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A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he resides with his wife and children.
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“For any member of laity, who is at least somewhat literate, the ignorance of the Latin tongue, which we can call a truly Catholic language, indicates a certain lack of affection towards the Church.”
— Pope Pius IX

Intercession by saints? Why not go directly to God?
published 5 August 2014 by Jeff Ostrowski

898 Pope Pius XII IANIST STEPHEN HOUGH publishes a blog on The Telegraph in which he often talks about the Catholic faith … but don’t get too excited. He frequently attacks Catholic beliefs, and recently assaulted the notion that saints can intercede.

Similar to other “famous cases” against the truth of Catholicism, 1 intercession by the saints has been defended a hundred million times by Catholic authors, and I was surprised Mr. Hough didn’t Google before posting. However, let me offer another “take” on this subject—perhaps Fr. Friel or some other priest can let me know if I’m on the right track.

First, a brief story. My wife took our van to have the oil changed and tires rotated at Nissan. The ones performing the service damaged our vehicle. Nissan promised to fix the damage, and asked us to wait three weeks for the new parts to arrive. Once it arrived, they told us that if brought the van in at 8:15am, they’d have it fixed by 3:00pm. So, we dropped off the van, but a secretary called and said it might not be ready for a few days (which was unacceptable, since the children’s seats were in the van). To make a long story short, I spent two days trying to reach somebody in the maintenance department, but each time I called, various people “blocked” me from speaking to the man in charge of the repairs. My cell phone shows I called a total of fifteen times without being allowed to speak to him. Finally, I drove to the place where I knew my van was being repaired, only to discover it had already been fixed, and was just waiting to be picked up.

This story illustrates a fact that many have learned the hard way: giving the public direct access to you (like your private cell phone number) is to be avoided. Most company “higher ups” place a hundred billion secretaries and “intermediaries” between them and you, to make sure you’re kept in your place. For instance, consider that guy at Nissan. His secretary kept saying to me, “Oh, I’ll tell him.” His partner Doug kept saying, “I’ll get an answer for you when I see him.” It was like a type of shield he wore around himself. 2

I’m not going to belabor this point, because those who know what I’m talking about will understand already. Those who don’t will have to learn the hard way. An “intermediary” can be a very useful thing. I’d give anything to have a secretary who could make sure I never see the nasty letters we occasionally receive from people who don’t understand our mission to eliminate secular-style music from Mass. For some reason, my brain continues to dwell on these nasty letters, instead of the letters of encouragement we receive.

NOW CONSIDER THIS: if a “bad” intermediary like that Nissan secretary can have such a terrible effect, couldn’t a “good” intermediary like a saint have a positive effect? Besides, many times in the Bible, God did things difficult to understand on a human level—like requiring Moses to strike the Rock for water to come out, when God could have made water come without any striking—yet later we see that He had a reason. I could say more about this, especially in light of last week’s Gospel, but I’ll refrain for the time being.

When somebody says, “I don’t need a saint—I can go directly to God,” maybe we should respond: “Certainly, but how dare you?” Sometimes it seems we take for granted the fact that God lets us speak directly to Him (and He does). In other words, isn’t it a mark of humility when Catholics ask for the intercession of the saints? Shouldn’t we poor sinners be somewhat hesitant to approach the Holy Creator directly?

This is but ANOTHER TAKE on intercession, in addition to all the other explanations put forth by Catholic teachers over the years (which I’ve not even mentioned here).


1   Another example would be the erroneous assertion that our Lady had other children. This was utterly demolished by St. Jerome.

2   Years ago, I worked for a priest like that. No matter how many times I’d call his phone, he’d never pick up. But when I called from a number he didn’t recognize, he’d pick up. Also, when he needed me to play a funeral or do him a favor, he’d call me. If I didn’t answer the phone when he called (even on my day off), he’d read me the riot act, or he’d keep calling my number over and over. If I still didn’t answer, he’d start calling my family members, including siblings who lived 900+ miles away!