Why do Catholics worship the Saints?
The answer is simple – we don’t.
At least we’re not supposed to.
What we do have in the Catholic church are what we call DEVOTIONS to the Saints. What’s a devotion? Well, devotions are NON-MANDITORY rituals and expressions of love for God. By non-manditory, I mean Catholics are not obligated to have these devotions.
A Saint, strictly speaking, is someone that we believe has gone to heaven. When a person is CANONIZED a Saint by the Church, that’s the Church’s way or RECOGNIZING that a particular person MUST be in heaven – because they led such a holy life, because of miracles that took place around them, or even in association with then after their death. But there are a lot more Saints – i.e. people in heaven – then just the one’s that the Church has recognized as such.
So why does the Church recognize them? Because usually their lives, their holiness, their witness to the Gospel in the way they lived their lives, is SO PROFOUND, that we can be inspired by their example. And this is central to the point – we should get to know who these people were, and what made them so great. Getting to know the Saint is CENTRAL to having a devotion to them.
And do we worship them? No. But we can talk to them. We believe that part of BEING ALIVE involves being IN COMMUNION or COMMUNICATION with the people around us. If we believe that the Saints are in heaven, and as such, are ALIVE, then we should be able to be in communication with them too.
Just as surely as we can ask our buddy Bill to pray for us in time of trouble, we can ask our buddy St. Francis to as well.
So that’s what we’re talking about when we refer to devotion to the Saints: one, we can communicate with them and they can help us, and two, we can be inspired by their holy life, to live the same way they did.
Why can’t we just go directly go God? Answer is, we can. In fact, anyone who asks that question, I encourage you to go directly to God as often as possible. But I can also guarantee that you will benefit from getting to know some of our brothers and sisters from previous ages and epochs: from St. Irenaeus, to St. Agnes, to St. Pio, to Mother Teresa – not canonized yet, but only a matter of time.
What about Mary, Jesus' mother? Well Mary is a huge topic for us Catholics, so I’ll deal with her separately – next week.