If you are familiar with my blog, YouTube, and social media, you know I welcome questions from my readers, viewers, and followers. Here are my responses to some questions recently asked by a Protestant follower on Facebook:
The message began with: I am not Catholic, but I attended Catholic school for 2 years back in the 1980s. Can you explain to me a few things please?
And here are the questions (in Italics) and my responses (in plain type)
1. Can you explain why there is a prayer, the Hail Mary?
The Hail Mary is a prayer that asks Mary to pray for us to Jesus. You will note in the prayer below that the whole first part comes from the Bible (Lk. 1:28; 1:42), and the second part is merely asking Mary to pray to Jesus for us and with us. It is similar to how we ask friends and family to pray for us to Jesus. (Everything is God’s grace working in and through Mary, nothing of herself. That is what the rays in the picture represent. God working, and God’s light and power. She is just the instrument, as we may also be.)
2. OK, well, I also came in contact with someone who told me that the Catholics are praying to saints, and it seems like you are. It reminded me of how the Romans used to pray to Mars and Jupiter for different things. Is Jesus too busy to hear all my prayers and He has delegated for better efficiency?
At Sacred Heart, my Catholic experience there was a statue of Mary next to the convent. People knelt in front of it and prayed the rosary. My grandmother actually had a Mary candle in her bathtub. Like a little mini shrine. Is Mary like a priest? You pray and confess to her? Or, is it like Mary and the saints are the bridge between Jesus and man, and Jesus is the final mediator to God the Father?
How is any of the above things not worshiping Mary? Better yet, how is that not praying to Mary through a statue? Isn’t that wrong even without the statue? You made a comment that the commandments were made back in the Old Testament time, in Exodus expressly, for teaching against worshiping the popular idols of the day. The idols that were worshiped by the people that lived all around the Israelites. So things have changed and that authorizes praying in front of a statue of something other than God but a really special human? Thank you for your answers…
These are great questions. Catholics don’t pray to Saints, not like they pray to God. Only God is God. And only Jesus can ultimately answer our prayers. However, we do ask the Saints in heaven to pray for us to Jesus since they are so close to Him and are perfected in His righteousness.
The important caveat is that we don’t see them as gods, not even close. They are mere human beings like us who have been glorified with Christ in heaven; and they are people who followed Jesus with all of their mind, heart, and soul, and are examples to us in that regard for following Christ better.
“Praying” to saints is similar to how we might ask any Christian to pray for us. Another example could be that most Protestants have no hesitation in asking a pastor who is a godly man and who knows God on a deep level to pray for them. It’s intercessory prayer, and that is biblical.
So, we absolutely pray to Jesus, all the time, but we also ask others to pray for us both in heaven and on Earth, for we are all part of the one body of Christ. Some say that we can’t pray to saints in heaven because they are dead. But that is a very Jewish and pre-Christian understanding of it. All of the passages in Scripture that say people die and stay in the grave are in the Old Testament, before Jesus rose from the dead. The fact is that Jesus is alive now, and he has conquered sin, death, and the grave. So people are alive in heaven, perfectly alive, and perfectly in him.
Catholics love Mary because we see her as the model disciple and the perfect example for following Jesus. Scripture reveals that she was totally faithful, obedient, humble, and loving. She followed God with all of her heart. We as Catholics desire to do the same thing.
Paul in First Corinthians said to “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” because he was faithful to Christ in every way. We should try to be faithful to Christ in the same way. Likewise, just as Mary was so faithful and obedient to God, so we strive to be also and use her as a model, like Paul.
Since she’s only a human, she is not God. Therefore, Catholics do not worship Mary, but do highly honor and respect her because of her holiness and how Christ worked in her lie. Luke 1:48 says that all generations shall call her blessed, so that’s what we do as Catholics, we honor her and call her blessed.
Most non-Catholics don’t know this, but the rosary is actually a meditation on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It is Jesus focused and Jesus centered. (Or should be if a Catholic understands their faith.) If you would like to know more on this, we made a YouTube video on it based on a conversation I had with real a Protestant pastor. https://youtu.be/i1rUSxXSlL4
Second to last, we don’t pray to statues. They are just plaster and marble and cannot hear us or do anything. So please know that for Catholics, they are just symbols. Symbols of the people they represent, kind of like pictures in a wallet. When the father of a friend of mine died, he would talk to and kiss a picture of his dad. Obviously he didn’t think it was really his father. It was just a symbol. Since his father was in heaven and he couldn’t actually kiss him in person, he used the photo.
If you would to read more on this, check out our articles on understanding proper Catholic expression, bowing and kneeling before statues (Hint: we are not kneeling or bowing TO the statues at all http://www.catholicbryan.org/blog/do-catholics-worship-statues-why-do-they-kiss-statues-and-bow-before-them/)
Likewise, statues are symbolic of the people they represent. Thus Catholics believe Exodus 20 which tells us that we should not worship idols. God had statues made in the Old Testament, and other people made statues too and for God which were not condemned. What God condemned was the worship of idols and pagan gods. The Catholic Church also condemns it.
3. Lastly, I heard Catholics mocking Salvation, too. Do modern Catholics believe in Salvation and being Saved at all? If no, then do you just ignore those verses in the Bible? Please help me out with two things.
We would like to point out that there is not a “new” or “modern” Catholic Church. There is only one Catholic Church, the same one universal worldwide Catholic Church that has been around for 2000 years.
Now, to the heart of your last question, YES!!!!!! Catholics absolutely believe in Salvation! Here is what we believe in a nutshell: Jesus is God, and Jesus is the only Lord, the only savior, the only One who can redeem us from our sins. He died on the cross for us because we were lost due to our sins which eternally separate us from God. No amount of good works could bridge that eternal gap. In other words, we cannot earn salvation or save ourselves (as a side note: this false belief has been condemned in the Catholic Church since the 5th century.)
It is Jesus’ body and blood alone that atone for our sins, and his body and blood alone which obtains salvation for us. Catholics believe that we are saved through faith in Christ, and by following his will (Mt. 7:21), and being obedient to Him. For Catholics, and according to the Bible, salvation is not a one time moment. Whereas Protestants think they are saved and then sanctified through life, Catholics see Salvation and Sanctification as the same thing. In other words, Christ saves us in baptism where we are born again, (Mk. 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21; Rom. 6:1-11) but we must live for Him faithfully until we die. If we do that we will be saved eternally!
Thank you for reading. If you have any questions, please let us know. We also go live in Instagram and Facebook to answer the questions that people have. Also, visit our YouTube channel for many more questions and many more solid answers! You also may be interested in our article answering ex-Catholics poor arguments. God bless you.