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The Saints


Who are the saints
Saints are holy people who have made it to Heaven. The key word is people, human. Since the saints are in Heaven and we celebrate many of them with special feast days, it is very easy to think of them as really holy people who rarely, if ever sinned, and almost always did what God wanted them to do, and who right after their death went to Heaven. We forget that they were human beings just like us and went through many of the exact same trials and temptations that we face. It is so easy to put them up on a pedestal as something to strive for and yet be almost impossible to attain. Their purpose, however, is not to be on a pedestal, but is to be an example of how a regular human being with regular struggles made it to Heaven and fulfilled the ultimate goal of life. It is true that many saints did lead extraordinary lives of penance, but that is a very unusual circumstance. Almost all the saints lived in the world and fulfilled their vocation, whether that to be a priest, religious or married person. They had to undergo trials and deal with the difficulties of life just like every person. If we read the lives, testimony and reflections of these everyday saints, we see how they struggled with life just as we do. They should be examples for us on how to live life in accordance with God, but examples to encourage, not to gaze in awe at. God gives everyone the necessary graces to become saints; the canonized simply responded to those graces better than others. There is no reason you can't do likewise.
Praying to, not worshiping, the saints
There is also a common criticism of Catholics that they pray to and worship the saints instead of worshiping God alone and that they worship statues of the saints. However, Catholics only worship God. He alone is the only being worthy of worship. Catholics merely pray to the saints to ask for their intercession with God. These saints are in Heaven before the face of God but they also know how hard it is to live well on earth, since they were once on earth. If we ask them for intercession with God and that they request, on our behalf, special graces, they will no doubt intercede with God for us. This is all we are doing when we pray to the saints; it is very similar to asking our neighbors to pray to God for healing or some grace. Statues of saints are also a controversial topic. Some believe that Catholics are violating the Old Testament command to not worship images. However, these images of the saints are simply a tangible reminder of their existence. As humans, physical things are very important and we often don't pay attention to something if we can't physically sense it. These statues are similar to pictures of relatives we might have in our homes. They remind us to imitate the saint depicted. Praying in front of statues is also not praying to a graven image, because the person is not worshiping the statue. That statue is there as a reminder of the saint and that the saint is in Heaven and is willing to intercede with God on our behalf.

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