In the comments, a Protestant reader (Zack) recently asked this question about prayers to saints:
I know my family and friends understand what I am asking because they can acknowledge that to me. Can you claim the same thing when you pray to Mary or a saint? How do you know specifically that they have heard your plea and can do something about it?
Here’s the answer. First, Mary and the saints are more alive and more holy than our family and friends. To refer to them as dead is not at all true. They are more alive in Christ now than even the holiest person on earth.
“He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You therefore do greatly err.” (Mark 12:27, D-R)
Second, Mary and the saints are experiencing the beatific vision of the Divine Essence. When one experiences the vision of God, he or she can see in God and thus the saints in Heaven are more keenly aware of the happenings on earth than we are here on earth. They continue to love us and care for us.
God has chosen that the economy of salvation be extended by means of humans. For example, Jesus doesn’t go straight to China – He sends missionaries and works through them. The ministry of prayer can work the same way. We can speak directly to Christ, but He also desires that we pray for one another. That reality doesn’t cease for those in Heaven. The saints in Heaven continue to serve as a kingdom of priests – and as priests they pray for us who are still in battle on earth.
When I ask the Blessed Virgin Mary or Paul to pray for me or help me – I don’t expect that my request terminates in them, but rather the prayer is heard and fulfilled through Christ, in Christ, and with Christ.
ad Jesum per Mariam,