Do Catholics Worship the Saints?
“Pray” for non-Catholics is synonymous with worship. But, not all prayer is worship. There are four types of prayer: 1) Worship 2) Thanksgiving 3) Petition and 4) Intercession. The original meaning and use of the word “Pray” is to “petition” or “ask.” The practice of petitioning Saints or Mary dates to the earliest days of Christianity and is shared by Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, the other Eastern Christians, and even some Anglicans—meaning that all-told it is shared by more than three quarters of the Christians on earth—It has only been with the advent of Protestantism (500 years old or less) that anyone has questioned the use of this word.
As Scripture indicates, those in heaven are aware of the prayers of those on earth. This can be seen, for example, in Revelation 5:8, where John depicts the saints in heaven offering our prayers to God under the form of “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”
So, we do pray to saints, but not to worship them. We pray to ask for their prayers. They pray with us and for us, just as others here on earth can pray with us and for us. Have you ever asked a friend or a family member to pray for you? It is the same thing.
Prayer is simply a request. Worship is something altogether different. We do pray to them, but some prayer is making a request. We make requests of the saints and of Mary for their intercession, which the Bible says is pleasing to God. Paul says that Christians should intercede: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and pleasing to God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1–4).
A request can only be answered by God. We request God’s help, his mercy, and his divine intervention. Nevertheless, we do ask the saints, the Blessed Virgin Mary and others in heaven to petition our prayer to God for us. All with the same goal, that God will help, have mercy and divinely intervene.