Karlo Broussard the author of Prepare the Way: Overcoming Obstacles to God, the Gospel, and the Church joins us for part two of our conversation about the saints, this time answering the most common objections to the intercession of the saints.
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Did you miss Part 1? Click here: Helpers on High (Part 1)
Want to hear Part 3? Click here: Helpers on High (Part 3)
Want more from Karlo Broussard?
- Prepare the Way: Overcoming Obstacles to God, the Gospel and the Church
- Meeting the Protestant Challenge
- Why God Still Matters
- The Bible Blueprint for the Priesthood
- The Bible Blueprint for the Mass
Cy Kellett: Hello and welcome again to Catholics Answers Focus. I am Cy Kellett, your host. We continue a conversation we began last week on Focus on the intercession of the saints. Can the saints hear us? Can they do anything for us? Should we ask them for their help? Catholics answer yes to all of the above, not all Christians do however. Our guest, once again, is Karlo Broussard, the author of Prepare The Way: Overcoming Obstacles to God, the Gospel, and the Church, and all around good guy. Hello Karlo.
Karlo Broussard: Hello Cy.
Cy Kellett: Okay, so we established last time beyond all refutation … Well maybe I’m exaggerating slightly. But, we gave the basics of how you establish that this is a Biblical idea, that the saints pray for us and present our prayers to God.
Karlo Broussard: And therefore, reasonable conclude for us to make our requests known to them.
Cy Kellett: Now we got some objections to that. These are objections from the Bible about the ability of the saints to do that. Like look, the Bible says things that plainly contradict what you, Mr. Catholic Man, are saying.
Karlo Broussard: Right, the idea is, “How can you say that the saints can intercede for us, when the Bible says these other things,” right?
Cy Kellett: Right.
Karlo Broussard: These objections are oriented or directed to the idea that the saints can actually intercede for us in the first place. It’s objections directed to their ability to intercede for us. One of those objections comes from Ecclesiastes chapter 9 versus 5 and 10 in the Old Testament, where the author is talking about the death, the human reality of death, trying to make sense out of death from an earthly perspective.
Karlo Broussard: Saying things like, “It is better to be alive than to die.” Why? Because as he says, “The dead know nothing.” Right? He says, “There is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going there,” in Ecclesiastes chapter 9 verse 10. The objection goes, if the Bible says the dead know nothing, well then, it follows from that that the saints in Heaven would not know the prayers that you’re offering to them. Because the Bible teaches they are unable to intercede for you, well then, you ought not to be asking for their prayers. Right?
Cy Kellett: Right.
Karlo Broussard: That’s a logical argument. That conclusion logically follows from the premises, but we have to challenges those premises. Right? Here’s how I would begin to answer this, Cy. I think first of all, we have to consider this is Old Testament revelation. This is revelation, this is given to us before the revelation of the New Testament.
Cy Kellett: Right.
Karlo Broussard: It’s operating only within the confines of Old Testament teaching, not taking into consideration New Testament teaching. We as Catholics say, there is evidence in the New Testament to give us new revelation that souls in the afterlife, in Heaven, do and can actually intercede for us. The objector is going to have to take that claim into consideration.
Cy Kellett: Can I ask you something real quick right there?
Karlo Broussard: Yeah.
Cy Kellett: Is it also the case that there’s more revelation, but that the situation of the dead actually changes with the coming of Jesus?
Karlo Broussard: Amen.
Cy Kellett: Okay, all right.
Karlo Broussard: Because, if we bring into the mix, right, the Christian revelation of the beatific vision, which souls before Christ’s ascent into Heaven did not have, well then, yeah, I mean, what the Old Testament is saying is true. The souls in the afterlife was a very shadowy existence. First of all, the Jews in the Old Testament didn’t have much revelation about the afterlife, and because they didn’t have the beatific vision, generally speaking it’s safe to say they would not have knowledge of what’s going on here on Earth.
Karlo Broussard: But, there are hints here and there. We have evidence in the Old Testament that the deceased do, in some cases, have knowledge of what’s going on here on Earth, and that could be by God’s grace and God empowering them to do so. I’m thinking of the spirit of the Prophet Samuel in First Samuel chapter 28 when King Saul approaches the witch or the medium and conjures up the spirit of the Prophet Samuel, and Samuel’s talking to him. He’s conscious, right? He has cognitive awareness of what’s going on in King Saul’s life here on Earth. I’m thinking of Jeremiah in Second Maccabees chapter 15, the dead prophet who is praying for the people of Israel. There are hints in the Old Testament that the souls in the afterlife in certain circumstances do have knowledge of what’s going on here on earth.
Karlo Broussard: But perhaps generally speaking, the author of Ecclesiastes is right. Yeah, the dead know nothing, right? But, with the new revelation of Jesus Christ and what He allows for the righteous souls in the afterlife to experience, namely the beatific vision, seeing the essence of God, having a created light of glory, which then empowers them and allows them to do then what they could not do prior to the beatific vision, namely have knowledge of what’s going on here on Earth, and in particular the requests that we make known to them. Because of the beatific vision, which Saint John says in First John 3:2, “We shall see him as he is. We shall be like him.” Right?
Cy Kellett: Yes.
Karlo Broussard: Even Paul talks about how we will be transformed into the likeness of Christ in Romans 8:29 and 1 Corinthians 15:49 through 42. We will image Christ. Well, what does Christ do for an eternity? He “intercedes,” according to the author of Hebrews. If we’re likened to Christ, who intercedes forever for God’s people here on Earth, well then it’s reasonable to conclude that the saints in Heaven would imitate Jesus in interceding for God’s people here on Earth.
Karlo Broussard: In light of that theology of what is revealed, namely the beatific vision, it’s reasonable to conclude that the saints in Heaven would be able to know what’s going on here on Earth, and then we actually have evidence that they in fact do. This points back to our previous segment when we looked at Revelation 5:8, the 24 elders offering up the prayers of the saints in the form of incense. Well, we’ve already established that they are human souls, they are actually offering up petitions and maybe even praises of Christians here on Earth. Well, what does that imply? That they are aware of prayers of Christians on Earth. If they are aware, well then we ask, how is that? Well, they wouldn’t be able to have that awareness by their own natural powers, but it doesn’t follow from that that God couldn’t give them power in order for them to be aware of those prayers here on Earth. It’s an added power being given to them above their natural powers.
Cy Kellett: That’s not the only one. There could be be a lot of powers.
Karlo Broussard: Amen to that, amen to that. Even to see …
Cy Kellett: That’s what Heaven is.
Karlo Broussard: Think about this, even to see God’s essence and who He is, the beatific vision itself requires a created light of glory to enhance or elevate the intellect in order to know God’s essence, because we can’t know God’s essence by our own natural power. If that’s possible, well then, it’s a cinch …
Cy Kellett: This is nothing compared to that, right.
Karlo Broussard: It’s a cinch for God to give the created, finite mind the power to know what’s going on here on Earth.
Cy Kellett: Yeah, if you’re planning on seeing God face to face, which you should be planning on and preparing for, then these other things are trivial by comparison.
Karlo Broussard: Yeah, and just a couple of more Bible passage I’ll just throw out very quickly. We could look at Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19 through 31. According to that parable of Jesus, there is knowledge going on in the afterlife. Those deceased souls, those souls are aware of what’s going on on Earth. But, here’s a very good text, Revelations 6:9, Saint John sees the martyrs under the altar who, crying out that God would avenge their blood upon their enemies on Earth.
Cy Kellett: Yes.
Karlo Broussard: Notice, they are aware that their enemies are alive on Earth and they’re crying out for God’s justice. They have knowledge that their enemies are alive on Earth, and they have the conscious activity of crying out for God’s justice. In light of that New Testament revelation, it’s not true to say that the dead know nothing; now, they do know some things.
Cy Kellett: Yep. All right, but what about the idea from the 2 Chronicles that God alone knows the hearts of men? How can we say that these people know …
Karlo Broussard: That’s right.
Cy Kellett: … what people are saying interiorly, and by these people I mean the saints in Heaven?
Karlo Broussard: Yeah, because it’s not like they got ears up there. They don’t have their glorified bodies back, so they can’t hear. Then, many times prayers are uttered within the thoughts of our minds and within the interior movements of our heart. How would they have knowledge of this, right, because the Bible says God alone knows the hearts of men?
Karlo Broussard: Here’s how we can answer it. Number one, there’s nothing contrary to reason, getting back to what we were saying earlier, there’s nothing contrary to reason, getting back to what we were saying earlier, for God to reveal His knowledge of interior thoughts of men to created intellects. It’s true that only God has knowledge of what’s going on in your mind, Cy, of His own nature. Like, He has that knowledge by virtue of being who He is, namely God.
Cy Kellett: Right.
Karlo Broussard: That belongs to His nature. Right?
Cy Kellett: To know all things.
Karlo Broussard: To know all things and to know the interior movements of your heart and the thoughts of your mind. But, there’s nothing contrary to reason for God to reveal such knowledge …
Cy Kellett: Yeah.
Karlo Broussard: … of what’s in your heart and mind to a created intellect. There’s nothing contrary to reason for that, because for a saint to know what’s going on in your heart and your mind, a knowledge given to him by God, yes, but that knowledge doesn’t exhaust the entire divine essence.
Cy Kellett: No.
Karlo Broussard: It’s not like that saint has to totally comprehend the divine essence in order to know your thoughts and what’s in your heart. There’s nothing contrary to reason to suggest that God could reveal His knowledge, that He knows of Himself, to a finite created intellect. Here’s the second answer. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament, Cy, reveals that, in fact, God does this.
Cy Kellett: Ah ha, we see Him doing it.
Karlo Broussard: We see Him doing it and revealing knowledge, that He has of Himself of interior movements of the heart and the mind, and revealing that to finite intellect. In the Old Testament, remember Daniel, in Daniel chapter 2?
Cy Kellett: Yeah.
Karlo Broussard: He know Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Right? He not only interpreted the dream, but before that he articulated the dream.
Cy Kellett: Yeah, right.
Karlo Broussard: Only God could know that, and God revealed that knowledge to him. In the New Testament in Acts chapter 5, we discover how Peter knew Ananias’ sin, of how he lied to the Holy Spirit in his heart. Verse 4 says, “How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God.” Now, what Ananias did, withholding money and not giving it to the apostles, is an external act. But, what he did in private was not subject to verification by others.
Cy Kellett: Right.
Karlo Broussard: Even though this is an external act he’s doing, Peter still had knowledge of what was going on, and even speaking explicitly of what’s going on in his heart.
Cy Kellett: Yeah.
Karlo Broussard: We see there an indication that God is revealing knowledge to Peter, knowledge that only God would have, of Himself, but revealing it to Peter. Then of course, Revelation 5:8, once again the 24 elders, that’s plain evidence that they know what’s going on within the Christians’ heart and mind here on Earth. Because, it’s reasonable to assume that not all those prayers that they’re offering in the form of incense are verbal prayers, it’s reasonable to conclude that some of those prayers would be interior prayers, and so God gives them the created light of glory in the mind in order to know what those prayers are, even if they are within the heart and within the mind.
Cy Kellett: What about the objection that basically this is polytheism? You’re making gods out of all of these saints.
Karlo Broussard: Yeah, and this is related to the first objection. Right? The problem with that, Cy, is that the assumption is that if the saints are able to know, let’s say there’s 6 billion people on the planet, and if the saints are able to know 6 billion prayers at the same time, they would have to be omniscient, and therefore you’re making a god out of them. Right?
Cy Kellett: Yeah.
Karlo Broussard: But, that’s a flawed assumption. Why? Because just as knowledge of your interior prayer doesn’t exhaust the entire divine essence, like, a saint doesn’t have to know or comprehend in full the divine essence in order to know your interior prayers, so too, a saint doesn’t have to know or fully comprehend the entire divine essence in order to know a finite number, in this case it’s 6 billion prayers, right, 6 billion interior prayers. That knowledge does not entail, doesn’t necessitate, a full comprehension of the divine essence.
Cy Kellett: Because it’s finite number.
Karlo Broussard: Because it’s a finite number. If that’s the case, well then, the saint doesn’t have to have infinite knowledge in order to have knowledge of that finite number of prayers. Now, it is true that a saint doesn’t have the power to know all of those prayers at the same time, of themself.
Cy Kellett: Right.
Karlo Broussard: Of themselves, or of himself, or of herself, to get it right there. They don’t have the power naturally, but because it doesn’t require infinite power, this is a knowledge that God can communicate to the finite mind by a created light of glory. This is what Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches in his Summa Theologiae part 1 question 12 article 7, the idea that these …
Cy Kellett: Is it 7 or 6? I’m just teasing you.
Karlo Broussard: I think it’s 7.
Cy Kellett: Karlo, I got you on that one.
Karlo Broussard: This is what teaches, that God gives the saints in Heaven … Actually, it might even be in the supplement. I think it’s actually the supplement of the Summa Theologiae, because this is where he talks about … I’m going to have to go back and check on that one, Cy.
Cy Kellett: Oh my gosh, I can’t even believe that I know nothing about this and I was just teasing him.
Karlo Broussard: You got me thinking here. Our listeners can check out the first part of the … That’s it, okay, it’s not in the supplement here. In the first part of the Summa, question 12 article 7, he’s talking about the need, for the intellect to see the divine essence, to have a created light of glory. That same created light of glory is what enhances the intellect to have knowledge of multiple prayers at the same time. Which, is not infinite knowledge, only God alone–or that’s double alone right–God alone can have full knowledge or fully comprehend His own divine essence. But, this sort of knowledge that the saints have of our prayers doesn’t require full comprehension of the divine essence. In saying that the saints can know all of these prayers at the same time, we’re not making gods out of them. We’re not saying they’re omniscient by any stretch of the imagination.
Cy Kellett: Okay, so my mother is still here on Earth. Let’s say my mother passes away, she goes to Heaven, she’s probably not going to pass through Purgatory because she had me for a kid, all right, so she’s dealt with that.
Karlo Broussard: She made up all the satisfaction for temporal punishment, right?
Cy Kellett: Right, so she goes straight to Heaven. Now she is perfected as God has intended to perfect her, and then along comes me and I’m like, “Mom, I…” let’s see … what did I do? “I gambled away the rent money. I’m in trouble.” My mother is in perfect happiness. Won’t I be making her sad by doing that?
Karlo Broussard: That’s a very good objection, and in fact, this is an objection that Saint Thomas Aquinas puts forward. Here’s where the supplement comes in.
Cy Kellett: Oh, okay.
Karlo Broussard: That’s why I was getting confused. The supplement to the Summa Theologiae question 72 article 1, Aquinas presents this argument. The argument you could formulate like this, Cy. If the saints know our prayers and deeds, they would know our sorrows or our woes. If they know our sorrows or our woes, they wouldn’t be happy, but of course in Heaven they have to be happy, so therefore they can’t know our sorrows and therefore they can’t know our prayers and deeds. Right? How do we respond? Well first of all, Aquinas just simply says that there’s no place for sorrow in the overwhelming joy of the beatific vision. Now, I must admit, that answer is a little bit, seems to be selling us short. Right?
Cy Kellett: It seems like an assertion more than anything else.
Karlo Broussard: Right, right.
Cy Kellett: Just like, oh, okay.
Karlo Broussard: I mean, I don’t say this very often, but I’m like, “Come on Aquinas, give us something a little more here.” I have to actually think about this one a little bit. Here’s one possible answer. Notice that the objection assumes that the saints have awareness of everything that goes on in our lives. I don’t see any reason why we could possibly challenge that. Because, think about it, if God is the one who is giving the saints in Heaven knowledge…now, I haven’t vetted this yet with other apologists so I’m walking out on a limb here.
Cy Kellett: Here we go.
Karlo Broussard: I’m going to make that caveat, right. Think about this, God is the one who gives the saints in Heaven the knowledge in order to know the request that we’re making of them. Right? It seems reasonable to conclude that it’s possible, this is just one possible answer, that God would withhold knowledge from those saints in Heaven of woes that we experience on Earth and only give them knowledge of the good things. I could see somebody taking that line of argument. You know, probably not the way it is, but that’s one possible solution to the objection. Right?
Cy Kellett: Right.
Karlo Broussard: Now, I think another reason that I think or another line of approach I could say, even if they do know our woes, the knowledge had in the divine essence gives certain knowledge about a good to come. I think that’s a better approach here.
Cy Kellett: Okay.
Karlo Broussard: Because, think about it, if the saint is seeing God’s essence, right, either A, he has knowledge of a specific good that would come out of a permitted suffering in your life. Right? But, even if the saint doesn’t know of a specific greater good that God will bring about in His providential plan, the saint at least, knowing the divine essence, is going to have certitude that there will be a greater good to come about from a permitted woe or suffering in your life. Right?
Karlo Broussard: Then also too, another possible idea is that they would simply rejoice in knowing that it’s not God’s will to vanquish the woe or the suffering. Because, remember, they only pray for that which is in conformity with God’s will, and God wills for them to be secondary causes of effects brought about in the world. Right? Even though they would have awareness of a woe or of a suffering, it wouldn’t undermine their happiness because their prayer is in complete conformity with God’s will and they would know it’s not God’s will to vanquish this woe or suffering and get rid of it because of some greater good, they might even know what that good is that God will bring about, and they rejoice in that.
Cy Kellett: In the good, yeah.
Karlo Broussard: In the good that God will bring about and the good of God’s will and His providential plan. I think this is a line of reasoning that we could take in order to respond to this objection that, no, the saints wouldn’t necessarily be in sorrow in having knowledge of our woes and sufferings here on Earth. That’s only because they’re in a totally different state of existence than we are here on Earth. Right?
Cy Kellett: Yes, right.
Karlo Broussard: I mean, so it’s dis-analogous to try and project upon them …
Cy Kellett: Our feelings.
Karlo Broussard: … what we experience here on Earth, because we don’t have the beatific vision, they do.
Cy Kellett: Karlo Broussard is our guest. We’re working our way through the Catholic understanding of the intercession of the saints. Next time, we’ll take on a different kind of objections. These objections are, it just doesn’t seem to fit, it doesn’t seem appropriate with all that we know about the Christian faith and a reasonable understanding of our Christian faith that we should do this. We’ll get to all those objections about appropriateness next time. Thank you Karlo Broussard.
Karlo Broussard: Thank you Cy, God bless.
Cy Kellett: This is Catholic Answers Focus. I am Cy Kellett your host, and hey, subscribe, will you? Wherever you subscribe to your podcasts, go over there and subscribe. Also, would you leave a review for us? That way, other people will find us as well. We’ll see you next time on Catholic Answers Focus.