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Helpers on High (Part 3)

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Is it even appropriate to talk to the saints when we can just go straight to God? Karlo Broussard the author of Prepare the Way: Overcoming Obstacles to God, the Gospel, and the Church joins us with an answer as we end out three-part series.

Book Karlo to speak at your parish or next event.

Did you miss Part 1? Click here: Helpers on High (Part 1)

Want to hear Part 2? Click here: Helpers on High (Part 2)

Want more from Karlo Broussard?


Cy Kellett: Hello, and welcome again to Catholic Answers Focus. I am Cy Kellett your host, and again with us in studio this time, Karlo Broussard, the author of Prepare the Way: Overcoming Obstacles to God, the Gospel, and the Church. Hello again Karlo.

Karlo Broussard: Hey Cy, great to be back with you brother.

Cy Kellett: I’m starting to believe in the intercession of the saints, Karlo. You’ve been working on me for two weeks now.

Karlo Broussard: Wow, you’re saying I’m a saint. Right?

Cy Kellett: Yeah, that’s right.

Karlo Broussard: I’ve been praying for you, bro.

Cy Kellett: Right, exactly. I believe in sanctity now that I’ve been around you. We’ve tackled some of the Biblical justification for why we believe in the communion of the saints and in the intercession of the saints.

Karlo Broussard: Right.

Cy Kellett: Then we tackled some of the Biblical objections. Now I’d like to get to some of the objections about the appropriateness of the whole thing. Is this even necessary? This sounds like an add-on to a lot of Christians, I’m sure.

Karlo Broussard: Yes.

Cy Kellett: Like, why do we need this? This doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of it.

Karlo Broussard: Well, I would first of all ask, why? Why don’t you think it’s appropriate for us to make our requests known for the saints in Heaven and ask them to pray for us or to take our petitions?

Cy Kellett: Right.

Karlo Broussard: With them, approach the throne of the Lamb on our behalf. Well, one possible reason our Protestant friends might give is, “Well, I can just go straight to God.” Right? “I don’t need the saints.”

Cy Kellett: Yeah, that’s a really good objection, actually.

Karlo Broussard: I mean, it is. This is what we hear most often from folks, in just normal conversation. “Well, I don’t need the saints, I can just go straight to God.” Or, “Why go to the saints when you can go straight to God?” Well, first of all, it’s fairly simple and this has been articulated by apologists throughout the ages. Right?

Cy Kellett: Okay.

Karlo Broussard: If we follow that logic, well then, we would be required to reject all forms of requesting others to pray for us. Right?

Cy Kellett: Yeah, oh, that’s a good point.

Karlo Broussard: We could just simply respond and say, well you know, if we can go straight to God, well then, why should I ask you, Cy, to pray for me or why should you ask me to pray for you? You know, if you’re going to apply the “Me and God” theology, the “Me and God alone” theology …

Cy Kellett: Yeah, all that doesn’t work.

Karlo Broussard: … with regard to the saints, well then to be consistent, you’re going to have to apply the same “Me and God alone” theology in reference to the intercession of other Christians and Christians here on Earth. So I think that the logic embedded in that objection is going to lead a Christian in a direction they do not want to go and end up in a conclusion they do not want to conclude with.

Cy Kellett: Yes, okay.

Karlo Broussard: All right, so that would be my first response. Then secondly, I would say the ability to go straight to God, I mean yes of course, we can go straight to God. It’s not like you have to say, “Okay Mary, now Jesus, now God the Father,” right? Or, “St. Francis of Assisi, okay now I can go to Jesus.” Right?

Cy Kellett: Yeah.

Karlo Broussard: It’s not that. That’s not what the Catholic Church is saying. We can go straight to God, but here’s an important point, Cy. The ability to go straight to God doesn’t preclude the good of asking the saints to pray for us. St. Thomas Aquinas in the supplement of his Summa Theologiae, question 72 article one, his reply to objection one, he articulates a beautiful idea of the good of God using the saints as secondary causes to bring about certain effects. Right? Like, for example, God doesn’t need any of us here at Catholic Answers or any pastor in any Protestant church to communicate His truth to people here on Earth.

Cy Kellett: He does not.

Karlo Broussard: God has the power to just infuse the truth directly as He wills. He has the power to do that. He doesn’t need us. But yet, He wills to use human instruments to communicate the blessing of truth, and that’s a great good because, as human beings, we’re able to participate in God’s providential plan number one, and be real causes of real effects, which makes us more like God because He’s the ultimate cause of all effects, right, and being itself.

Karlo Broussard: What Aquinas articulates here in this particular passage I referred to earlier is it’s a great good that God will, or let me say it like this. It’s a great manifestation of God’s goodness that He would use the saints and their prayers as real causes to bring about real effects within human history and within our lives through their prayers. Just like it’s a great good that God wills to use my prayers to be a real cause to bring about real effects within my life and human history, right, even though He has the power to do it on His own. Even though we can go straight to God, it’s a great good to employ the prayers and the intercession of the saints because that manifests God’s greatness and God’s goodness. We ought to employ their prayers, just like we ought to employ prayers of fellow Christians here on Earth, because that is a great manifestation of God’s goodness.

Cy Kellett: Even, you know, like the works of charity. Say you go out and share food with the hungry or something like that. God could do that directly. He doesn’t need you.

Karlo Broussard: Hey, like Satan told Jesus, you know, change these stones into bread. God could change anything, He could just will food into existence at the feet of the poor person, but He doesn’t. Why? Because He wills for us to be cooperators with Him and His providential plan of feeding the poor.

Cy Kellett: Okay, so here’s the heart of the matter, though. I believe this is the most, it’s the sturdiest objection and it’s the one that is most prevalent, I think.

Karlo Broussard: Sure.

Cy Kellett: There is one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus.

Karlo Broussard: Where is that in the Bible? Come on, Cy.

Cy Kellett: It’s Timothy, somebody, 1 or 2 Timothy.

Karlo Broussard: 1 Timothy chapter 2.

Cy Kellett: Chapter 2, 1 Timothy chapter 2, that’s what I was going to say.

Karlo Broussard: Verse five.

Cy Kellett: Verse five, that’s what I meant, yeah.

Karlo Broussard: Yeah, that’s where our Protestant friends are getting this from, and you’re right Cy, this is a very common objection. Why go to the saints? How can you even ask the saints to intercede for you when the Bible says there is one mediator, Jesus Christ? First of all, my first response would be the same response as the previous objection. The logic embedded in this objection excludes all forms of Christian intercession.

Cy Kellett: Oh, right, right.

Karlo Broussard: I mean, because …

Cy Kellett: Why would I ask you to pray for me?

Karlo Broussard: That’s right. You know, if it undermines Jesus’ unique mediation or intercession for me to ask the saints in Heaven to pray for me, well then, me asking you to pray for me would also undermine Jesus’ unique mediation. But of course, no Christian wants to conclude that. Right? I mean, because in the very context itself of this passage, in verse 1 of 1 Timothy chapter 2, Saint Paul writes, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men.” In the very same text a few verses before, Paul is encouraging intercessions, so apparently in Paul’s mind, one Christian interceding for another Christian doesn’t take away from the unique mediation of Jesus Christ.

Karlo Broussard: Why would one Christian (Christian on Earth) asking another Christian, (Christian in Heaven) to intercede for him, why would that take away from the unique mediation of Jesus Christ? Of course it’s not, because we’re Christians making intercessions and supplications, well of course, they would be interceding for us, but that would in no way rob Jesus’ glory in being the unique mediator between God and man. I think what is important to point out, Cy, is that when we ask the saints to pray for us, they are taking us to Jesus through whom alone do we have access to the Father. It is Jesus alone who is our mediator between the throne of the Father and us. But, that’s not to say that the saints can’t mediate and intercede for us to approach the Lamb for us, and even with us, as we approach the Lamb of God in prayer.

Cy Kellett: Well, is it also the case that Jesus shares this intercessory power that he has?

Karlo Broussard: Yeah, that’s a good point.

Cy Kellett: Just like he shares other powers that He has.

Karlo Broussard: That’s right. Just because Jesus has a unique role in something, it doesn’t follow from that that we can’t participate or share in that unique ministry. Like, for example, the Bible says in Matthew 23:8 that Jesus is our one teacher. Right? He says call no man teacher, right, “Call no man rabbi.”

Cy Kellett: Right.

Karlo Broussard: But yet, we see elsewhere in the Bible, Ephesians 4:11, James 3:1, that other members of the church are called teachers. The very same Greek word is used for those people as is used for the unique teacher Jesus in Matthew 23:8, the daskalos I think is the Greek word there. Jesus is our unique high priest, according to Hebrews 3:1, but yet according to Peter in 1 Peter 2 verses 5 to 9, guess what? We’re all priests in as much as we’re baptized Christians and members of the mystical body of Christ, we’re all priests. Then similarly, just as Jesus is our unique mediator according to 1 Timothy 2:5, but it doesn’t follow from that that we can’t share in that unique mediation as we share in His unique teacher-hood, in His unique priestly ministry. I think that’s a good way to respond to this objection.

Cy Kellett: What about the necromancy objection?

Karlo Broussard: Oh, yes.

Cy Kellett: You shouldn’t be invoking the dead or calling upon the dead for assistance.

Karlo Broussard: Yeah, this is a big one, and I must admit, on the surface it has a lot of force. This objection, of course, is coming from Deuteronomy chapter 18 verses 10 through 12 where the Bible speaks of necromancy as an abomination to the Lord. Right? Many Protestants will use that and say, “You see what you’re doing as a Catholic, you’re communicating with the dead, man.” That’s what their assumption is: that’s what necromancy is, communicating with the dead, period.

Cy Kellett: Yep.

Karlo Broussard: They say, “Well, you Catholics are communicating with the dead, therefore you’re guilty of necromancy which the Bible condemns in Deuteronomy 18:10 through 11, or 10 through 12.” How do we respond? Well first of all, the condemnation within Deuteronomy 18 is conjuring spirits of the dead.

Cy Kellett: Okay, so that’s different, because we don’t conjure the saints.

Karlo Broussard: No we do not. That’s bringing them up in order to communicate with them in this sort of way that King Saul did with the spirit of the prophet Samuel. It’s conjuring, trying to conjure their spirits up in order to elicit secret knowledge beyond ordinary human knowledge apart from God. The context gives evidence of this. Like, for example, the context itself includes other forms of inquiry beyond ordinary intelligence, trying to get secret knowledge. Not only does it talk of necromancy or forbid necromancy, it forbids divination, seeking a medium, a sorcerer, a wizard, right, all of which have to do with an attempt to gain knowledge beyond ordinary human experience apart from God. Even the Hebrew phrase which is translated “necromancer” in our English Bible literally means “an inquirer of the dead.” Notice the focus or the emphasis is on seeking secret knowledge beyond ordinary human experience, beyond or apart from God.

Cy Kellett: Right.

Karlo Broussard: This is even supported further in the context because we read about the subsequent instruction that Moses gives concerning a coming prophet. In verse 15 he says, “God will raise up a prophet, him you shall heed.”

Cy Kellett: Yeah.

Karlo Broussard: Do you see the implication? Don’t go to the wizard and the necromancer and the divinizer and the sorcerer. The prophet that will come, him you shall heed. Verse 18, “I will put my words in his mouth and he shall speak to them what I shall command.” Then he goes on to articulate how the prophet who speaks in the name of God without God’s command or one who speaks in the name of other Gods shall die, in verse 20. The whole context is about, “Guys, children, don’t go to those necromancers, wizards, and sorcerers to get your knowledge. There will be a prophet to come liken to me, and to him you shall go to receive your knowledge.” That’s the emphasis. Right?

Cy Kellett: Yeah.

Karlo Broussard: This leads us to the actual practice of asking the saints to pray for us. In no way is necromancy what we’re doing as Catholics. Number one, we’re not seeking some medium to conjure up their souls. Right?

Cy Kellett: Right.

Karlo Broussard: Like King Saul did for the soul of the prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel 28. Nor are we trying to solicit some secret knowledge beyond ordinary human experience apart from God. This is not what we do as Catholics, and in fact, the Catechism condemns necromancy and this attempt to gain secret knowledge apart from God beyond ordinary human experience. In paragraph 2116 it talks about how the attempt to gain hidden knowledge through occult means contradicts the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone. Then it says, “All forms of divination that is to be likened to God, apart from God, are to be rejected.” Recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices, these are all to be rejected. The Catholic Church affirms what Deuteronomy 18:10 through 12 is condemning. It’s just the practice of asking the saints to pray for us is not what Deuteronomy 18:10 through 12 is condemning.

Cy Kellett: We’ve been at this now for three weeks, and I feel like it’s okay, it’s even good to ask for the intercession of the saints.

Karlo Broussard: Indeed, it is.

Cy Kellett: Well, praise God for that, because I need them.

Karlo Broussard: Amen, brother. I need all the help I can get from my friends in high places.

Cy Kellett: Karlo Broussard has been our guest. His book, if you’re looking for his book, is Prepare the Way: Overcoming Obstacles to God, the Gospel, and the Church. This fall, look out for his brand new book, which will be named something in the neighborhood of Answering the Protestant Challenge. Thank you Karlo.

Karlo Broussard: Thank you Cy.

Cy Kellett: Thank you to our listeners for joining us. We love it when you do. We appreciate it, and if you would go over and subscribe wherever you subscribe to podcasts and maybe leave a word of praise or some other review for Catholic Answers Focus we’d appreciate it, because that’s how people find us. We’ll see you next time on Catholic Answers Focus.

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