St Alphonsus de Liguori (1696 - 1787)
Catholic belief, prayers and spiritual teaching
St Alphonsus de Liguori (1696 - 1787)
PRAYER - The Great Means of Salvation and of Perfection (cont)
by St Alphonsus de Liguori
Part I: The Necessity, Power and Conditions of Prayer
3. God is always ready to hear us
St. Bernardine of Siena says that prayer is a faithful ambassador, well known to the King of Heaven, and having access to His private chamber, and able by his importunity to induce the merciful heart of the King to grant every aid to us His wretched creatures, groaning in the midst of our conflicts and miseries in this valley of tears. "Prayer is a most faithful messenger, known to the King, who is used to enter His chamber, and by his importunity to influence the merciful mind of the King, and to obtain us assistance in our toils."
Isaias also assures us, that as soon as the Lord hears our prayers, He is moved with compassion towards us; and does not leave us to cry long to Him, but instantly replies, and grants us what we ask: "Weeping, though shalt not wee; He will surely have pity upon thee: the voice of thy cry as soon as He shall hear, He will answer thee." [Is. 30: 19]
In another place He complains of us by the mouth of Jeremias: "Am
I become a wilderness to Israel, or a lateward springing land?
Why then have My people said, we are revolted, and will come to
Thee no more?" [Jer. 2: 31] Why do you say that you will no more
have recourse to Me? Has My mercy become to you a barren land,
which can yield you no fruits of grace? or a cold soil, which
yields its fruit too late! So has our loving Lord assured us
that He never neglects to hear us, and to hear us instantly when
we pray; and so does He reproach those who neglect to pray
through distrust of being heard.
And in another place he says, that when we pray to God, before we
have finished recounting to Him our supplications, He has
already heard us: "It is always obtained, even while we are yet
praying." We even have the promise of God to do this: "As they
are yet speaking I will hear." [Is. 45: 24] The Lord, says
David, stands near to every one who prays, to console, to hear,
and to save him; "The Lord is nigh to all them that call upon
Him; to all that call upon Him in truth" [that is, as they ought
to call]. "He will do the will of them that fear Him; and He
will hear their prayer and will save them." [Ps. 146: 18] This
was it in which Moses gloried, when he said:
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."