One of the misconceptions often trotted out about Catholics is that they “pray to the saints”. This is considered weird and quite possibly un-Christian. For a long time I thought this was true; that Catholics prayed to the saints, but it’s not true. Catholics don’t pray TO the saints, but they do pray THROUGH the saints.
Imagine that you’re having a really hard time with a particular issue. You want someone to pray for you about that issue, but there is also a part of you that wants someone who understands what you’re going through. So you call up a friend that you know has dealt with something similar in the past and you ask them to pray for you. Is their prayer more effective because they’ve been where you are? No. But there is something in knowing that this person knows how to pray for you. They know what you’re going through and so they can pray in a way that your other friends can’t. Maybe they’ll pray more passionately and more often and that knowledge brings you comfort.
That is the idea of praying through the saints. You aren’t praying to them, but you are asking them to intercede on your behalf trusting that they are with God. People ask certain saints to intercede on their behalf around certain issues (St. Jude for lost causes, St. Christopher for travel, etc.) because those saints were well acquainted in life with the troubles that come up around those issues.
Praying through the saints isn’t a way to avoid prayer altogether, but it is a way to feel less alone. Again, imagine the situation with asking a friend to pray for you. Sometimes you ask a friend because you need the extra support. Sometimes you ask a friend because at that moment you are unable to pray for yourself. Knowing that someone is going to God with your problem helps you to feel like there is someone else who has your back and is looking out for you. It can be a source of comfort and strength.
Sometimes we just need to know that we’re not alone.
If you’re having a tough time, try praying through some of these saints:
Infertility: Saint Anne
HIV-AIDS patients: Saint Lazarus of Dives
HIV-AIDS caregivers: Saint Aloysius Gonzaga
Gay People: Saint Sebastian
Loneliness: Saint Rita
Pets: Saint Martin de Porres
Prisoners: Saint Barbara and Saint Raymond,
Procrastinators: Saint Expedite
Social Justice: Saint Joseph
Writers: Saint Lucy and Saint Catherine of Sienna
Transgender people: Saint Joan of Arc
Singers: Saint Gregory and Saint Cecilia
Nerves: Saint Dymphna
Lost Articles: Saint Anthony
Clergy: St. Charles
Cancer Patients: Saint Agatha and Saint Peregrine