Why pray to Saints? Or How to Think About the Communion of Saints

Why ask the saints to pray for us?  Wouldn’t it just make more sense to go to the source?  Why not just send my prayer requests directly to Christ?

These are good questions.  In his wonderful new book on the Trinity, Fr. Michael Gaitley provides an intriguing and daring answer to this question.  His answer comes in three steps.

Step One:  Christians Become Incorporated Into Christ.  It isn’t that Christians become Christ-like or similar to Christ in some way.  They literally become part of the Body of Christ.  This isn’t a metaphor.  Rather there is a literal ontological change that a Christian undergoes when she comes incorporated into the Body of Christ.  Christ literally dwells in us and we dwell in him.

Step Two:  After Death, the Saints join in with the Second Person of the Trinity.  Heaven, on this view, is a participation in the inner life of God.  We participate in the inner life of God by means of the Second Person of the Trinity.  He writes that our participation in the life of the Trinity is to become one of the persons of the Trinity.  Specifically, we become part of the Incarnate Son (p. 55).  Now we will never become the Divine Head, but we will somehow be incorporated into the Divine Body of the Second Person.  We will become a small part of it.  We will join in with the activity that takes place within the inner life of God.  In this way, we will reign with God over all that is.  We will reign with him because we will literally be incorporated into him.

Step Three:  Praying to a Saint is Another Way of Praying to Christ.  When we ask a saint to pray for us, what we are doing is praying to the Body of Christ.  Because the saints are literally incorporated into the Second Person, God the Father can act through the saints much as he acts through Christ.  They are in complete harmony with the Father and have become a small bit of the Second Person.  Praying to a saint is another way of praying to Christ.

I consider this a daring and thrilling understanding of the saints.  It makes sense of many otherwise puzzling ideas like how we will reign with God  But we still must be careful to distinguish the Head from the Body within the Second Person.  This image also gives a much more interesting understanding of heaven and how God will one day be all in all.