Momentarily Stumped and a Missed Opportunity

Last night’s session was excellent. We focused on the Cross of Jesus and how Catholics understand the role of suffering in our lives. Lots of good questions including one that stumped me momentarily.

I had asked the young people what could possible transform the image of a crucified man into a symbol of victory. Eventually one of them responded correctly that Jesus’ Resurrection transformed the Cross into our symbol of victory over sin and death. I emphasized that this makes all the difference in the world because the person we are entrusting our lives to – Jesus – is alive. I said that Abraham Lincoln was a great person and we remember him and talk about him but he is dead. Jesus is alive and that’s why we can and should take time to pray. Then came the question…a very good one.

A young lady asked, “Then why do we pray to Mary and the saints? Aren’t they dead?” I explained our belief in the Assumption of Mary and the Communion of Saints and the notion that Mary and the saints are alive in a different way than we are alive here on earth. Mary, of course, is alive bodily in God’s presence however, for the just – the Communion of Saints – that living is incomplete…until the resurrection of the body.”

I realized that in answering her, I had contradicted myself. I first said that Abe Lincoln was dead and now I was saying that those who are just in the eyes of God are alive in the Communion of Saints. I could see the look of confusion on her face and I felt confused myself at the moment asking myself, “Then are people in the Communion of Saints alive in a different way than Jesus is alive?” At the moment, I couldn’t delve any further into the subject, so we moved on to the rest of the lesson.

Upon reflection afterwards, I realized that I missed an opportunity to make a few important clarifications. First, the main difference between Jesus and other just people who have died, including Mary (who has tasted the resurrection of the body), is that JESUS IS GOD! That’s why we pray to him and not to Abe Lincoln. Secondly, we could, if we wanted to, pray to Abe Lincoln, or any other just person who is deceased, for their intercession (if we believe that this person is redeemed in Christ).

Next week, I look forward to beginning the session by making these clarifications. I think they will be very helpful for the young people to understand just why we pray and how we pray.

This is one of the wonderful things about being a catechist. From time to time, we find ourselves at a loss for answering a question. What do we do? We do what disciples do…we learn! I went to a colleague of mine and chatted about this issue and he helped to clarify the main issues at work here. By returning to this issue next week, I hopefully will be modeling for the young people how we are to be continually seeking clarity in our faith so that we can grow closer to our Lord.  

About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at


  1. Maybe I am wrong in my Catholic understanding, but I tell my students that there are several forms of prayer. One form, praise and worship, should be directed only to the Trinity. To God be all the Glory, Amen.
    Intercessory prayer can be directed to the Blessed Virgin Mother (Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners…), saints (recognized as well as all the Communion of Saints) and our earthly family and friends (…and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God)

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