Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Saints vs. Souls vs. Angels

One of the most common misconceptions I hear regarding the Catholic faith is the differentiation among Saints, Angels and Souls.  I have too often heard someone refer to a deceased relative as being in Heaven, or even worse, as being an Angel in Heaven.  I also know many people who get confused as to why we pray to/for people that have died.  Here's an elementary explanation (the kind my faith are built upon!) of why Catholics do what they do on All Saints Day (yesterday) and All Souls Day (today).

These are real people who have lived on Earth and died, and are confirmed to be in Heaven.

Some of these people led wonderful, holy lives and served God faithfully.  Others were party animals and led sinful lives, but at some point had a great conversion and led others to do the same.  A few were even martyrs...literally giving their lives for Christ.  Saints are human.

They become saints through an incredibly long and thorough process in the Church, which you can read about here.  Although many more people could be in Heaven, these are the ones we know for sure.

An angel is a Heavenly being created by God.

A human being can not become an angel as much as an orange can not become an apple.  Not possible.  If you die and go to Heaven, you're a saint, not an angel.

Just like saints, we can pray to the angels for their intercession.  We can ask them to ask God for help.  In a big company, you might not go directly to the President to ask a favor, but first ask his secretary, the Vice President, or his close co-workers.  Then let them approach the Big Guy on your behalf.  Same with God, get it?

Without getting too theological (because I'm not) a human is composed of a body and a soul.  Our bodies die and our souls live forever.  On All Souls Day, we pray for all the humans who have died, that they may have eternal life in Heaven.

While we would love to think that Grandma is in Heaven, God has told us not to judge.  That means we do not condemn anyone to Hell nor put them on a pedestal in Heaven.  We must continuously pray for their soul.  What an injustice it is to categorize someone as a saint in Heaven and therefore no longer pray for their soul.  They need our prayers, as one day we will need the prayers of the faithful.

So today, I will pray for the Souls...that one day they will become Saints and live with all the Angels in Heaven :)


  1. Well said... And you say that you are not theological. Often times theologians are not able to say things as clearly and succinctly. With today being All Souls Day, your last point is so important. We can hope that our deceased loved ones are in heaven, but we should also continually pray for their souls since we do not know for sure. That is precisely what the All Souls holy day is for.

  2. Love this - Thanks for the explanation. I'm going to have to refer to it from time to time for my non-Catholic friends :) It's short, sweet and to the point. And most importantly - understandable!!

  3. Ha! I tell Keith I'm not good at discussing theology/philosophy etc. as well and then we get into a discussion with people and he says similar to what Phil (I'm presuming that is YOUR Phil :)said!

    I have gotten into some "discussions" :) about how humans can not become angels and it amazes me how many people (especially Catholics) do not believe or understand why this can NOT be.

    I loved the last part of your post on souls. This issue has led to discussions that can be very emotional for some who do not want to face that their loved one may NOT be in heaven and missing out on prayers needed!

    Thanks for posting this. Have a great week.

  4. Love it, thanks! I'm definitely sharing with my fb friends...

  5. I love the explanation. Very well said! Exactly the way I understand it. Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. You are smart! I never knew this.
    And not to get off topic I must say that the picture of Maggie in that cheerleader uniform on the header makes me want to run over to your house with a legal contract. You know what for. :)

  7. Thank you so much for explaining that, Colleen. I'm always so curious about others' beliefs, and you've explained it so well {even I can understand, lol!}

  8. hmm, clear explanation, thanks!

  9. Explained well, Colleen! I heard a homily once that helped me to understand why we take some of our prayers to Mary. Father described a royal family, a king, queen, and a prince. If a peasant had a gift for the king, they would take it to the queen to see what she thought. The queen would look it over and, knowing the preferences of the king, help the peasant to make it beautiful before its presentation. This way, the king would be more likely to appreciate the gift.

    So ... king = God, queen = Mary, and the prince, although unmentioned in the story, would be Jesus. The gift would be a prayer. The substitution of a request for the gift could also be used.

    I've remembered this and reflected on it since!


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