I’ve been pondering intercessory prayer as of late. Specifically when a believer calls upon a saint to provide special speed or fervor when presenting a petition to Almighty God. There are a lot of good reasons, mostly developed by good Catholics, why we should appeal to saints when we are in need. A question occurred to me, and it seems like an important one: Why would the saints and angels be inclined to listen to us?
Perhaps we assume that just because someone is in heaven, they are on eternal duty to service the requests, questions, and complaints from us earthbound mortals. Is this a valid assumption? What if Jesus has them off in some galaxy far far away doing something more important?
When I ask a friend to pray for me, we have a relationship behind the request. Think about it. My daughter brings me a glass of water. In turn I accede to her request to return a book to the library. We have a mutuality grounded in love. For my friends, I might spend extra time rehearsing music with the psalmist. After practice, we might chat. Is my request of them to pray for me likely to carry more weight? Maybe they’re a good person who naturally prays for everybody else all day long. Or maybe not. Ever forget a prayer requested of you? Think about it.
Say a person makes a request of their guardian angel. From my reading of the Bible, angels can be full of themselves. Does a believer remember the earthly feast day of guardian angels? Would you be inclined to pray for someone who forgot your birthday? Think about it. If you’ve neglected somebody until you have need of them, which is more likely: they’ll do as you ask, or they’ll chuckle to themselves and walk away?
Consecration to Mary is making the rounds in a lot of places. Do the potentially consecrated observe Marian feasts days during their 33-day formative period? Do they get to know St Louis de Montfort? Do they practice colloquy with the Blessed Mother before and after their consecration? In other words, do they put the effort of friendship into the devotion? Maybe Mary is some special case, and we assume she will be a listening mother ready to do as we ask. Was your mother like that? Not mine. Sometimes my mother had to kick me in the pants to get me going. Think about it.
And think about any saint we might call upon. Do we have a sense of friendship with the person? Do we reflect upon our relationship with the saints as a right of ours, an expectation, and that we will be readily serviced in whatever capacity we have called upon them? For throats, see Saint Blase. For eyes, Saint Lucy. For our television set, Saint Clare. Do you think saints exist exclusively to care for our concerns? Think about it.
I can imagine the times in my life when I’ve been particularly stubborn. The Communion of Saints is not my lifeline, my emergency call, or some conduit to supernatural intervention just because I ask for it. I can imagine the saints echoing what I heard from parents, teachers, and other mentors: do your part to make your life fruitful.
Maybe it’s time for adult Catholics and those who aspire to adulthood to make their relationship with the saints a little more of a mutual effort. Unless we’re prepared to imagine somebody in the Communion taking enough time to read our request then clucking to themselves as they pitch it in the nearest circular file. Why would a saint listen to us?