Saturday, October 01, 2011

God's Got a Lot of Buffers

Fans of the movie The Godfather Part II will no doubt recall the scene that inspired the title above.

One of the things about really devout Catholics is that they don't just pray to God.  They are constantly calling on the Virgin Mary (also frequently referred to as Our Lady), or Saint This, That or The Other One to intercede with God on their behalf.  There are a lot of saints in Catholicism.  Heck, there's even a Patron Saint of Artillery.

One of my wife's cousins, who can hardly seem to write about anything on Facebook except religious nonsense (and who I suspect is not exactly playing with a full deck), is really into Padre Pio and promoted Pio as someone to whom directing intercessory prayers could really get some results.

So how does this intercessory prayer thing work?  According to the New Advent web site, "The Catholic doctrine of intercession and invocation is set forth by the Council of Trent."

Here is what the Council had to say about intercessory prayer:

"the saints who reign together with Christ offer up their own prayers to God for men. It is good and useful suppliantly to invoke them, and to have recourse to their prayers, aid, and help for obtaining benefits from God, through His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, Who alone is our Redeemer and Saviour.

Prayer is offered to a person in two ways: one as though to be granted by himself, another as to be obtained through him. In the first way we pray to God alone, because all our prayers ought to be directed to obtaining grace and glory which God alone gives, according to those words of the Psalm (lxxxiii, 12): 'The Lord will give grace and glory.' But in the second way we pray to the holy angels and to men not that God may learn our petition through them, but that by their prayers and merits our prayers may be efficacious."

So, God is more likely to answer the prayers of Timmy's family to cure his cancer if the family pleads to scores of saints, who in turn will give the almighty their hearty recommendation?  That sounds exactly like some autocratic monarch who only answers the appeals of his subjects if some influential minister at court has the monarch's ear.

I also came across a lot of this intercessory prayer stuff while reading the Spiritual Diaries of Ignatius of Loyola, or Iggy for short. Take this entry from February 15, 1544:

"Next on preparing  to leave for mass, as I began to pray, I could feel, and was shown, our Lady, also how great had been my fault the previous day: I felt moved within and wept, for I seemed to be putting Our Lady to shame in having her intercede for me so often, because of my many failing.  So much so that Our Lady hid from me and I found no devotion in her or higher than her.  A little later, when I sought to go higher, as I could not find Our Lady (maybe she was hiding out in the Lady's Room?) a mighty impulse to weep and sob gripped me (Oh fuck!  There he goes again with the weeping!) and I seemed to see or feel that the Heavenly Father showed Himself propitious and kind - to the point of making clear to me that he would be pleased if Our Lady, whom I could not see, would intercede."

On February 18, it got even more convoluted:

"A little later I wondered where I should begin and it occurred to me that it might be with all the Saints, putting my cause in their hands, so that they might pray to Our Lady and Her Son to be intercessors on my half before the Blessed Trinity."

In other words, Iggy wanted the saints to convince the Virgin Mary and Jesus to plead his cause to the Trinity.  Talk about sending it up the chain of command.  But the part that gets me is that Jesus is supposed to be one third of the Trinity, so isn't that like asking Jesus to plead to himself?  Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.  I can see why some people would find Protestantism more appealing, because it cut out the middleman, in this case, the Catholic Church and its legions of saints hanging around that Versailles in the sky.

Way back when I was a believing Catholic more than two decades ago, I don't recall ever praying to saints or even the Virgin Mary. Though I knew about some of the different saints, I never really gave it much consideration. When I prayed, which was often, I prayed to God only.  Maybe that's why my prayers were never answered!

1 comment:

phillychief said...

I think you hit on one of the two major problems, this idea that your prayers need a signal boost via saints. It can't be that an all powerful being needs help both hearing everyone's prayers and sorting through the multitude of them, so that just means he's a lazy prick. ;)

Of course the BIG issue is prayers being answered at all, and I'm not talking about evidence for their success, I'm talking about the very idea of it directly contradicts the free will argument which then has a cascade effect (for instance, the apologetic for the PoE).

The free will argument is just silly anyway. I mean, how many times does this god take an active part in Earthly affairs in the OT? The very idea of Jesus is probably the biggest argument against free will there is.