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From Wikipedia:

Intercession of the Saints is a doctrine held by the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Roman Catholic Churches. The practice of praying through Saints can be found in Christian writings from the 3rd century onward. The 4th-century Apostles' Creed states belief in the communion of Saints, which certain Christian churches interpret as supporting the intercession of Saints. As in Christianity, this practice is controversial in Judaism and Islam.

According to proponents of the doctrine of Intercession of Saints, what are the strongest apologetic arguments for the veracity of the doctrine? Are there compelling reasons that should be able to persuade any rational believer to seek intercession support from departed Saints?

Note: the counterpart question can be found at According to Protestantism, what are the strongest apologetic arguments against the doctrine of Intercession of Saints?

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  • Matthew 27:52-53 says that many Saints arose with Christs on his resurrection. Jul 16 at 17:42
  • Are you looking for scriptural reasons, or more broadly (empirical reasons)? The strongest argument I can find is that it works when tried. Jul 16 at 19:16
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    @OneGodtheFather - any kinds of reasons (scriptural, empirical, historical, archeological, philosophical, etc.). If I only wanted scriptural reasons, I would have to rephrase the question as "what is the Biblical basis for the Intercession of Saints", and I already asked a similar question before. Jul 16 at 19:26
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+100

The Catholic Answers website has some good material on this. The main entry defending the doctrine is How to Defend the Intercession of the Saints. It addresses the "common" objections from protestants. I will sum up below.

  1. Praying to the Saints is not necromancy, because Jesus gives us a model for communing with the holy departed during the transfiguration. There is a difference between invoking a holy man or woman to pray to God for you and trying to command their spirit to divulge divine secrets to you (which is what Saul does in the book of Samuel).

  2. Proponents of Saintly Intercession make a distinction between prayer and worship, the Latin that Catholics use are Latria and Dulia. Latria is that worship due to God alone, whereas Dulia is the veneration due to holy men and women who have run the race faithfully.

  3. It doesn't make sense to ask your living friends to pray for you if you believe that anything but prayer directly to God is a waste of your time. IE, prayer to the Saints should be understood the same way as asking your close Christian friend to pray for you in a time of need. In addition (though the apologist doesn't mention it), James tells us that "the prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16). I can think of no men (nor women) more righteous than those already in heaven with God.

4-6. These are all objections about the capacity of the Saints to hear our prayers and intercede for us, and their willingness to do so. They are answered essentially by explaining the nature of time in heaven, or rather, the lack of time. Those in heaven exist in eternity with God, so they have forever and ever to do whatever He asks of them. If that includes praying for the Church Militant (that is another term for Christians still on Earth), then they will do so because they are perfectly obedient to Him.

The apologist from CA references plenty of scripture to back his claims, so I suggest reading through the link for a more thorough answer. Additional reading from the same organization may also be helpful:

Writings of the Early Church on the doctrine

A defense of rebuttals regarding Rev 5:8

A follow up to the previous topic

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  • From an outside view, it does not look like intercession of the Saints is more like asking your friends to pray for you than worship. The most famous, Hail Mary, is mostly "praising" Mary, and only gets to "pray for me" at the end. Memorare is even less about intercession "I fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother ... O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer me."
    – Dave
    Aug 18 at 12:36
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    @Dave it is difficult to address all of this in a comment, but I will try. The part of the Hail Mary that is praising Mary is based on scripture. If Gabriel and Elizabeth addressed Mary this way in her Earthly life, why shouldn't we address her this way as a Saint? As a convert, I also struggled with the memorare for precisely this reason, but Mary is also a special case. We have dulia, due to Saints generally, hyper-dulia, due to Mary specifically, and latria, that worship due to God alone. More to come in a second comment.
    – jaredad7
    Aug 19 at 15:55
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    Because Mary has a special place in heaven as Christ's mother, she is due extra praise and reverence beyond that due to an ordinary Saint. In Jewish tradition and culture, the mother of the King is Queen, Hence if Jesus is King of Heaven and Earth, Mary is Queen of Heaven and Earth. So if we ask her to answer our petitions, it is like begging the queen mother to speak to the king on our behalf. We recognize that any power the queen mother has comes only from the king. I do not believe you will find any prayers to any other Saints with such language as this, for precisely these reasons.
    – jaredad7
    Aug 19 at 15:57
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I think it is a hit or miss practice, depending on if the saints are soul sleeping in heaven or not.

On the positive side, I would argue on the lines of an angelic prayer chain of sorts.

We know that the angels rejoice over one person who is repentant on the earth (Luke 15:17). The book of Revelation states: "The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God's people, went up before God from the angel's hand." (Revelation 8:4)

We also know that some of the saints in heaven are aware of what transpires on the earth. And they also communicate their prayer thoughts to God. (Revelation 6:10)

Some of the saints, appeared in their glorified bodies for a brief period of time at the death of Jesus. (Matthew 27:53) So, it's possible that some of them (e.g. Mary, etc.) could be given special angelic assignments. At the very least, perhaps their guardian angels from their terrestrial days might be sent on assignment to go back to earth to make brief appearances. (Acts 12:15)

However, if the saints in heaven are primarily occupied with being intercessors, there were lots of saints in heaven from the Old Covenant times that could have been appealed to by the New Testament writers. In the Epistle of James it states that "the fervent prayers of the righteous avail much." (James 5:16) I suspect that passage is a reference to the saints that have not yet died. But, if it isn't, there are lots of righteous saints in heaven that could be invoked. At any rate, I think it's a hit or miss practice, depending on if the saints are soul sleeping in heaven or not.

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The strongest apologetic I've ever read for a general belief in miracles was in Orthodoxy, Chapter 12

Which I believe may be summarized as "I believe in miracles because they happen"

Chesterton writes:

Somehow or other an extraordinary idea has arisen that the disbelievers in miracles consider them coldly and fairly, while believers in miracles accept them only in connection with some dogma. The fact is quite the other way. The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them.

St Augustine says that the insufficient evidence for them happening after the fact is no reason not to believe in them. They're often local miracles.

even now miracles are wrought in the name of Christ, whether by His sacraments or by the prayers or relics of His saints; but they are not so brilliant and conspicuous as to cause them to be published with such glory as accompanied the former miracles. For the canon of the sacred writings, which behooved to be closed, causes those to be everywhere recited, and to sink into the memory of all the congregations; but these modern miracles are scarcely known even to the whole population in the midst of which they are wrought, and at the best are confined to one spot. For frequently they are known only to a very few persons, while all the rest are ignorant of them, especially if the state is a large one; and when they are reported to other persons in other localities, there is no sufficient authority to give them prompt and unwavering credence, although they are reported to the faithful by the faithful.

God, who surely respects our freewill, appears to be pleased to work though His saints and heal in a way that doesn't smash our ability to freely accept Him in the way that a voice from Heaven saying "this is my beloved Son, listen to Him" might be apt to.

St. Augustine then goes on to detail 20 miracles most of which were attributed to St. Stephen or another Martyr's intercession.

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