Dear Sister Sunday,
My new brother-in-law is an evangelical Protestant. I love my sister and her husband and I want a good relationship with both of them, but he won’t get off my case about what he calls “praying to dead people.” He says Catholics make gods of the saints and that the Bible forbids this. He’s forever quoting the Ten Commandments at me, especially the first, the one about not having strange gods. But if he doesn’t leave me alone, I’m about to actually violate one of the commandments, the fifth. Help!
Signed, Besieged and Beset Sister-in-Law
Of course, you’re brother-in-law is correct. There is One God, whom alone we serve (well, when we’re not whoring after the latest MacBook Pro — retina display! — or a tricked out Ford F150 or any number of everyday idolatries) and to whom we pray. You can reassure him of that.
This is all we Catholics do, we ask faithful fellow believers to pray for us.
Then, in a calm, or calmer, moment, inquire if he ever seeks out fellow Christians and asks them to pray for him. I’ll wager he does ask others in his church to pray for him, and I’ll further wager that he asks those he knows to be faithful in prayer. He might even ask someone he’s never met — perhaps a Facebook friend — to pray for him. Or the cousin of a friend, who, he’s heard, prays daily for the healing of souls and bodies.
Then explain that this is all we Catholics do, we ask faithful fellow believers to pray for us. We understand, as he does, that distance and time do not break our communion in Christ, nor does even death, thanks to Jesus’ dying on the cross and rising from the tomb. We can ask those pilgrims walking with us, as well as those who have gone before us in faith, to pray for us.
And here, you might point him to the best-known petition to a saint, the Hail Mary, in which we ask, “Pray FOR us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” (Emphasis mine.) Who might be more faithful in prayer than the woman who stood praying at the cross while her son suffered and died?
And if your sister and brother-in-law are blessed with children, he might want to consider asking St. Monica to pray for him along the way. Tell him how she prayed for seventeen solid years for the conversion of her son, Augustine, with, I must point out, spectacular results.
As for you, Babs, you might ask Saint Eugene de Mazenod to pray. He’s the patron of dysfunctional families.
Sincerely, and thanks for asking,