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The Anchoress Doesn’t Know Prayer!

March 20, 2010

Yes, Nancy Pelosi isn’t the best representative of Catholicism, and she gets many things wrong. Very, very wrong.  Badly wrong. But if people are going to correct her, they should at least know what they are talking about. For example, look to these words from The Anchoress:

Her ignorance is almost sublime. “Italian Americans” certainly do honor St. Joseph, but they do not “pray” to him. They ask him to pray for them, before the Throne of his most holy and almighty step-son, the Christ.

Oh, really? The Anchoress is wrong here, and it is because she doesn’t know what it means to pray. Here is what Merriam-Webster says about the word prayer:

transitive verb

1 : entreat, implore —often used as a function word in introducing a question, request, or plea <pray be careful>
2 : to get or bring by praying

intransitive verb

1 : to make a request in a humble manner
2 : to address God or a god with adoration, confession, supplication, or thanksgiving

Now then, the Anchoress said we don’t pray to the saints, but that we ask them to pray for us. Now asking them to pray for us is itself a prayer, as the dictionary points out — to entreat or implore someone for something is indeed a prayer.

In case you think I am making this up, look to EWTN’s devotionals. They will have prayers to the saints, such as this one to St Mary Magdalene

PRAYER TO SAINT MARY MAGDALENE

Saint Mary Magdalene,
woman of many sins, who by conversion
became the beloved of Jesus,
thank you for your witness
that Jesus forgives
through the miracle of love.

You, who already possess eternal happiness
in His glorious presence,
please intercede for me, so that some day
I may share in the same everlasting joy.

Amen.

And what do you know, EWTN even has this prayer to St Joseph:

Ever blessed and glorious Joseph, kind and loving father, and helpful friend of all in sorrow!  You are the good father and protector of orphans, the defender of the defenseless, the patron of those in need and sorrow.  Look kindly on my request.  My sins have drawn down on me the just displeasure of my God, and so I am surrounded with unhappiness.  To you, loving guardian of the Family of Nazareth, do I go for help and protection.

Listen, then, I beg you, with fatherly concern, to my earnest prayers, and obtain for me the favors I ask.

I ask it by the infinite mercy of the eternal Son of God, which moved Him to take our nature and to be born into this world of sorrow.

I ask it by the weariness and suffering you endured when you found no shelter at the inn of Bethlehem for the holy Virgin, nor a house where the Son of God could be born.   Then, being everywhere refused, you had to allow the Queen of Heaven to give birth to the world’s Redeemer in a cave.

I ask it by that painful torture you felt at the prophecy of holy Simeon, which declared the Child Jesus and His holy Mother future victims of our sins and of their great love for us.

I ask it through your sorrow and pain of soul when the angel declared to you that the life of the Child Jesus was sought by His enemies.  From their evil plan you had to flee with Him and His Blessed Mother to Egypt.  I ask it by all the suffering, weariness, and labors of that long and dangerous journey.

I ask it by all your care to protect the Sacred Child and His Immaculate Mother during your second journey, when you were ordered to return to your own country.  I ask it by your peaceful life in Nazareth where you met with so many joys and sorrows.

I ask it by your great distress when the adorable Child was lost to you and His Mother for three days.  I ask it by your joy at finding Him in the Temple, and by the comfort you found at Nazareth, while living in the company of the Child Jesus.  I ask it by the wonderful submission He showed in His obedience to you.

I ask it by the perfect love and conformity you showed in accepting the Divine order to depart from this life, and from the company of Jesus and Mary.  I ask it by the joy which filled your soul, when the Redeemer of the world, triumphant over death and hell, entered into the possession of His kingdom and led you into it with special honors.

I ask it through Mary’s glorious Assumption, and through that endless happiness you have with her in the presence of God.

O good father!  I beg you, by all your sufferings, sorrows, and joys, to hear me and obtain for me what I ask.

(make your request)

Obtain for all those who have asked my prayers everything that is useful to them in the plan of God.  Finally, my dear patron and father, be with me and all who are dear to me in our last moments, that we may eternally sing the praises of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

They even have more prayers to Joseph here.

Now, this is just an example where apologists who were once Protestant have brought a Protestant understanding to the Church. They accept a poor understanding of prayer and devotion, and try to tell other Catholics their understanding is the Catholic one. It is not.

Catholics do pray to the saints. Saint Anselm wrote many of them! It’s a good thing, too. For the saints do come to our aid!

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52 Comments
  1. March 20, 2010 7:45 am

    The column is an example of what is wrong with American Political dialog in general, and its Catholic variant in particular. The total lack of charity, the harping on small distinctions, the rage, etc. But what few of the opponents of the bill can display is any concern for the problem that triggers the bill. I appreciate their opposition, because I share it. But I have the sneaking suspicion that abortion is just a cover for another agenda entirely. I could be wrong, but I wish they would display even the slightest compassion for those destroyed by medical expenses, for example, or for their (largely Catholic) immigrant brethren who exist on the margins of the system.

    • March 20, 2010 11:23 am

      John,

      I agree.

      What is even more interesting, the same people doing so right now seem to have no concern about abortion in Israel, and Israel has universal health care, and Israel is able to do such in part because of all our funding. So why has none of the same voices raised concern about American money being used for the sake of abortion policies in Israel? If it is good for this bill, which I doubt is as people say it is because it really allows people to pull out of insurance with abortion, it certainly should be applied in many situations they ignore. Which says enough to me about how correct your analysis is.

  2. March 20, 2010 8:13 am

    “Now, this is just an example where apologists who were once Protestant have brought a Protestant understanding to the Church. They accept a poor understanding of prayer and devotion, and try to tell other Catholics their understanding is the Catholic one. It is not.”

    TH eAnchoress really does not do a ton of Apologetics. I think she mentions that is her not her things.

    ALso unless I am mistaken the Anchoress has been a life time cradle Catholic and is not a one of the dreaded converts. I might be worng on this but I can’t recall her ever talking about her conversion story. Her borthers are Catholics so I think it is safe to assume she is

    • March 20, 2010 11:24 am

      Whether or not she is a lifelong Catholic does not say where she gets her Catholic information. And sorry to say, the stuff I see her recite have never been that sound. So it is not just those who are converts, but those who read the apologists for their Catholicism which get stuck in this.

  3. David Nickol permalink
    March 20, 2010 8:30 am

    I have never seen such an outpouring of hate in an allegedly religious publication in my life! It’s perfectly appalling. Here is a sample:

    This woman is a profound grotesque . . . . Note, because it is important in the face of her stupidity, her mendacity, her slander and her willingness to use any-and-all means to achieve her ends . . . . this glammed-up guttersnipe, Pelosi. . . . Her ignorance is almost sublime. . . . This video makes me want to vomit. I try not to hate anyone, but this woman is tempting me mightily. . . . What an abominable woman; what a power-mad, ruthless, mendacious grotesque she is. . . . . I am no authority. I cannot go so far as some in my email wish me to, and suggest that this is a woman who is actually manifesting diabolical disorientation in the world. But right now, Nancy Pelosi has actually made me scream in horror . . . But first, I must scream a little more, and swallow back the bile, at the absolute horror she is become, and that she spews from her mouth.
 . . . . Gateway Pundit calls her a “she-devil”. I’m thinking sad she-clown/useful idiot.

    • March 20, 2010 11:25 am

      David,

      It was sad. I find much of what Nancy Pelosi says is outright wrong when it comes to Catholicism. I really do. But I also think the way to handle it is different. And if one is going to go and correct her, one better know what one is talking about — and not get things wrong.

  4. Chris permalink
    March 20, 2010 8:53 am

    I see nothing wrong with praying to the saints. They are our brothers and sisters and are in “communion” with us. Hopefully, they are also our friends. One can’t have too many of these.
    Not all prayers to the saints are “requests”. A person can just “be” with them , admire their virtues and identify with the challenges that they faced while they were here on earth.
    I think that some people are just ready to pounce on every word of Speaker Pelosi and find fault with it, for lack of something better to do.

    • March 20, 2010 11:26 am

      Chris

      You are right about our ability to experience communion with the saints as well. But I was just using the word for what it means. Veneration of the saints is important (I’m Byzantine).

  5. Charles Robertson permalink
    March 20, 2010 9:05 am

    Hear, Hear!

  6. pambo permalink
    March 20, 2010 9:28 am

    Prayer may be all that I have left. If intellect and reason are capable of determining which way to vote on the health care bill tomorrow, then I don’t possess enough of either of them. I am convinced, however, that apparent motivation of the proponents and opponents is not enough to figure out whether this is a good bill or a bad one.

    May the saints help us all and especially those facing a diffiult decision.

  7. March 20, 2010 9:53 am

    As you well know, we do not pray to the saints in the same way that we pray to God. To ask God to act on our behave is the primary meaning of ‘pray’. To ask the saints to intercede for us is a second meaning of ‘pray’. Since the Anchoress places ‘pray’ in quotes, it is clear that she was trying to make the distinction clear and avoid the type of equivocation that might lead some to asking the saints to act directly, and bypassing God. That would be idolatry.

    • March 20, 2010 11:28 am

      “As you well know, we do not pray to the saints in the same way that we pray to God. ”

      That is not what she said. The point is what she said. We do pray to the saints. The whole “we don’t pray to them” is very Protestant. The same people who tell me “we don’t pray to the saints” get really upset when they see some of our Akathists — they have told me they are heretical! And it is because of this nonsense “we don’t really pray to them.” Oh yes we do. And it is not the “second meaning” of the word, the word, the primary meaning of the word is request. As I showed with MW.

  8. March 20, 2010 10:18 am

    Okay, really…you’re quoting the dictionary here?

    It should be pretty obvious that prayer “to” a saint is orders of magnitude different from prayers to God. We suffer from a linguistic deficiency in that we’ve chosen to use the same term for both forms of communication; but don’t try to fool yourself or anyone else into thinking that praying to St. Joseph is a categorically different experience than praying to God. If you missed that bit in catechism, then you may need to reexamine which religion you’re in.

    • March 20, 2010 11:31 am

      Der

      Whoever said they are of “the same order.” The Anchoress herself said “we don’t pray TO them.” She didn’t differentiate. And I did more than quote the dictionary. I showed various prayers TO the saints which we have. And I provided a classical collection of such prayers (thank you St Anselm). And trust me, traditional devotionals like the prayers to the saints have suffered greatly in equal proportion to this “we don’t worship the saints, we don’t pray to the saints” rhetoric I hear from apologists. Crack open the old Catholic Encyclopedia and read the entry under Christian Worship. It is very telling. And yes, no one is saying the kinds of worship are of the same quality, but that is different from this “we don’t do it nonsense.” Yes, sadly many don’t now. As for me, I will kiss my icons and pray to the saints!

  9. March 20, 2010 10:27 am

    Personally, I’m bothered more by the “step-son” nonsense than by inventing false distinctions to save face before Protestants.

    When called on both of these (comment #87), the Anchoress replied, “Yeah, I never get that stuff right.”

    To this point, though, she has not made any revisions to that paragraph beginning, “Her ignorance is almost sublime.”

  10. March 20, 2010 11:35 am

    And still the point of this post should be quite clear: if you think it is your duty to correct someone else about their Catholicism, you better know it yourself. Otherwise, you are the blind leading the blind. Perhaps it is better to do something else until you know it yourself.

  11. March 20, 2010 12:06 pm

    Henry,

    I did notice that you did more than quote the dictionary, but what you were doing only serves to reinforce a semantic error. Like I said, it is a defect of language that we talk about “prayer to” the saints. I am a cradle Catholic, and my religious training was very much grounded in orthodoxy, so I know of what I speak.

    Incidentally, the whole debate, if I can borrow a line from John C. Médaille’s comment, is absolutely hung up on meaningless quibbling. I oppose the current health reform legislation for reasons that far transcend its moral issues. I believe that, far from being some sort of social justice, it in fact serves only to perpetuate the problems that have brought our country to its current impasse on the issue.

    • March 20, 2010 12:11 pm

      Der, it does not reinforce semantic error, because I properly defined prayer, and explained how we are doing it. Indeed, as I have said on other posts, all the “we really don’t do X” kinds of comments are interesting because they come in an environment when such activity is done far less. It is not quibbling when the outcome looks like iconoclasm, and have had people tell me I am a heretic when I recite various prayers from my parish!

  12. March 20, 2010 12:28 pm

    My whole thesis here, Henry, is that the dictionary definition of prayer is insufficient for this discussion. If we’re talking about the subversion of the Catholic understanding of prayer, then Merriam-Webster is not the go-to source. If it was, then the primary definition of “indulgence” would have me very worried. I haven’t looked it up, but I hope that there is some definition, right or wrong, that covers the Catholic idea; however, I expect nothing so subtle as a true Catholic explication from a secular dictionary.

    There are a lot of words we Catholics use in discussing our faith that carry meaning secondary to their secular ones. The one that springs most readily to mind is “grace.” You really have to go back to the Greek concept of “charis” to understand that one.

    My point here is that the dictionary is only there to reinforce a semantic component of your argument, which, since it does not adequately address the gradated understanding of “prayer” in Catholic spirituality, is in point of fact erroneous. I don’t see that I’m wrong here.

  13. March 20, 2010 1:50 pm

    Sure she got the word wrong but the meaning of her remark is clearly on target. We pray to the saints in a different way than we pray to God Himself.

    This is such a petty conversation it’s pathetic. Are you really this small-minded?

    • March 20, 2010 1:54 pm

      Well, let’s see, did Nancy Pelosi say we treat the saints the same way as we do God? No. Sorry, Zach. The Anchoress was the one who was acting like “I am going to correct Pelosi. She doesn’t know Catholicism.” But then she got it wrong. Seriously wrong. And it is this rhetoric which people hear and come out and believe, and has led to iconoclasm. It’s not mere words. It has actual effects. I have seen in before me— Catholics tell me “we don’t pray to the saints.” And they tell me I am practicing idolatry when I show them the Akathist to the Theotokos. Because, as they said, “We don’t pray to the saints.”

      We really do.

      Yes. We. Do.

      Iconoclasm is not a petty issue. Ask the saints who died because they prayed to other saints!

  14. David Nickol permalink
    March 20, 2010 2:06 pm

    Since the Anchoress places ‘pray’ in quotes, it is clear that she was trying to make the distinction clear and avoid the type of equivocation that might lead some to asking the saints to act directly, and bypassing God. That would be idolatry.

    Lamont,

    It is interesting to note that some are defending the Anchoress’s statements on prayer when — as Tom has pointed out — one of the commenters on the site pointed out that Catholics do indeed pray to the saints, and she responded, “Yeah, I never get that stuff right.”

    Perhaps you need to e-mail Anchoress to let her know that her original statement was correct, and that she should retract her admission of error.

    Here’s something interesting:

    The purpose of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical [Quamquam Pluries] was to implore divine help by means of prayer, joining to the intercession of Mary that of St. Joseph, that God might be more willing to grant our petitions and that he might aid his Church more promptly and generously. Leo XIII therefore attached to his encyclical a special Prayer to St. Joseph ordering that it be added to the recitation of the rosary every year in perpetuity, during the month of October. To this prayer he attached an indulgence, which is fittingly preserved in the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum. He also recommends dedicating to the holy Patriarch the month of March, with daily exercises of piety in his honor, and to observe at lest a triduum of prayers preceding the Feast of St. Joseph. [emphasis added]

    So we pray to Saint Joseph that he will urge God to be more prompt and generous in aiding the Church. Apparently, God is not generous enough and needs the prodding of Mary and Joseph to do more for the Church.

  15. David Nickol permalink
    March 20, 2010 2:22 pm

    Sure she got the word wrong but the meaning of her remark is clearly on target. We pray to the saints in a different way than we pray to God Himself.

    Zach,

    It was open to the Anchoress to say, “I misspoke. What I meant was . . . . ” But here’s a comment from her blog with her response in bold (as in the original):

    Kmbold
    March 19th, 2010 | 8:09 pm | #87
    Glorious!
    But Jesus is St. Joseph’s FOSTER child, not stepchild. And we DO pray TO the saints. E.g.: St. Joseph, pray for us.

    [Yeah, I never get that stuff right. -admin]

    Now, I know it is important that when a politician makes a mistake, defenders must point out that he or she wasn’t really wrong. For example, when McCain said the American economy was “fundamentally sound” what he really meant was that the American workers were the best in the world. He was right. He just got the words wrong the first time.

    But do we have to carry over this kind of nonsense to the defense of bloggers, and maintain they were really right when they have admitted they were wrong? Doesn’t being candid and truthful count for anything any more?

  16. Carol permalink
    March 20, 2010 2:49 pm

    Why would anyone calling herself an anchoress be speaking about politics? And really, her own spiel is one more reason that no one — anywhere — should type when they’ve lost charity. From Heaven, we almost all look like Pelosi. From hell, too.

    The problem isn’t Pelosi; it’s just that she called on the help of a premier saint, Christ’s own holy foster-father — dragging the just man into this abortion-funding package which most of us don’t want. A feasible solution to many woes would’ve been Ron Paul.

    It’s funny, isn’t it, that this whole Administration is deliberately opening up the Catholic can of worms. The Lord is always a jump ahead. Before this Administration and its blatant attack on Catholicism, when was Catholicism mentioned in the MSM? But it’s there, now, often. The Holy Spirit is opening wide the doors, and clearing up a lot of BS.

    • March 20, 2010 2:53 pm

      Carol

      A couple things.

      It is quite easily debated whether or not it is “abortion funding,” whether or not if it is, it is “more or less” than what is had at present, and if it is, what that means in the issue of cooperation with evil. Such things are rarely discussed, and indeed, it must be seen in relation to what we have at present. The arguments used against in in relation to abortion are often in relation to a perfection which is not there. Compared to perfection, everything fails. But it is not coming out of perfection, but a real world situation which includes abortion funding insurance. Insurance people say we don’t have to reject if it is the only option to us. Insurance they willingly take for themselves, but denounce when a bill allows someone to get insurance which doesn’t include abortion! Strange. As for “most of us” who is this “most” and why do people not want it? Much of the rhetoric as to why has nothing to do with the bill itself, which points out people are not wanting something which is also not being offered.

      I remember Catholicism mentioned many times by MSM long before this debate.

  17. Kurt permalink
    March 20, 2010 3:30 pm

    A lifetime of praying to the saints, particularly the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph and St. Francis, (and at times to St. Thomas, St. Martin, St. Anthony, St. Sebastian and recently St. Katharine Drexel) and now I am told I should not have been doing this. Boy, have I been wasting a lot of time.

  18. March 20, 2010 3:58 pm

    When you pray to the saints, what are you asking them to do? You are asking them to intercede on your behalf (or someone elses) before God, as the saints are closer to God we are at the moment.

    You don’t offer prayers of praise to the saints. You don’t offer prayers for mercy or prayers of penance to saints. You don’t offer prayers of adoration to saints. These prayers are for God alone.

    A fair reading of the Anchoress’s words recognizes that she meant to invoke this distinction. Yes, she was wrong about the definition of the word prayer. But chastising her for her mistake as if she is a heretic is adolescent and is the mark of a shallow and petty intellectual.

    It’s one thing to insist on the correct understanding of the term; it’s another thing to suggest as if she is leading people astray, or to suggest an equivalence between her mistaken use of the term and Mrs. Pelosi’s habitual acts of scandal that come from her public rejection of Church Teaching, Church authority and her public support of heinous crimes against marriage and human life.

    • March 20, 2010 4:15 pm

      You don’t offer prayers of praise to the saints. You don’t offer prayers for mercy or prayers of penance to saints. You don’t offer prayers of adoration to saints. These prayers are for God alone.

      I certainly offer praise to the saints. I have been asked to say rosaries for penance. Funny enough, I was even asked to pray a hymn to Joseph yesterday for my penance. No, adoration is not to the saints, but devotion, veneration is.

      Here is the Akathist:

      http://www.cin.org/akathis.html

      And we have so many hymns of praise to the saints (Akathists are common, but there are others). Some popular Marian Hymns include: All the Faithful Come Before You; From our Hearts We Sinners; We Hasten To Your Patronage (http://www.patronagechurch.com/chant/Hymns/We%20Hasten%20to%20Your%20Patronage.HTM if you want to read it) and many others. Not even including hymns like to Nicholas, or the Tropars to the Saints in our liturgy, etc.

  19. March 20, 2010 3:59 pm

    That should read “intellect” instead of “intellectual”. My apologies.

  20. March 20, 2010 4:27 pm

    It’s a long prayer, and this is only a part of one rendition of it in English:

    • March 20, 2010 4:34 pm

      And once again — while I am replying, Zach, remember — Nancy didn’t suggest we give adoration to the saints as if they were God. So what was it that the Anchoress was correcting with the comments? Seriously, this is a defense of the indefensible. And why didn’t the Anchoress correct EWTN (not just on the issue of prayers)? http://www.ewtn.com/wings/2010/03192010Feature.htm (HT Victor)

  21. March 20, 2010 6:35 pm

    Yeah, I get pretty sick and tired of this unnecessary splitting of hairs as well. Bottom line: whatever we Catholics do when we build St. Joseph altars, light candles in front of saints, or walk on our knees towards the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, it is always going to look unacceptable to Protestants and modernists. Of course, we make distinctions between the adoration we give only to God and the veneration we give to the saints, but in practice, there is really not much of a difference. “St. Joseph got me a job”, “St. Anne found me a husband”, “St. Jude healed my kid’s cancer”. Yeah, yeah, yeah, God did it. But He didn’t do it WITHOUT the saint. He also didn’t do it without the HR manager, the doctor, etc. These distinctions always rub me the wrong way, like the kissing up of the teacher’s pet in Sister Mary Martha of the Holy Cross’ catechism class.

  22. March 20, 2010 7:15 pm

    I’m with Zach on this one. A) This current matter is utterly ancillary to almost every conceivable issue which we might discuss concerning the healthcare bill; B) it seems like a cheap shot, since if we were debating the merits of the legislation at issue we would see pretty quickly that any Catholic with their orthodoxy screwed on the right way would demonstrate the unacceptability of said legislation. Fighting the current fight is just…well, silly and pointless. Prayer to God is fundamentally different from prayer to the saints, end of story.

  23. David Nickol permalink
    March 20, 2010 9:14 pm

    A fair reading of the Anchoress’s words recognizes that she meant to invoke this distinction. Yes, she was wrong about the definition of the word prayer. But chastising her for her mistake as if she is a heretic is adolescent and is the mark of a shallow and petty intellectual.

    Zach,

    First, she has already admitted she was wrong that you don’t pray to the saints and that Jesus is Joseph’s “stepson” (both in the course of two short paragraphs).

    Second, she made both of these bloopers while excoriating Pelosi for mixing up the Solemnity of St. Joseph with the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. Is that really a more serious error on Pelosi’s part than the Anchoress saying Jesus is the stepson of Joseph?

    Third — and most important — her rant against Pelosi is one of the most hateful and venomous attacks I have ever seen in print. Why are you insisting she was right even though she acknowledged she was wrong, and in a piece that is totally indefensible? I can’t believe it hasn’t been pulled from the site. Is this what the Institute on Religion and Public Life wants to teach us about moral and political arguments — to call the Speaker of the House a “glammed-up guttersnipe”?

  24. March 20, 2010 10:40 pm

    Is praise the same thing as veneration? I’m not sure. My gut says that it’s not.

    In what sense do we praise the saints? We thank God for the Holy Examples that saints are, but do we thank the saints for themselves? This sounds like a strange idea to me. The saints are like stained glass windows – they let God’s light pass shine through them. The beauty of the saints is really God’s beauty. We are thankful for the saints, yes. But how do we praise them? What is meant by praise?

    And I guess I’m not sure why the Anchoress made that specific comment. Probably because it’s absurd that Nancy Pelosi exploits the Catholic faith for political purposes when it suits her will, and shirks it in all other instances. Maybe the Anchoress’s comments lacked precision, but it’s a blog. Can’t we cut her some slack?

    • March 21, 2010 3:53 am

      Zach

      I take it you didn’t look at the Akathist… alas. Second, again, the Anchoress was acting like “I’m the authority, here is Pelosi who is all so wrong.” When Pelosi wasn’t wrong on this point. If you are going to teach someone and tell them off about their ignorance of Catholicism, don’t do it with false information. That is the point. And notice the EWTN link?

  25. MJA permalink
    March 20, 2010 11:31 pm

    You don’t offer prayers of praise to the saints. You don’t offer prayers for mercy or prayers of penance to saints. You don’t offer prayers of adoration to saints. These prayers are for God alone.

    “Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother. To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.” -Memorare

    “Holy and most kind Peter, faithful shepherd of the flock of God, chief of the apostles, prince among such might princes.

    In my misery I need the help of your power and kindness, but I have no words to express my need as it really is, and my love is not great enough to reach up from such a depth as mine to such a height as yours.

    Peter, good shepherd, do not be difficult of access; do not turn away your merciful eyes. Have a care, I pray you, lest you throw down the penitent, and delay to hear a suppliant.

    In your presence, merciful Peter, I show you my soul…See, here is a soul needing mercy, and here is the merciful apostle Peter before the God of mercy who had mercy upon the apostle Peter and taught him what to do and gave him power to do it. See, here is misery, and there is mercy, the mercy of God and his apostle Peter, and a soul in misery, confiding in God, and calling upon God and his apostle Peter. -Prayer of St. Anslem to St. Peter

    Sounds like praise and requests for mercy to the saints to me.

    Aside from the mounting errors on how prayer works from both the Anchoress and Zach, errors which arise when we do not inform ourselves of the rich Catholic tradition before impatiently pronouncing upon that tradition with putative authority, it seems to me that Zach is forcing a distinction of prayer and worship onto the Anchoress’ post that simply is not there. Look, she said explicitly that we do not pray to the saints and then made no qualification. While I think it is honorable that Zach is coming to her defense, it seems to me that Zach’s zeal blinds him from actually seeing how poorly the Anchoress misrepresents prayer. Perhaps he is unable to parse the false statements on prayer from the Anchoress’ post because he takes her bigger concern with health care to be truth. In any event, neither he nor the Anchoress do Catholicism any favor with such persistent and obstinate errors. But, no doubt, they will blog on…

  26. March 21, 2010 8:38 am

    We might distinguish two points here:

    1. The rhetorical point that you shouldn’t call someone almost sublimely ignorant when you are more ignorant than they are on the matter.

    2. The doctrinal point that Catholics do pray to the saints, and it’s kind of nutty to say otherwise.

    For my part, I grant that the first point is not terribly important, because not strongly disputed. Still, the Anchoress’s own kitchen-sink rhetoric left her open to critcism on it.

    The second point, though, is a matter of basic — and important — Catholic teaching. I don’t think the readiness to assert and defend what is contrary to Catholic teaching is explained entirely by political partisanship. If we as American Catholics no longer understand our relationship with the saints, little wonder things haven’t been going our way.

    • March 21, 2010 11:52 am

      Tom

      One can call others ignorant, the problem is trying to correct them and getting it wrong in your correction. It would be different if there were no attempted correction which gets it so off.

      But as to the second point, we are in solid agreement. Indeed, this is the kind of hymn sung in the liturgy of St Basil shows again the strength of this:

      In You, O Woman, Full of Grace, the angelic choirs and the human race – all creation rejoices! All creation rejoices!

      O Sanctified Temple, Mystical Paradise and Glory of Virgins, He, Who is our God, from before all ages, took flesh from You and became a child! He made Your womb a throne! A throne greater than the heavens! In You, O Woman, Full of Grace, In You, O Woman, Full of Grace, all creation rejoices, all creation rejoices! All praise be to You! All praise be to You! All praise be to you!

  27. brettsalkeld permalink*
    March 21, 2010 9:32 am

    A) This current matter is utterly ancillary to almost every conceivable issue which we might discuss concerning the healthcare bill; B) it seems like a cheap shot,

    Is this a criticism of Henry or of the Anchoress?

  28. David Nickol permalink
    March 21, 2010 11:03 am

    What constitutes a “cheap shot” at someone who calls the Speaker of the House a “glammed-up guttersnipe,” an “abominable woman,” “a power-mad, ruthless, mendacious grotesque” and a “sad she-clown/useful idiot”?

    Are the people defending The Anchoress actually reading what she said? Remember Matthew 5:21-22?

    “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.”

    That piece by The Anchoress is pornography of hate, and if you read the comments, you will see it is very effective.

  29. March 21, 2010 12:25 pm

    MJA – I did not mean to be so assertive and to “pile on the errors”, as you suggest. You may have correctly inferred mistakes from my original remarks, but I did this partially out of ignorance and partially to bring out the question so that someone more competent could answer it. It’s unfortunate that answer also has to come with a scold. I’m more than willing to be corrected.

    Just a few comments on Anselm’s prayer:

    There is a difference between calling someone merciful and asking them to have mercy on you. Notice how in St. Anselm’s prayer Peter’s mercy is God’s mercy… Peter is like a conduit of God’s mercy. The extent of Peter’s mercy in Anselm’s prayer is Peter’s willingness to hear the prayers of St. Anselm and in turn to give those prayers to God. Peter’s mercy consists in listening and interceding for Anselm. I think it’s clear in this sense that it’s legitimate to ask the saints for mercy. It’s also different than asking God to have mercy on your soul.

    The point I’m trying to make is this: the power to forgive is not ultimately Peter’s but God’s alone. Peter forgives through God’s power, as all forgiveness is God’s work.

    And yeah, the Anchoress’s comments were incorrect as they were written. What I was calling for was an attempt at understanding where she is coming from, which is not a place of dissent.

  30. March 21, 2010 12:27 pm

    The Catechism on prayers of praise:

    Praise is the form of prayer which recognizes most immediately that God is God. It lauds God for his own sake and gives him glory, quite beyond what he does, but simply because HE IS. It shares in the blessed happiness of the pure of heart who love God in faith before seeing him in glory. By praise, the Spirit is joined to our spirits to bear witness that we are children of God,121 testifying to the only Son in whom we are adopted and by whom we glorify the Father. Praise embraces the other forms of prayer and carries them toward him who is its source and goal: the “one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist.”

    Is this the type of prayer that is offered to the saints?

    • March 21, 2010 1:32 pm

      Zach

      It says praise is a form of prayer, and when addressed to God it does certain things. It doesn’t say we don’t use praise as a form of prayer for other saints — again, you ignore the very examples I have given, including the one we sung today at my church.

  31. March 21, 2010 12:43 pm

    Great catch Henry. I love you man!

  32. March 21, 2010 1:39 pm

    Terry

    Thanks! I am glad when people understand my posts and appreciate what I am trying to do when I do ones like this.

  33. MJA permalink
    March 21, 2010 1:58 pm

    Peter is like a conduit of God’s mercy.

    Of course, but I caution you not to reduce the saints to mere instruments of God’s mercy and favor. The saints are not mere means or mediums, but are worthy of veneration and praise in their very own right. Only a cold, jealous God would be threatened by this.

    Peter’s mercy consists in listening and interceding for Anselm. I think it’s clear in this sense that it’s legitimate to ask the saints for mercy. It’s also different than asking God to have mercy on your soul.

    Then you have been won over to my point. We do ask for mercy from the saints. No one has denied either a qualitative or substantive difference between praying to the saints and asking for their mercy on the one hand, and praying to God and asking for His mercy on the other. What seems apparent to me is that you have been so concerned to police this distinction (unnecessarily) throughout this thread that you almost reduce the saints to mere instruments. They are not mere instruments, though they are instruments; they are persons who meritoriously participated in the grace of God and reached such sublime heights of glory that God holds them out to us as worthy of high praise. So while you are correct that the saints are instruments and conduits, do not forget that they are, more importantly, glorified persons who, by virtue of their participation in the divine nature, have themselves become God-like.

    • March 21, 2010 2:17 pm

      Here is another example of what is being discussed about our relationship to the saints, this time through a Byzantine tropar (to St Elijah). They again are in accord with what MJA is saying (and what I have said).

      And here is famous hymn to St Nicholas in Slavonic and then in English. Take note of the end of the hymn:

      O who dwells in God’s holy mansions, Is our help on the land and oceans. He will guard us from all ills, Keep us pure and free from sins, Holy Father Nicholas

  34. March 21, 2010 8:13 pm

    MJA –

    I may have mispoke in my first few comments, in that I am using certain words (praise and mercy, for example) in a different way than you guys were. But I reject that I am trying to “police” anything – I’m only trying to be clear about the terms we employ in these conversations – because the terms we use and the way we understand them are often the source of superficial disagreement.

    It is important to maintain clear distinctions with this subject in particular because the risk is not downplaying God’s greatness (impossible to do!) but exalting the human being and putting him or her before God.

    And I think it’s silly to suggest that I’m reducing the saints to mere instruments, as if this is a bad thing. If only I could truly be an instrument of God. After all, this is what sainthood is – a total yes to God, God’s will always over and against what mine might be. This is what our call as Christians is: to be a slave for Christ Jesus.

    And this is of course not to deny that the saints are worthy of veneration, and our prayers to them ought to include this veneration.

  35. Catherine permalink
    March 22, 2010 1:42 pm

    I’m shocked by this post. I can understand wanting to clear up misunderstandings or misrepresentations of Catholicism, especially on a medium like the internet which is so widely read. However, your excitement at finding a mistake in another person’s blogpost, and your subsequent rancor displayed while dissecting her statement and formulating your argument, is disturbing in its lack of Christian charity and humility.

    • March 22, 2010 1:48 pm

      Catherine

      Oh, that is the problem? This post is what lacks Christian charity and humility? Ok….

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