All Saints/Souls Day on November 1st and 2nd are two important “holy” days of obligation for Catholics in the Philippines.
We celebrate these two November holy days in a special way.
People from other countries who visit the country during this time of year will find the celebration uniquely amazing.
You will find the atmosphere very festive during this time of year in the country.
On October 31st, the eve of All Saints’ Day, government and private workers, even students, begin their journey back to their respective hometowns in several provinces to join their families in celebrating the memories of their departed loved ones.
Expect heavy traffic all over the country on October 31st.
I remember my mother saying that All Saints Day is for those who died as babies. Having died sinless, they are considered saints and are honored on All Saints Day.
All Souls Day, on the other hand, is for remembering the older people who had passed on to the next life.
Later in life, I learned that All Saints Day is an old feast that arose out of the Christian tradition of celebrating the martyrdom of saints on the anniversary of their martyrdom.
But since martyrdoms increased during the persecutions of the late Roman Empire local dioceses instituted a common feast day to ensure that all martyrs, known and unknown, are properly honored.
But now in our time, we mostly focus our celebration of All Saints and All Souls Day remembering our own departed loved ones.
Speaking of Saints, questions arose with regards to the practice of Catholics to pray to Saints.
As a Catholic myself I called on some Saints as well for help.
One Saint that I call on to is St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost objects.
You can expect me to call on St. Anthony whenever I lost something. And, indeed, from my experience, it really makes the searching and finding time of my lost object shorter, faster, and easier.
I also remember praying to St. Joseph, the carpenter father of Jesus, when we had some house repair problems.
Considering the huge cost of repairs, I decided to just pray it over, and I asked St. Joseph’s help. The answer came quickly. The uncle of my husband visited us in Maryland when he travelled to California from the Philippines and he fixed everything that needed fixing in our house, one of which was a huge plumbing problem that would cost a lot to handle on our own.
So, why do Catholics pray to Saints, instead of going straight to God?
Obviously, this practice of praying to Saints, especially praying to Jesus’ mother Mary, has always put the Catholic faith under extreme disapproval by other religious groups.
“No one comes to the Father except through Jesus,” non-Catholics would argue.
“Why pray to Mary, why not pray straight to God?”
Well, there’s several reasons why, and they’re really good reasons.
But first, let me share this story:
One Sunday morning, I woke up on the touch of my celfone that I left beside my pillow before I went to bed the previous night. Fearing it would fall on the floor I got up to move it to my study table.
While in my hand I caught sight of the screen: 17 missed calls. I was puzzled. How could my cell phone ring 17 times without my hearing it. I’ve even increased the phone’s volume before I went to bed to make sure I don’t miss the ringing when it comes off in the morning.
And it was right beside my ear, by my pillow.
Suddenly, my eyes caught sight on the date at my phone – August 14. I realized it was my father’s birthday. But he passed away 15 years ago. I surmised that it was my deceased father’s way of getting my attention to remember him on his birthday. Or, perhaps, there was something important that he wanted to impart to me.
That incident brought me to brief pondering mode.
Death doesn’t end someone’s existence. It’s only a change.
From physical (body) to spiritual, a moving on from the physical realm to the spiritual realm.
Our deceased loved ones are just there, or perhaps, here in this same world but on a different dimension. They can see us, hear us, watch us, and they know what’s going on in life around us.
But why do we pray to Saints?
Well, mainly because of the proven fact that life after death on earth continues in another place, and because of the proven fact that those who have passed away and are already in heaven were praying for us here earth.
In short, our prayers to the Saints do not go in vain. The Saints continue to help us by interceding for us in heaven, bringing our supplications to God to obtain for us the answer to our prayers.
Here’s five Biblical proofs that we Catholics do not pray to the dead when we pray to the Saints in heaven:
2 Maccabees 15:11–16
In this passage, Judas Maccabeus saw in his vision the godly person, Onias, who had been recently killed, appeared in heaven praying to God with outstretched hands for the Jewish people who were about to be attacked by the Gentile army.
Then, he saw the Prophet Jeremiah, who had been long dead, as well, join Onias.
Onias introduced Jeremiah to Maccabeus saying that Jeremiah loved the brethren, and that he prays much for the people of the Holy City.
This Bible passage showed Angel Raphael telling Tobit that while he and his daughter in law, Sarah, were praying, he brought a reminder of their prayers to God.
Rev. 5:8, 24
In this passage St. John saw in his vision four and twenty elders who fell before the Lamb each one of them holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
St. John saw that “Another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar; he was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar that is before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.”
“. . . The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.”
The Saints who have gone to heaven are righteous people of God, hence their prayers are greatly powerful in bringing forth the effect, or answer, being sought for.
Obviously, those who have lived on earth, and died, continue to exist in another life, and the righteous ones, – the Saints – continue to do the good works they did on earth when they reached heaven – which include praying for the people on earth.
While my experience about my long-deceased father also indicates a continuing life after death, just like the vision of Judas Maccabeus on Onias and Jeremiah; the Biblical examples cited above further prove that those who had died and are in heaven, do not only continue to live in the after life but that they also pray for earthly concerns, as Onias and Jeremiah did.
The Saints, who spent their lives on earth doing God’s will and who are now in heaven completely purified, and our Blessed Mother Mary, pure and conceived without sin, are the righteous ones who can best intercede to God on our behalf and obtain for us the answer to our prayers.
God can easily hear them because being righteous there is no sin that will stand as a barrier between them and God.
Thus, their prayers are greatly powerful and effective.
This is why Catholics pray to Saints (and Mary), and why you should, too!