In Return of the King (the third book and movie, respectively, of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Sir Peter Jackson’s peerless adaptation), the penultimate battle of good against the evil Sauron’s formidable army of Orcs, Urukhais, Trolls, Oliphants and men is the great Battle of Pelennor Fields.
The battle would not have been won by the Last Alliance of men, Elves, Dwarf and Hobbits were it not for the Army of the Dead whom Aragorn had summoned from Dunharrow.
Tolkien was a devout Catholic who began each day by attending morning Mass. There is every reason to think that, in fashioning the Army of the Dead, Tolkien had in mind the Heavenly Army of Angels and Saints.
In our time of troubles and dire need, like Aragorn, we also must call on this celestial army to help us. To that end, Joan and I will begin a new series on Angels and Saints for Fellowship of the Minds.
Protestants are allergic to the word “saint,” but what the word simply means is holy or pure. And those who are “in” Heaven necessarily are holy and pure, i.e., saints. Notwithstanding their holiness, saints were flawed human beings like you and me. Take St. Augustine of Hippo for example. Did you know that before his conversion, Augustine had lived a wanton life of concubines, partying, and loose living?
The lives of saints, therefore, can serve as inspiring role models for us in our own quest to become holy. I don’t know about you, but I do want to be holy because I so yearn to see God face to face. Being irrepressibly curious about almost everything, I want to spend eternity plumbing the mysteries of His creation, as well as assist in the ongoing struggle against evil.
Why should we ask the Angels and Saints to help us?
Simply put, because we need them and because they care about us and want to help us.
Jesus’ parable of Lazarus the beggar (see Luke 16:19-31) assumes that the deceased man is aware of those still living, is concerned with them, and wants to pray for them. In St. John’s Revelation, the Christian martyrs in Heaven know what is happening on Earth, and they pray to God to accomplish justice there. In addition, both the Saints and the Angels in Heaven bring to God’s throne “the prayers of the holy ones” (see Revelation 6:9-11; 5:6-8; 8:3-4).
In such passages, we find Saints and Angels mediating before God for believers on Earth, either interceding or otherwise assisting them. Does this contradict St. Paul’s statement that “there is…one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5)? No, because Paul wasn’t excluding the participation of others in Christ’s mediating role.
In fact, whenever Christians pray for one another, whether in Heaven or on Earth, they are doing just that. In a similar way, Jesus is the “chief” Shepherd of his flock (see John 10:11-16; 1 Pt 5:4), yet he assigns lesser shepherds to take part in this ministry (see John 21:15-17; Ephesians 4:11).
We ask the Saints and Angels for their help, then, for the same reason that we ask our fellow Christians on Earth to pray for us and assist us. For as brothers and sisters in Christ, we are interdependent members of the Body of Christ, on Earth and “in” Heaven! (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-27)
Joan will begin the series with an account of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, whose feast day is today, June 22.
God bless you!