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The Early Church Fathers on the Intercession of the Angels and Saints.


  • Early Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



  1. Prudentius, (A.D. 348-c.413)
    St. Maximus, (unknown-A.D.423)
    St. Paulinus of Nola, (A.D. 353-431)
    St. Augustine of Hippo, (A.D. 354-428)
    Sulpicius Severus, (A.D. c.363-c.425)
    The Liturgy of Saint Basil, (A.D. 370-379)
    St. Valerian (of Abbenza), (A.D. 377-445)
    St. Nilus the Elder, (A.D. c.385 - c.430)
    St. Isidore of Pelusium, (unknown - A.D. 440)
    Theodoret of Cyrus or Cyrrhus, (A.D. 393-458)
    St. Avitus, (Alcimus Ecdicius), (A.D. c.470-525)
Prudentius, (Aurelius Prudentius Clemens), (A.D. 348-c.413), Roman Christian poet, born in the Roman province of Tarraconensis, now Northern Spain. He probably died in Spain, as well. The hymn Salvete, flores Martyrum, is by this writer.

"The inhabitants of the place flock to the sands that received their blood (the martyrs Hemeterius and Cheledonius), supplicating with prayer, with vows, with gifts: strangers, and the world's denizen, come hither, for fame has told and spread over every land, that here are the patrons of the world, whom they are to pay their court to by prayer. No one has here poured forth in vain pure prayers in supplication: the petitioner, his tears wiped away, has gone his way rejoicing, feeling that his every just petition has been obtained.

So great is the solicitude of these that aid us with their suffrages in our varied trials. They let not the slightest murmured wish be put forth vainly: they hear, and instantly bear it to the ear of the Everlasting King, whence gifts flow upon earth in bounteous streams, derived from Him. Christ, in His bounty, has never refused anything to His witnesses."

Hymn. i. v. 8-21, Galland, t. viii. p. 435.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 380

"On earth a doctor, in Heaven a martyr (St. Cyprian); here he instructs mankind, thence as a patron, he bestows pious gifts."

Hymn. xiii. Passio. B. Cypr. 105-6, p. 467.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 381

"Be thou now present amongst us, and receive the suppliant cries of (thy) petitioners, thou effective pleader for our sins at the Father s throne. For thine own sake, by thy prison, thy chains . . . that couch of thine which we kiss with trembling, have pity on our prayers, that Christ, appeased, may turn a favoring ear to His own, not impute to us all our crimes."

Ibid. v. 545-60.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 381

St. Maximus, (unknown-A.D.423), Italian; bishop of Turin and theological writer, he assisted at the Council of Milan in 451, and that of Rome in 465. Maximus is believed to have been a native of Rhaetia.

"While honoring with an annual solemnity the two most glorious princes of the Christian faith (Peter and Paul), we venerate with a fitting act of religion our Lord and God Himself, who is the author of that faith. For an apostle signifies, in the Latin tongue, a messenger; whoso, therefore, honors the messenger, is plainly honoring Him who sent that messenger, since the honor (which is) paid to the servant, is, with out doubt, shown to Him whose servant he is, agreeably to what the Saviour Himself says to His disciples: "He that heareth you, heareth me, and he that receives you receives me." Merits in truth are those of the blessed Apostles, in whose persons Christ proclaims that He is both "received and heard". Blessed nevertheless are they also, whose devotion though rendered to Apostles flows back to Christ."

Hom. i, in Natal. BB. App. Petr. et Paul. p. 34, Ib.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 385

St. Paulinus of Nola, (A.D. 353-431), Roman; convert and bishop Of Nola, Born at Bordeaux he was ordained priest in 393, and was appointed bishop of Nola in 409; may have been indirectly responsible for Augustine's Confessions. One who knew St. Paulinus well says he was "meek as Moses, as priestly as Aaron, innocent as Samuel, tender as David, wise as Solomon, apostolic as Peter, loving as John, cautious as Thomas, brilliant as Stephen, fervent as Apollos."

"Pray that blessed Gennasius (martyr), who stands by the throne of the Lord . . . may be a patron to priests, ministers, clergy, and to us all, and to him who has written this for your instruction."

Martyr. S. Gennas. p. 251, t. vi. Bib. Maxim. SS. PP.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 381

St. Augustine of Hippo, (A.D. 354-428), North African; born in Tagaste in A.D. 354, baptized in Milan in A.D. 387, ordained a priest in A.D. 391 and appointed bishop of Hippo in A.D. 395, Augustine is one of our greatest theologians. His numerous works display genius of the highest order, and have ever had great weight in the Christian churches. He is also a Doctor of the Church.

A Christian people celebrate together in religious solemnity the memorials of the martyrs, both to encourage their being imitated and so that it can share in their merits and be aided by their prayers.

Against Faustus the Manichean [A.D. 400]

"Does any grief touch the dead, in regard of those things which befall their (living) friends? or are they at least to be supposed to know these things, they whose existence is elsewhere, either for good, or for evil, according to their deserts! To which I answer, that the question is indeed a great one, not to be discussed at present, which shall be for a longer work, whether, or how far, or in what way, the spirit of the dead know the things which happen in our regard. However, as may be briefly remarked, if they had no care in regard of us, the Lord would not declare that the rich man who was suffering torments in Hell, said, "I have there five brethren: lest they also come into this place of torment." (Luke 15) But in whatsoever way they may understand this, they who try to understand it in a different way; and since it must be acknowledged that it does not follow that, if the dead know that their friends are living, because they neither see them in the places of punishments, where that rich man was, nor in the rest of the blessed, where he recognized, though afar off, Lazarus and Abraham, that they must therefore necessarily know the joys or the sorrows which befall those dear to them."

T. iv. in Ps. cviii. n. 17, col 1741.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 369-370

Sulpicius Severus, (A.D. c.363-c.425), a Christian writer and native of Aquitania. He is known for his chronicle of sacred history, as well as his biography of Saint Martin of Tours.

Having described St. Martin's appearance to him, at the moment of his (St. Martin s) death, he says: "I cannot help grieving. I have, it is true, sent before me a patron, but I have lost the solace of this present life. ... He will not be wanting unto us; he will be present at our conversations concerning him; he will be by us as we pray; and as he has vouchsafed this, so will he often show himself to us in his glory, and will protect us, as he has done but a little while since, with his blessing. . . . This hope is left, this only, this last hope, that what we are unable to obtain by our own efforts, we may at least merit (to obtain) by Martin's prayers for us."

Ep. ii. ad Aurel. De Obit, et Appar. B. Mart. Galland, t. iii. pp. 400-1.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 380

The Liturgy of Saint Basil, A.D. 370-379, is a term for several Eastern Christian celebrations of the Divine Liturgy (the Eucharist) which have been attributed to St. Basil the Great, who was Bishop of Cæsarea in Cappadocia from A.D. 370 to 379.

By the command of your only-begotten Son we communicate with the memory of your saints . . . by whose prayers and supplications have mercy upon us all, and deliver us for the sake of your holy name.

Liturgy of St. Basil [A.D. 373]

St. Valerian (of Abbenza), (A.D. 377-445), bishop of Abbenza in North Africa. He was martyred in 457 when he refused to surrender the sacred vessels of his church to the Vandals led by Arian king Geiseric. Valerian was driven out of the city and left to die of exposure.

"If there be any one amongst you who seeks sedulously for consolation from Christ, let him by alms dry up the tears of others, and sedulously commend his own tears to this patron, in honor of whom we have met together, and let him recommend himself by a numerous patronage, in order that he may the more easily obtain whatever things he may suggest to the Lord for his own benefit. We must at all times present ourselves before the friends of God, and be of service to our neighbors, and petition without ceasing, that we may be able to obtain the aid (suffrage) of a holy intercession. What chance of pardon will there be from the just Judge, if thou knowest not how to supplicate the King's friends? Finally, notice the order pursued in the ways of the World, and you will understand what care should be yours in the matter of paying attention to the saints. There is no doubt that unless his mind, who watches over the chief governor's house, be made favorable to you, it is not easy to arrive at the friendship of the higher power. The aid of patrons is to be sedulously sought after, patrons who alone know how to be able to appease the mind of the angry lord, and to temper his wrath. In a great house, therefore, there is always, after the master, a second rank of friends. They are the only ones through whom there is furnished at once an opportunity of making known (our wishes) to the lord, and an easy access is afforded to obtain them. The memory, therefore, of the saints is to be cultivated by us with peculiar veneration, in order that they may open the gate of salvation, and may cause the desires of our lowliness to come to the knowledge of the Lord. For it is a great part of safety, to have had, in matters of difficulty, aid (suffrage) from the house of the King. For the odium of crime is in some way lessened, when the guilty person has begun to belong to the friends of the royal household. Thus does a man pass through life without danger if there be some one to excuse before the Lord the negligence of the sinner. But there is no one who has not need, even in the most perfect security, of the aid (suffrage) of one more powerful than himself. For, although a tried faith may sanctify some few so as to be in that number, yet is there need of some one to recommend that faith itself to the Lord, by suppliant intercession. For neither will you find one so strong as not to need the help of a stronger."

Hom. xv. p. 147, T. x. Galland.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 404-405

St. Nilus the Elder, (c. A.D. 385 - c. 430) (also known as Nilus of Sinai, Neilos, Nilus of Ancyra), Syrian, was one of the many disciples and fervent students of St. John Chrysostom; an eyewitness of the martyrdom of Theodotus.

"Know that the holy angels move us to prayer, and stand by us, both rejoicing and praying for us. If then we shall be negligent, and admit contrary thoughts, we irritate them exceedingly, for they strive so much for us, but we are not even willing to implore God for ourselves; but despising their ministry and their God, and abandoning the Lord, we are found with unclean demons."

Tract. De Orat. c. lxxxi. p. 496
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 408

St. Isidore of Pelusium, (unknown - A.D. 440), a disciple of St. John Chrysostom, he was born in Egypt to a prominent Alexandrian family. He became an ascetic, and moved to a mountain near the city of Pelusium, in the tradition of the Desert Fathers; known to us for his letters, written to Cyril of Alexandria, Theodosius II, and a host of others. His letters display great judgment, precision, and learning.

"It is a good thing to honor the martyrs with votive offerings, as thou hast done, but it is a better to show thy reverence for them by doing the same good deeds as they did."

L. i. Ep. clxxxix. p. 56.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 381

Theodoret of Cyrus or Cyrrhus, (A.D. 393-458), Greek; an influential author, theologian, and Christian bishop of Cyrrhus, Syria (A.D. 423-457). He played a pivotal role in many early Byzantine church controversies that led to various ecumenical acts and schisms. His friendship for Nestorius embroiled him, for a time, with his great contemporary, St. Cyril of Alexandria.

In the first paragraph of his history of holy men, he says:

"I must invoke their prayers, and so begin my narrative."

T. iii. Relig. Hist. c. i. p. 1108.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 393

St. Avitus, (Alcimus Ecdicius), (A.D. c.470-525), a Latin poet and Anti-Arian archbishop of Vienne in Gaul, born of a prominent Gallo-Roman senatorial family

"Let, therefore, our Michael (the archangel) be present to us, summoned hither by the sincerity of our desire, by the beauty of the place, by the devotion of the people, and by bestowing great gifts, by obtaining the greatest, let him draw down hither with him the visible presence of that Divinity which ever glorifies him."

Fragm. vi. In Dedic. Eccl. Arch. Mich. p. 757, t. x. Galland.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 407



Catholics are persuaded that the angels and saints in Heaven, replenished with charity, pray for us, their fellow members of the Church. They rejoice in seeing God and in seeing Him they know in Him all things suitable to their happy state and that God may be inclined to hear their requests made in our behalf and, for their sake, grant us many favors. For this reason, we believe that it is good and profitable to invoke their intercession.

    • Can the manner of invocation be more injurious to Christ our Mediator, than it is for one Christian to ask for the prayers of another here on earth?

That said, Catholics are not taught so to rely on the prayers of others as to neglect their own duty to God, in:

    • imploring His divine assistance and goodness
    • mortifying the deeds of the flesh
    • despising the world
    • loving and serving God and their neighbor, and
    • following the footsteps of Christ our Lord, who is the way, the truth, and the life: to whom be honor and glory for ever and ever.



The Church's Scriptures that support the Intercession of the Angels and Saints:


Moses intercedes for the Israelites before the Lord.

11 And the LORD said to Moses, "How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs which I have wrought among them? 12 I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.". . . 13 But Moses said to the LORD, "Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for thou didst bring up this people in thy might from among them, 14 and they will tell the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that thou, O LORD, art in the midst of this people; for thou, O LORD, art seen face to face, and thy cloud stands over them and thou goest before them, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. 15 Now if thou dost kill this people as one man, then the nations who have heard thy fame will say, 16 `Because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which he swore to give to them, therefore he has slain them in the wilderness.' 17 And now, I pray thee, let the power of the LORD be great as thou hast promised, saying, 18 `The LORD is slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of fathers upon children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation.' 19 Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray thee, according to the greatness of thy steadfast love, and according as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now." 20 Then the LORD said, "I have pardoned, according to your word."

Numbers 14:11-20

Angel presents Tobit and Sarah's prayer to God

12 And so, when you and your daughter-in-law Sarah prayed, I brought a reminder of your prayer before the Holy One; and when you buried the dead, I was likewise present with you.

Tobias 12:12

Judas Maccabeus demonstrates that it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the faithfully departed.

[Note: If you don't think that Maccabees should be part of the Scriptures, you still can't deny the historicity of the document, unless you want to deny history.]

40 Then under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was why these men had fallen. 41 So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous Judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; 42 and they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out. And the noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. 43 He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. 44 For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. 45 But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.

2 Maccabees 12:40-45

Angels hold care over every child born into this earthly world

10 See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in Heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in Heaven.

Matthew 18:10

The rich man asks that Lazaruz intercede for his five brothers.

19 "There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.' 25 But Abraham said, `Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' 27 And he said, `Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house, 28 for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' 29 But Abraham said, `They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.' 30 And he said, `No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31 He said to him, `If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.'


Luke 16:19-31

Join me by your prayers to God on my behalf

30 I appeal to you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.


Romans 15:30-32

Never get tired of staying awake to pray for all God's holy people, and pray for me to be given an opportunity to open my mouth and fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel

18 Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that utterance may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.

Ephesians 6:18-19

Paul states that he has not ceased praying for his fellow Christians.

9 And so, from the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.


Colossians 1:9-10

We always pray for you

11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfil every good resolve and work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.


2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

Brothers, pray for us, for not all have faith.

1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed on and triumph, as it did among you, 2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men; for not all have faith.


2 Thessalonians 3:1-2

Angels serve and helps us in this earthly life to obtain salvation

13 But to what angel has he ever said, "Sit at my right hand, till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet"? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?

Hebrews 1:13-14

Angel offers prayers of the holy ones to God

8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Revelation 5:8

Prayers of the saints raise up with the incense to God.

3 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; 4 and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God.


Revelation 8:3-4

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