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Can I pray to my deceased mom as I do to saints?

Just as you might ask friends, family, or fellow parishioners to pray for yon as you struggle through a difficult time or celebrate a particular blessing, you can ask those who have gone before us to do the same. They are still part of our community of believers--their faith in God connects them to us through the apparent boundaries of death and time.

In Catholic tradition the communion of saints includes superstars like Mary, Francis of Assisi, and Catherine of Siena. But there are also plenty of lesser-knowns in that group, including all the faithful who are living and those who have died. In her book Friends of God and Prophets: A Feminist Theological Reading of the Communion of Saints (Continuum), theologian Elizabeth Johnson calls All Saints' Day "that feast of splendid nobodies." And on November 1 we celebrate all those who live--or have lived--their faith through works of mercy, love, and compassion.

We are all part of what the church calls the "Mystical Body of Christ." In fact, your mom is probably just one of many people you know who belong to this vast body. Our relationship to those who have gone before us to be with God is important. By remembering them, we re-activate what Johnson calls the "subversive, encouraging, and liberating power of their love and witness" and renew hope for our world. Remembering Mom's appreciation of nature, her commitment to honesty, or her patience with the elderly provides an example of how to be holy in our everyday lives.

Praying for those who have died has been important ever since the church's early days. The Encyclopedia of Catholicism dates the term communion of saints back to the late fourth century, and teachings that the prayers of the living could help gain the release of those in purgatory were formalized by Pope Gregory I in the seventh century.

On the flip side, we can pray to those who have already gone on to eternal life because they are specially poised to intercede on our behalf. The word intercession comes from the combination of two Latin words: inter, as in "between," and cedere, as in "to go or pass." Our prayers can go or pass through our loved ones--whether they be Mother Mary or Mom--on their way to God.

By HEATHER GRENNAN GARY, associate editor of U.S. CATHOLIC.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Claretian Publications
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Glad you asked: q&a on church teaching
Author:Gary, Heather Grennan
Publication:U.S. Catholic
Date:Nov 1, 2004
Previous Article:You can get there from here: on All Souls' Day we affirm our Christian belief in life after death. But we can only dream about what the afterlife is...
Next Article:In the wake of death: thank God for a work of mercy that's got no respect for our overbooked schedules.

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