Chapter 1: The Necessity of Prayer
3. Invocation of the Saints
1. Is it good and useful to have recourse to
the intercession of the saints?
Here a question arises, whether it is necessary to have recourse
also to the intercession of the Saints to obtain the grace of
That it is a lawful and useful thing to invoke the Saints, as
intercessors, to obtain for us, by the merits of Jesus Christ,
that which we, by our demerits, are not worthy to receive, is a
doctrine of the Church, declared by the Council of Trent. "It is
good and useful to invoke them by supplication, and to fly to
their aid and assistance to obtain benefits from God through his
Son Jesus Christ." [Sess. 25, De. inv. Sanct.]
Such innovation was condemned by the impious Calvin, but most
illogically. For if it is lawful and profitable to invoke living
Saints to aid us, and to beseech them to assist us in prayers,
as the Prophet Baruch did: "And pray ye for us to the Lord our
God" [Bar. 1: 13] and St. Paul: "Brethren, pray for us; [1 Thess.
5: 25] and as God Himself commanded the friends of Job to
recommend themselves to his prayers, that by the merits of Job
he might look favourably on them: "Go to my servant Job, . . .
and my servant Job shall pray for you; his face I will accept;"
[Job 42: 8] if, then it is lawful to recommend ourselves to the
living, how can it be unlawful to invoke the Saints who in
Heaven enjoy God face to face?
This is not derogatory to the honour due to God, but it is doubling it; for it is
king not only in His Person but in His servants. Therefore, says
St. Thomas, it is good to have recourse to many Saints,
"because by the prayers of many we can sometimes obtain that
which we cannot by the prayers of one." And if any one object,
But why have recourse to the Saints to pray for us, when they
are already praying for all who are worthy of it? The same
Doctor answers, that no one can be said to be worthy that the
Saints should pray for him; but that "he becomes worthy by having
recourse to the Saint with devotion." [In 4. Sent. d. 45, q. 3,
2. Is it good to invoke also the souls in
Again, it is disputed whether there is any use in recommending
one's self to the Souls in Purgatory. Some say that the Souls in
that state cannot pray for us; and these rely on the authority
of St. Thomas, who says that those Souls, while they are being
purified by pain, are inferior to us, and therefore are not in a
state to pray for us, but rather require our prayers. [2. 2. q.
83, a. 2] But many other Doctors, as Bellarmine, [De Purg. 1. 2.
c. 15] Sylvius, [In Suppl. q. 71, a. 6] Cardinal Gotti, [De St.
an. p. vit. q. 4, d. 2] Lessius, [De Just. 1. 2, c. 37, d. 5]
Medina and others, affirm with great probability, that we should
piously believe that God manifests our prayer to those holy
souls, in order that they may pray for us; and that so the
charitable interchange of mutual prayer may be kept up between
them and us.
Nor do St. Thomas' words present much difficulty;
for, as Sylvius and Gotti say, it is one thing not to be in a
state to pray, another not to be able to pray. It is true that
those souls are not in a state to pray, because, as St. Thomas
says, while suffering they are inferior to us, and rather
require our prayers; nevertheless, in this state they are well
able to pray, as they are friends of God. If a father keeps a
son whom he tenderly loves in confinement for some fault; if the
son then is not in a state to pray for himself, is that any
reason why he cannot pray for others, and may he not expect to
obtain what he asks, knowing, as he does, his father's affection
for him? So the Souls in Purgatory, being beloved by God, and
confirmed in grace, have absolutely no impediment to prevent
them from praying for us.
Still the Church does not invoke them,
or implore their intercession, because ordinarily they have no
cognizance of our prayers. But we may piously believe that God
make sour prayers known to them; and then they, full of charity
as they are, most assuredly do not omit to pray for us.
Catherine of Bologna, whenever she desired any favour, had
recourse to the Souls in Purgatory, and was immediately heard.
She even testified that by the intercession of the Souls in
Purgatory she had obtained many graces which she had not bee
able to obtain by the intercession of the Saints.
3. It is our duty to pray for the souls in
But here let me make a digression in favour of those Holy Souls.
If we desire the aid of their prayers, it is but fair that we
should mind to aid them with our prayers and good works. I said
it is fair, but I should have said it is a Christian duty; for
charity obliges us to succour our neighbour when he requires our
aid, and we can help him without grievous inconvenience. Now it
is certain that amongst our neighbours are to be reckoned the
Souls in Purgatory, who, although no longer living in this
world, yet have not left the Communion of Saints. "The Souls of
the pious dead," says St. Augustine, "are not separated from the
Church." [De Civitate Dei. 1. 20, c. 9] and St. Thomas says more
to our purpose, that the charity which is due to the dead who
died in the grace of God is only an extension of the same
charity which we owe to our neighbour while living: "Charity,
which is the bond which unites the member of the Church, extends
not only to the living, but also to the dead who die in
charity." [In 4. Sent. d. 45, q. 2, s. 2]
Therefore, we ought to succour, according to our ability, those holy souls as our
neighbours; and as their necessities are greater than those of
our other neighbours, for this reason our duty to succour them
seems also to be greater.
But now, what are the necessities of those holy prisoners? It is
certain that their pains are immense. The fire that tortures
them, says St. Augustine, is more excruciating than any pain
that man can endure in this life: "That fire will be more
painful than anything that man can suffer in this life." [In Ps.
37] St. Thomas thinks the same, and supposes it to be identical
with the fire of Hell: "The damned are tormented and the elect
purified in the same fire." [In 4. Sent. d. 21, q. 1, a. 1] And
this only relates to the pains of sense.
But the pain of loss [that is, the privation of the sight of
God], which those Holy Souls suffer, is much greater; because
not only their natural affection, but also the supernatural love
of God, wherewith they burn, draws them with such violence to be
united with their Sovereign Good, that when they see the barrier
which their sins have put in the way, they feel a pain so acute,
that if they were capable of death, they could not live a
moment. So that, as St. Chrysostom says, this pain of the
deprivation of God tortures them incomparably more than the pain
of sense: "The flames of a thousand Hells together could not
inflict much torments as the pain of loss by itself." So that
those Holy Souls would rather suffer every other possible
torture than be deprived for a single instant of the union with
God for which they long.
So St. Thomas says, that the pain of
Purgatory exceeds anything that can be endured in this life:
"The pain of Purgatory must exceed all pain of this life." And
Dionysius the Carthusian relates, that a dead person, who had
been raised to life by the intercession of St. Jerome, told St.
Cyril of Jerusalem that all the torments of this earth are
refreshing and delightful when compared with the very least pain
of Purgatory: "If all the torments of the world were compared
with the least that can be had in Purgatory they would appear
comfortable." [De Quat. Nov. a. 53] And he adds, that if a man
had once tried those torments, he would rather suffer all the
earthly sorrows that man can endure till the Day of Judgment,
than suffer for on day the least pain of Purgatory. Hence St.
Cyril wrote to St. Augustine:
"That as far as regards the infliction of suffering, these pains
are the same as those of Hell-----their only difference being
that they are not eternal." [Int. Op. Aug. Ep. 19, E.B. app.]
Hence we see that the pains of these holy souls are excessive,
while, on the other hand, they cannot help themselves; because
as Job says: "they are in chains, and are bound with the cords
of poverty." [Job 36: 8] They are destined to reign with Christ;
but they are withheld from taking possession of their kingdom
till the time of their purgation is accomplished. And they
cannot help themselves [at least not sufficiently, even
according to those theologians who assert that they can by their
prayers gain some relief,] to throw off their chains, until they
have entirely satisfied the justice of God. This is precisely
what a Cistercian monk said to the sacristan of his monastery:
"Help me, I beseech you, with your prayers; for of myself I can
obtain nothing." And this is consistent with the saying of St.
Bonaventure: "Destitution prevents solvency." [Serm. de Mort.]
That is, those souls are so poor, that they have no means of
On the other hand, since it is certain, and even of faith, that
by our suffrages, and chiefly by our prayers, as particularly
recommended and practiced by the Church, we can relieve those
Holy Souls, I do not know how to excuse that man from sin who
neglects to give them some assistance, at least by his prayers.
If a sense of duty will not persuade us to succour them, let us
think of the pleasure it will give Jesus Christ to see us
endeavouring to deliver his beloved spouses from prison, in order
that he may have them with Him in Paradise. Let us think of the
store of merit which we can lay up by practicing this great act
of charity; let us think, too, that those souls are not
ungrateful, and will never forget the great benefit we do them
in relieving them of their pains, and in obtaining for them, by
our prayers, anticipation of their entrance into glory; so that
when they are there they will never neglect to pray for us. And
if God promises mercy to him who practices: mercy towards his
neighbour-----'Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain
mercy.' [Matt. 5: 7]-----he may reasonably expect to be saved
who remembers to assist those souls so afflicted, and yet so
dear to God.
Jonathan, after having saved the, Hebrews from ruin
by a victory over their enemies, was condemned to death by his
father Saul for having tasted some honey against his express
commands; but the people came before the king, and said, "Shall
Jonathan then die, who hath wrought this great salvation in
Israel?" [1 Sam. 14: 45] So may we expect, that if any of us
ever obtains, by his prayers, the liberation of a Soul from
Purgatory, that Soul will say to God: 'Lord, suffer not him who
has delivered me from my torments to be lost.'
And if Saul
spared Jonathan's life at the request of his people, God will
not refuse the salvation of a christian to the prayers of a
Soul which is his own spouse. Moreover, St. Augustine says that
God will cause those who in this life have most succoured those
Holy Souls, when they come to Purgatory themselves, to be most
succoured by others. I may here observe that, in practice, one of
the best suffrages is to hear Mass for them, and during the Holy
Sacrifice to recommend them to God by the merits and Passion of
Jesus Christ. The following form may be used: "Eternal Father, I
offer Thee this Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ,
with all the pains which he suffered in his life and death; and
by his Passion I recommend to Thee the souls in Purgatory, and
especially that of," etc. And it is a very charitable act to
recommend, at the same time, the souls of all those who are at
the point of death.
4. Is it necessary to invoke the Saints?
Whatever doubt there may be whether or not the Souls in
Purgatory can pray for us, and therefore whether or not it is of
any use to recommend ourselves to their prayers, there can be no
doubt whatever with regard to the Saints. For it is certain that
it is most useful to have recourse to the intercession of the
Saints canonized by the Church, who are already enjoying the
vision of God.
To suppose that the Church can err in canonizing,
is a sin, or is heresy, according to St. Bonaventure, Bellarmine,
and others; or at least next door to heresy, according to
Suarez, Azorius, Gotti, etc.; because the Sovereign Pontiff,
according to St. Thomas, is guided by the infallible influence
of the Holy Ghost in an especial way when canonizing the Saints.
[Quod. 9, a. 16, ad. 1]
But to return to the question just proposed: are we obliged to
have recourse to the intercession of the Saints? I do not wish
to meddle with the decision of this question; but I cannot omit
the exposition of a doctrine of St. Thomas. In several places
above quoted, and especially in his book of Sentences, he
expressly lays it down as certain that everyone is bound to
pray; because [as he asserts] in no other way can the graces
necessary for salvation be obtained from God, except by prayer:
"Every man is bound to pray, from the fact that he is bound to
procure spiritual good for himself, which can only be got from
God; so it can only be obtained by asking it of God." [In 4.
Sent. d. 15, q. 4, a. 1]
Then, in another place of the same book, he proposes the exact
question, "Whether we are bound to pray to the Saints to
intercede for us?" [Dist. 45, q. 3, a. 2] And he answers as
follows-----in order to catch his real meaning, we will quote
the entire passage: "According to Dionysius, the order which God
has instituted for his creature requires that things which are
remote may be brought to God by means of things which are nearer
to him. Hence, as the Saints in Heaven are nearest of all to
him, the order of his law requires that we who 'remaining in the
body are absent from the Lord,' should be brought to Him by
means of the Saints; and this is effected by the Divine goodness
pouring forth his gifts through them. And as the path of our
return to God should correspond to the path of the good things
which proceed from him to us, it follows that, as the benefits
of God come down to us by means of the suffrages of the Saints,
we ought to be brought to God by the same way, so that a second
time we may receive his benefits by the mediation of the Saints.
Hence it is that we make them our intercessors with God, and as
it were our mediators, when we ask them to pray for us."
Note well the words-----"The order of God's law requires;' and
especially note the last words-----"As the benefits of God come
down to us by means of the suffrages of the Saints, in the same
way we must be brought back to God so that a second time we may
receive his benefits by the mediation of the Saints."
So that, according to St. Thomas, the order of the Divine law
requires that we mortals should be saved by means of the Saints,
in that we receive by their intercession the help necessary for
our salvation. He then puts the objection, that it appears
superfluous to have recourse to the Saints, since God is
infinitely more merciful than they, and more ready to hear us.
This he answers by saying: "God has so ordered, not on account
of any want of mercy on His part, but to keep the right order
which He has universally established, of working by means of
second causes. It is not for want of His mercy, but to preserve
the aforesaid order in the creation."
In conformity with this doctrine of St. Thomas, the Continuator
of Tourneley and Sylvius writes, that although God only is to be
prayed to as the Author of grace, yet we are bound to have
recourse also to the intercession of the Saints, so as to
observe the order which God has established with regard to our
salvation, which is, that the inferior should be saved by
imploring the aid of the superior, "By the law of nature we are
bound to observe the order which God has appointed; but God has
appointed that the inferior should obtain salvation by imploring
the assistance of his superior." [De relig. p.2. c.2, a.5]