat. Anyway, it would maybe be here in Alabama at the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, or possibly St. Bernard's abbey in Cullman, or maybe just a parish in Birmingham.
Just an intense, interactive weekend of apologetics. Learning how to better share, discuss, and defend Catholic teaching with family, friends, co-workers, folks on social media, etc. How to answer those questions Catholics frequently get about the Bible, praying to Mary, Purgatory, the Eucharist, and so on. Workshops more than lectures. A lot of back and forth between the retreatants and me. Discussing actual conversations/situations you've been in. Taking discussions off of Facebook and looking them over and analyzing and critiquing them. Essentially, it would be practical apologetics for dealing with situations that are going on in your every day lives.
I don't have it fully fleshed out in my mind yet, but I'm just looking for whether or not there would be interest on your part in such a retreat? I know cost would be a factor, so, in keeping with my general "business model" (where most everything I do is provided free), I would keep it as inexpensive as possible. Basically, just charging for actual costs, and not trying to make any kind of profit or such.
Anyway, if that kind of retreat would appeal to you, please shoot me an email and let me know. I'm not asking for a commitment, just asking if you think the idea is worth developing further or not? Agan, if you would let me know what you think, I would greatly appreciate it.


Over the last 25 years or so of being publicly involved in Catholic evangelization and apologetics, I have, fairly frequently, received things in the mail from Protestants - booklets, pamphlets, tracts, letters, etc. - all of which were slamming the Catholic Church for one reason or another.  Of the many times this has happened, almost never has the person who sent me the anti-Catholic materials, given their name or address.  In other words, they are cowards.  They want me to take the time to read their garbage, but they are afraid to give me contact information that would allow me to respond.  They want to preach, but they do not want to listen.  Again, people who do such things, just like anonymous folks online who do such things...are cowards. 

Recently, however, I received a letter - more like a short treatise - from an anti-Catholic that was titled, "Should Christians Pray to Mary?"  Of course, you know what the conclusion of that treatise was - NO!  Christians should not pray to Mary!  It's not biblical!  And so on.  Unlike all the other times I've received such materials, however, this person actually gave their name and address.  So, I wrote a response to the treatise in which I show this guy that both his reasoning his faulty as is his knowledge and use of Scripture.  I'll be putting it in the mail to him (since he didn't provide an email address) and see what, if any, kind of response I receive back. 

After writing it, I thought it might make a good newsletter, so here it is below.  I don't give you his entire treatise, rather just a few points from it that I respond to.  But, from those few points, you'll have the essentials of his treatise.  As usual, his words are in italics.  Oh, by the way, he did give his entire last name, but since this was not a public forum through which he addressed me, I'll keep his full name private for now.


A Catholic Reply to “Should Christians Pray to Mary?”

Dear Thomas S.,

First thing I would like to do is to commend you on actually putting your name on the little treatise (“Should Christians Pray to Mary?) that you sent me.  I get missives and tracts from your Protestant co-religionists all the time, but you are the very first one, out of dozens, to actually put your name, and address, on the envelope.  So, a coward you are not.  Again, I commend you for that!

However, while you are not a coward, you are, nonetheless, misinformed, about both the Catholic Faith and the Bible, as I will endeavor to demonstrate to you.  I hope you read this message in its entirety, as I did yours.  I’m not asking you to necessarily agree with what I have to say here, but I am asking you to think about, and prayerfully consider, what I have to say here.  

What I’m going to do is to respond to each of your points that you made to show how you have not considered Scripture as an organic whole; rather, you have come to Scripture with a preconceived notion - that one should not “pray to” Mary - and then focused only on those Scripture passages that you interpret as supporting that preconceived belief, to the exclusion of others that do not.  Also, I plan to highlight how you have a very large and glaring contradiction in what you have written.  

Okay, let’s get started.  Seven points from your treatise and then my summary:

"Should Christians Pray to Mary?" - Thomas S.

1) “Fact number one is that it is the will of God for Christians TO PRAY [only] TO GOD THE Father IN THE NAME OF JESUS.”  (John 16:23-24; John 14:13-14; Col 3:17)

My Response
I agree.  However, that is not an exclusive command from Scripture.  Yes, Scripture says to pray to the Father in the name of Jesus, but nowhere does Scripture say ONLY pray to the Father and ONLY in the Name of Jesus.  If there is such a passage somewhere in the Bible, please let me know.

There is this verse in the Bible, though: “But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit,” (Jude 1:20).  Prayer in the Holy Spirit the Word of God says.  Also, 1 Cor 14:2, “For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men, but to God...but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.”  And, in Ephesians 6:18, we are told to, “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.”  We are to pray at ALL TIMES in the Spirit!  ALL TIMES.  Were I a Pentecostal, I might say that “Fact number one” of prayer is to “Pray at all times in the Spirit,” and kind of ignore those verses about praying in the name of Jesus.

But I’m not a Pentecostal.  I am a Catholic.  And I don’t emphasize one verse of Scripture at the expense of another verse of Scripture.  I don’t trump this verse of Scripture with that verse of Scripture.  I don’t interpret one passage of Scripture in such a way that it contradicts another passage of Scripture.  I take Scripture as a whole.  And, when you look at Scripture as a whole, it nowhere says to ONLY pray to God the Father and ONLY in the Name of Jesus as you are claiming it does. Can we not pray to Jesus?  Can we not pray to the Holy Spirit?  Are not both of them God as well? 

So, I agree with your “Fact number one,” but only in part, because, as you interpret it, it is not broad enough in its view of prayer and it ignores certain passages of Scripture, as I have shown above.

"Should Christians Pray to Mary?" - Thomas S.
2) “Fact number two concerning prayer is that Jesus Christ is the ONLY Mediator between God and men.”  

My Response
Again, I agree.  The problem is for you, though, that if it means what you apparently interpret it to mean, then how is one to understand asking our fellow members of the Body of Christ to pray for us?  Are they not mediating for us when we ask them to pray for us?  Indeed they are!  Are they not interceding for us?  Indeed they are!  When someone asks you to pray for them, do you respond by saying, “Why are you asking me to intercede for you?!  Why don’t you go straight to Jesus?!  Don’t you know there is ONLY one Mediator between God and man?!”  No, of course you don’t. You have even cited passages where Paul is asking others to pray for him, and beyond that there are Scripture verses where we are told to pray for one another.  Well, wait a minute...isn’t Jesus the ONLY Mediator between God and man?

"Should Christians Pray to Mary?" - Thomas S.
3) “[In Scripture] Prayers (were always) requested from one LIVING CHRISTIAN TO ANOTHER LIVING CHRISTIAN or group of Christians.” 

My Response
Well, what is that statement of yours if not an admission that Jesus is not the ONLY Mediator between God and man, as you understand mediation to be? Christians can indeed mediate...can indeed intercede...for their fellow men, can’t they?  Because that's what praying for one another is...intercession/mediation.

But, have you ever thought about why that doesn’t violate 1 Tim 2:5?  Why does the Bible tell us to pray for one another - which is mediating between God and man - while also telling us that Jesus is the “ONLY Mediator” between God and man?  Isn’t that a contradiction?  Why does asking others to pray for you...to mediate with God for you...to intercede with God for you...not violate 1 Tim 2:5? I’ll tell you why, because Christians are members of the Body of Christ.  And, as members of His Body, of which He is the head, Jesus allows them to share in His role as the ONLY Mediator between God and men.  We are a part of Him!  We are His Body!

We see this exact same principle in play in regard to Scripture telling us that there is only one foundation - Jesus Christ (1 Cor 3:11).  Yet, Scripture tells us the apostles and prophets are the foundation, with Jesus being the cornerstone (Eph 2:19-20).  Scripture tells us there is only one judge - Jesus Christ (James 4:12; 2 Tim 4:1).  Yet, Scripture tells us the saints and the Apostles are all judges (1 Cor 6:2; Luke 22:28-29).  Scripture tells us we have only one teacher - Jesus Christ (Matt 23:10). Yet, Scripture tells us there is more than one teacher (Acts 13:1; 1 Cor 12:28).  Why are these not all contradictions within the Word of God?!

There is only one foundation.  But Jesus allows others to share, through Him, in His role as THE Foundation.  There is only one judge.  But Jesus allows others to share, through Him, in His role as THE Judge. There is only one teacher.  But Jesus allows others to share, through Him, in His role as THE Teacher.  Just so, there is only one mediator between God and man.  But Jesus allows others to share in His role, through Him, as THE Mediator.  

As Catholics, we agree that there is only one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ.  You can find that stated quite clearly in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#618; #1544).  Only Jesus Christ is true God and true man. Not Mary, not any of the saints.  We are saved only by the blood of Jesus Christ.  Not by Mary’s blood, not by the blood of the saints.  Jesus Christ is the sole mediator between God and man because Jesus Christ is the only Person who is both true God and true man.  However, as members of the Body of Christ, He allows us to share in His mediation.  It is by His grace and by His authority, through Him and with Him and in Him, that we can pray...intercede...mediate...for our fellow man with God.

And just as the members of the Body of Christ on earth can pray for others, so can the members of the Body of Christ in Heaven pray for others.

"Should Christians Pray to Mary?" - Thomas S.


My Response
Indeed.  But, guess what?  Nowhere in the Bible do we find an example of Christians having an altar call; yet, does your church not have altar calls?  Nowhere in the Bible do we find an example of Christians having a Wednesday night church meeting; yet, does not your church gather on Wednesday nights?  And beyond such trivial things, nowhere in the Bible do we find a list of which books are supposed to be in the Bible; yet, do you not believe that every single book, and only those books, that are in your Bible are supposed to be there?  Indeed so.  But, that’s not in the Bible.  

So your objection that nowhere is there such an example in the Bible of the saints in Heaven being called upon to pray for us, is not a valid objection.  Not everything that Christians believe and practice is found directly in the Bible, as I have shown with the examples above.  However, I do need to say here, that there is indeed indirect evidence from Scripture (if not actually some direct evidence) that supports the Catholic practice of calling upon the angels and saints in Heaven to intercede for us.  

Here is some Scripture regarding the role of angels and saints as mediators/intercessors: Matthew 18:10, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in Heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in Heaven.”  Jesus’ implication here is very clear: Don’t mess with these children because their guardian angels, who always behold the face of the Father, will tell on you, and that won’t be a good thing.  In other words, the angels are acting as ADVOCATES...mediators...intercessors between God and man.  

Revelation 5:8, “And when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints...” And, Rev 8:3-4, “And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God.”  So, who is it holding the bowls filled with the prayers of the saints, on Earth, and presenting them before the throne of our Lord?  The angels and the saints in Heaven.  They are interceding for us...they are mediating for us.  

Think about this: Is not God the God of the living (Matt 22:32)?  So the saints in Heaven are alive, right?  And are they not still members of the Body of Christ?  After all, nothing can separate us from Christ (Rom 8:38-39)?  So as they prayed for others while alive here on Earth, are they not continuing to pray for others while alive in Heaven?  I mean, if the rich man begged for intercession for his brothers still on Earth while he was in a place of torment (Luke 16:27-28), how much moreso will the saints be interceding for us from Heaven?  By the way, did you notice who the rich man asked for intercession from? Abraham!  So, in essence, he was praying to a saint.  And this was an example given by Jesus Himself.  Interesting, huh?

Now, you might say, “He wasn’t ‘praying to’ Abraham, he was asking for his help.”  To which I would respond by saying: “Now you understand the concept of Catholics ‘praying to’ Mary and the saints and angels.”  We are not praying to them as if they were God Himself and could, of their own power and authority, answer our prayers.  We are not praying to them instead of praying to God.  We are “praying to” them in and through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.  The phrase, “pray to Mary,” or “pray to the saints,” in Catholic terminology means “to ask Mary,” “to ask the saints”.  It’s how the word was used in earlier centuries.  “I pray thee fetch a bucket of water.”  “I pray thee go to the market for me.”  “I pray thee to pray for me.”  Read some Shakespeare and you’ll see plenty more examples.

So when we “pray to” Mary, or the other saints, we are simply asking them for help.  We are asking them to pray for us.  We are asking them, as members of the Body of Christ in Heaven, to add their prayers to ours and to take them to the throne of God as is being done in Revelation 5 and 8.  James 5:16 says that the prayer of a righteous man availeth much.  Well, who is more righteous than the saints in Heaven who are perfectly united to the Body of Christ?

"Should Christians Pray to Mary?" - Thomas S.
5) “So who but God would ever be able to hear all prayers offered to Him at once?” 

My Response
That is a common objection that you offer here, but a very short-sighted one and one that does not give God very much credit.  Does the Bible not say that all things are possible with God?  So, do you not agree that Jesus Christ, if He wanted to, could grant those who are members of His Body in Heaven the ability to hear the prayers of any number of the faithful here on Earth?  I mean, look at Rev 5:8.  

"Should Christians Pray to Mary?" - Thomas S.
6) “Do you really think that God would grant omniscience to others, such as to saints?” 

My Response
I don’t think you fully understand the meaning of the word “omniscience”.  God granting the saints the ability to hear any number of prayers from the members of the Body of Christ here on Earth is not the same thing as God granting the saints omniscience.  Just because they can simultaneously hear the prayers of multiple persons, doesn’t mean they have an infinite knowledge of all things.  

"Should Christians Pray to Mary?" - Thomas S.
7) "WHEN AND IF there is a supernatural power directly involved, resulting in any specific response from prayer to Mary, then it can only be attributed to the supernatural force in existence that promotes the practice of praying to Mary...'for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light.' (2 Corinthians 11:14)."

My Response
This is a rather large and glaring contradiction on your part.  First, you claim that if Mary, or other saints, could simultaneously hear multiple prayers from multiple persons, then that would mean they are “omniscient”.  And, you argue, since only God is omniscient, then it is not possible for Mary and the saints to hear all of our prayers.  

Yet, you then say that there is indeed another power, besides God, that is able to hear and answer our prayers to Mary...Satan.  In other words, you are declaring Satan to be omniscient.  You claim that he can indeed hear, and answer, multiple prayers from multiple people all at the same time.  So, by your own words, that means Satan is omniscient!  Yet, you say only God is omniscient. 

But, if you say Satan is not omniscient, then that means neither are Mary and the saints if they can indeed hear multiple prayers from multiple people all at the same time.  So, is Satan omniscient, or not?  If not, then if you believe he can hear - and answer - prayers from all those people simultaneously - in order to fool us poor ignorant Catholics - why can’t Mary and the saints who are perfectly united to the Body of Christ, by the power of God, do the same without you declaring that would make them omniscient?  You can't have it both ways.

To sum all of this up, there is nothing in Scripture that is contrary to any Catholic belief and practice regarding the Communion of Saints, particularly in regard to asking Mary and the saints to pray for us.  The saints in Heaven are alive, not dead.  They are still members of the Body of Christ.  They love us more now in Heaven than they did when they were alive on Earth. So of course they want to pray for us.

Furthermore, they are indeed aware of events here on Earth as God allows them to be.  We can see this in multiple places in Scripture.  The previously cited story of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16), for example.  The rich man and Father Abraham knew of things on Earth.  Scripture tells us that the angels in Heaven rejoice over every sinner who repents (Luke 15:10).  Well, how do they know if a sinner repents?  The souls under the altar in Heaven (Rev 6:9-10) know of events on Earth.  Hebrews 12:1 tells us that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses - the saints in Heaven.  How can we be surrounded by them if they have no knowledge of us?  And, even in the Old Testament, we have the example of the Prophet Samuel who, from beyond the grave, who knew of not just present, but also future events here on Earth.  

There is ample evidence, then, from Scripture, to support Catholic belief and practice.  There is nothing in Scripture, at all, that forbids asking Mary and the saints, as well as the angels, to pray for us.  There is nothing in Scripture, at all, that forbids asking Mary and the saints, as well as the angels, to petition God on our behalf.  Just as it is a good and holy thing to ask members of the Body of Christ on Earth to pray for us, just so it is a good and holy thing to aks members of the Body of Christ in Heaven to pray for us. 

I welcome any response you may have.

Closing Comments

Remember, please let me know what you think about the idea of a "Blue Collar Apologetics" weekend retreat.  Good?  Bad?  Ugly?  I look forward to hearing from you! 

I hope all of you have a great week!  No newsletter next week as I will be taking a few days off to recharge the batteries, but I'll get back at it the following week.


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Apologetics for the Masses