The Catholic Church places a high value on prayer. Catholics believe prayer is the medium through which a Christian can communicate with God. One purpose of Catholic prayer is intercession. Intercession simply means praying for someone else. Catholics believe that the Virgin Mary and the saints in heaven act as intercessors on behalf of Christians on earth.
Mary the Intercessor
Catholics hold the Virgin Mary in special regard. They believe she gave birth to Jesus, the Son of God. As such, Catholics believe Mary's prayers on their behalf receive special attention from God. Catholics don't pray to the Virgin Mary in the same way they would pray to Jesus, however. They don't believe Mary can answer their prayers directly. Instead, Catholics ask Mary to intercede for them and bring their petitions to God. Catholics pray to Mary more than to any saint.
The Saints as Intercessors
Christians who pass from this life to the next carry with them their attitudes, passions and ministries, according to Catholics. Catholics ask these saints to act as intercessors on their behalf in specific areas. For example, a Catholic veterinarian might ask Saint Francis to intercede for the health of a patient, as Saint Francis is the patron saint of animals. Here again, Catholics don't believe that saints answer their prayers but rather bring their prayers to God.
Catholics also believe that Christians have a duty to pray for one another. Living Catholics regularly pray for the health, safety, success and needs of other Christians. Catholics also see this type of prayer as intercessory prayer. Pope Benedict XVI pointed to Moses as an example of an intercessor. Catholics believe that Moses' example of praying for the people of God while they were enslaved in Egypt is a shining model of what a living intercessor does.
Intercessors Are Not Mediators
Protestants often object to Catholic beliefs in intercessors by pointing to scriptures indicating that Jesus is the only mediator between God and human beings. Catholics don't see Mary, the saints or one another as mediators. Instead, Catholics see intercessors as fellow Christians concerned enough for one another to pray for each other. Catholics believe that only God forgives sin and that Jesus is indeed the only mediator between God and human beings.
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