“Ask a Priest: Is It OK for a Longtime Sufferer to Pray to the Saints?”

Q:  I have been diagnosed with a virus, and for many years I have had a condition called polyneuropathy. My whole body feels intense burning, stinging, tingling and itching sensations all day long. It is very hard living with this condition. The virus, which I’m told is incurable, is making my neuropathy worse. I believe in the power of prayer, and I went online seeking help with praying for my condition. A pastor answered back, saying he had said the perfect healing prayer for my condition, and if I believe and have faith, I am healed. I told him I have been praying to saints, Jesus and Mother Mary. He told me I am only to pray to Jesus, and he quoted many biblical passages relating to this. I was baptized Roman Catholic as a baby. But my parents only did this because of my grandmother. All my life, until just a few months ago, I have never been in a Catholic church. My mother took us to non-denominational or Presbyterian churches. The pastor who did the healing prayer says I am now reborn again and I need to attend a Pentecostal church. I am confused. Since I was baptized Catholic, can a long-distance prayer make me born again? Is it wrong to pray to saints for my healing? I am desperate and want to do the right thing. According to this pastor I am healed and need to thank Jesus every day and not pray anymore — that if I pray, it is like saying I don’t believe Jesus healed me. I went and had a blood test done and I am still positive for the virus. It is a very low positive, and I believe this will become negative. But I am in so much pain with my neuropathy and I can’t think straight. I have just started attending Mass, but I’m not sure if the Catholic Church is the right church for me. Any guidance and answers would be most appreciated. And if you’d like to pray for my healing, I would be so grateful. – D.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It sounds as though Our Lord has allowed a heavy cross in your life with the polyneuropathy and now this virus.

Part of our Christian faith tells us, however, that the cross can be an instrument to help us grow in holiness. It helps us focus on the most important things in life, for instance.

Regarding your questions, let me try to answer briefly.

First, baptism can only be received once. It is a onetime sacrament since it marks an indelible mark on the soul. People speak of being reborn, but strictly speaking they are not receiving baptism a second time.

The Church still considers you its daughter because of your being baptized Catholic. The Church is here to embrace you if you decide to practice the Catholic faith.

As for praying to Mary and the saints, that is fine. Salvation history is full of cases of mediation and intercession. Think of Moses, who frequently interceded for the Israelites before God.

Intercessory prayer was also encouraged in the New Testament. St. Paul exhorted, “First of all, then, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity This is good and pleasing to God our savior” (1 Timothy 2:1-3).

None of this is meant to dissuade us from praying directly to Jesus. It’s just that at times, we feel more comfortable going to Mary or the saints to intercede for us with Our Lord. It’s like going to friends to ask them to pray for us, but in this case our friends are already with the Lord in heaven.

As for prayers and healing: It is certainly within God’s power to grant prayers and heal someone. You might, however, want to be wary of someone who promises healing if this or that prayer is said. This can border on presumption.

In fact, God has a way of answering prayers in ways that are unexpected. His might have his own timetable. Sometimes he answers the way we want, but sometimes he answers by giving us what we really need.

And it is certainly not offensive to God to continue to pray for the same intention. Jesus himself taught us to do that with his parable about the widow and the unjust judge in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 18.

The fact that you are searching and that you have started to attend Mass might be a sign of how God is leading you.

My suggestion would be to continue attending Mass, and to try to learn more about the Catholic faith. One place to start would be the Youth Catechism, or YouCat.

If you are more curious about the faith, you might ask the nearest parish about joining an RCIA program.

And continue to pray to Mary especially. She is a great intercessor with her Son. You might benefit significantly from our Retreat Guide on the value and meaning of suffering, called “A Mother’s Tears.”

I hope some of this helps. Count on being included in my intentions at Mass.

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