Towards the end of one episode of Saint Seiya, the girl running the fighting competition, Saori Kido, pleads with her deceased grandfather for advice on how to deal with the theft of the Golden Cloth armor. Rather than the monologue I expected, her late grandfather actually appears to her and gives her some consoling advice. He reminds her that the saints were meant to fight evil and that this tournament was part of that end. He mentions that even Athena, the creator of the saints’ armor, had a difficult time fighting evil. After saying these thing, he leaves, even though Saori would have him stay longer.
Now, let’s leave off talking about the fighting saints of the anime and consider the real friends of God. The scene described reminded me of two chief differences between Christian saints and Japanese ancestor worship: 1) the saints intercede for us before Christ rather than grant our requests through their own power; and 2) the saints point to Christ, not to themselves or one’s clan. Christ came down to show us the way to the Father. As he told St. Philip at the Last Supper, there was no need to show the Apostles the Father because Jesus Christ and the Father are One. As Christ stands as an icon pointing to the Father, the saints are icons pointing to Christ.
A pilgrim to St. Padre Pio’s monastery was once awed by seeing St. Pio in prayer before Mass. In the pilgrim’s eyes, it was not Padre Pio who knelt there at prayer but Christ. Few saints in modern times have so closely identified with Christ as Padre Pio–this miracle worker, priest, confessor, and stigmatist. When the pope asked someone what Padre Pio did at his monastery, the gentleman replied that Padre Pio “forgives the sins of the world.” An exaggeration, truly, but hundreds of thousands of pilgrims when to see Padre Pio in order to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation during the saint’s lifetime. This baffled Padre Pio, who would always say that receiving the sacrament from him was no different than receiving it from any other priest: the priest does not absolve sins, but Christ in whose person the priest acts.
Part of the role of a saint is to offer intercessory prayers on our behalf. No matter how direct a prayer to a saint might appear, the prayer’s terminus is always God, who actually grants the prayer. The saints accomplish nothing by their own power. As such, praying to saints always recalls our mind to their Master, before whom the Apostles and Patriarchs cast down their crowns in adoration.
Are there any advantages in praying to the saints? Yes, firstly, because the prayer of a righteous man avails much. Secondly, praying to a saint means that one admires and loves them and loving a good man is the beginning of virtue. The saints imitate the Savior more closely than any other class of persons. As such, the imitation of them offers a speedy way to attain the Christ-like virtues we all desire.
P. S. Yours truly will be attending the Christian Arts Festival being held at Greenwood, WI from August 4th to August 7th. I hope that it provides some good inspiration for my writing and some excellent Christian camaraderie. Pray for me that I make some good use of this festival which will cover things like writing fiction from a Christian perspective and apologetics.