Challoner on Prayers Addressed to the Saints

In the foreword to his book A Manual of Prayers and Other Christian Devotions, Bishop Challoner says:

“….because this collection of prayers may possibly meet with some readers who have no other knowledge of the Catholic religion [except] what they have received from the misrepresentations of ignorance or malice, and consequently may entertain a wrong notion concerning those prayers which are here addressed to the Blessed Virgin, and to the rest of the heavenly Citizens, imagining that the Catholics pay a divine honour to the Saints and Angels; which some, in despite of all our profession and protestation to the contrary, are unreasonable enough to lay to our charge; it will not be amiss to set down here the Catholic doctrine concerning this point, in the very words of the Council of Trent, which are:

Fideles diligentur instruant, docentes eos, sanctos una cum Christo regnantes orationes suas pro hominibus Deo offerre; bonum atque utile esse suppliciter eos invocare; et ob beneficia impetranda a Deo per Filium eius Iesum Christum Dominum nostrum, qui solus noster Redemptor et Salvator est, ad eorum orationes opem auxiliumque confugere.

[Let them instruct the faithful, teaching them] that the Saints, who reign with Christ, offer up their prayers for men; that it is good and profitable to invoke them with humility; and to have recourse to their prayers, aid, and assistance, for the obtaining of benefits from God, through His Son Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Who is our only Saviour and Redeemer.

[Council of Trent, Session 25: On the Invocation and Veneration of Saints, of Relics, and of Sacred Images]

By which it is most evident that Catholics have recourse to the Angels and Saints for no other end, and in no other manner, than [only] that these blessed Spirits may become intercessors for them with our common Lord. Which is no more than what we desire of our brethren here on Earth, even tho’ we are ignorant whether their lives are in truth of such holiness as is necessary to render their prayers of any value.*

Where, then, are our understandings, when we think it an injury to Almighty God to betake ourselves to His assured friends for their assistance in this manner, and none at all to make the same [request] to those who, for aught we know, may be his enemies?

To conclude: I beseech our merciful Lord to hear the prayers of His holy Saints and Angels for those who are so blind as not to desire them; and for us who, tho’ we know by faith (and even by experience) how beneficial they are, have not that zeal and diligence in procuring them which we ought to have.”

* The bishop is thinking of James 5:16 (“The continual prayer of a righteous man avails much.”) and Psalm 65/66:18 (“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”) Basically, if you are wicked but you’re sorry for it, the Lord will hear you; you should pray, even if you keep messing up. But the Lord has no time for granting requests to wicked people who fully intend to keep sinning and don’t care what God thinks, and the Bible says this in plenty of places.


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