A few weeks ago, I lost a small screw while helping someone fix his glasses. This screw was tiny even for frames. I accidentally dropped the screw, and then our not so merry crew began to search for the humble hardware. We looked in vain for about twenty minutes, and I was starting to lose hope. I then suggested that we pray to Saint Anthony. I began the prayer, and as soon as I got to the word, “find,” one of the seekers exclaimed, “Found it!” The Lutheran fellow who owned the glasses joked that he should convert to Catholicism.
The episode occasioned thoughts about the cult of the saints. I wondered why Protestants resisted it so strongly. Protestants frequently bring up the “middleman” objection—why not simply pray to God directly? This is a strawman argument, as there has never been a Christian who did not pray to God directly. It then occurred to me that Protestantism—the spiritual side of modernity—is intensely individualistic, and perhaps that individualism is behind the Protestant inability to appreciate the Church Triumphant.
Protestants might ask why God would “assign” saints to assist the faithful. After all, the Lord is omniscient and omnipotent; he does not need an army of prayer listeners in heaven’s call center. However, we might just as well ask why God expects us to walk as children of light. We Christians are God’s invasion force that brings the gospel to the world. God works through us, not because he needs us, but because such is the fulfillment of our purpose and of our nature. We are to be gloves for the divine hands. I do not see why that role would change upon earthly death. If the saints are involved in intercessions and miracles, it is because God allows them to continue to serve their fellow men because that is their nature. God’s economy allows human beings to be his intermediaries; such is his gift to us. It is not an indication of any sort of weakness in God.
For this to make sense, however, one must see mankind corporately. We exist for one another and are accountable to one another. Our destiny is not simply as an individual; the highest thing is not between “me and God,” as one so often hears Protestants proclaim (and note the order of importance shown in the common saying). Rather, human life is social, even in its salvation. The Church teaches that it remains so even in heaven.