The address was the 28th reflection in his cycle of catechesis on prayer, which he launched in May and resumed in October following nine addresses on healing the world after the pandemic.
The pope said that when Catholics pray they are “immersed in a majestic river of invocations that precedes us and proceeds after us.”
He described how prayers of praise such as Mary’s Magnificat and Simeon’s Nunc dimittis echo through the centuries.
He said: “Those prayers that are good are ‘expansive,’ like anything that is good; they propagate themselves continuously, with or without being posted on social networks: from hospital wards, from moments of festive gatherings to those in which we suffer silently…”
He noted that the early Christian community buried people in gardens surrounding a church. He said this was a way of saying that “the hosts of those who have preceded us participate in every Eucharist.”
“The saints are still here, not far from us; and their representations in churches evoke that ‘cloud of witnesses’ that always surrounds us,” the pope explained, quoting from the Epistle to the Hebrews.
He continued: “They are witnesses that we do not adore -- that is understood that we do not adore these saints -- but whom we venerate and who in thousands of different ways bring us to Jesus Christ, the only Lord and Mediator between God and humanity.”
“A ‘saint’ that does not bring you to Jesus is not a saint, not even a Christian. A saint makes you remember Jesus Christ because he or she trod the path of living as a Christian. The saints remind us that even in our lives, however weak and marked by sin, holiness can unfold. Even at the last moment.”
“In fact, we read in the Gospel that the first saint canonized by Jesus Himself was a thief, not a pope. Holiness is a journey of life, a long or short or instantaneous encounter with Jesus. But he or she is always a witness, a saint is a witness, a man or woman who encountered Jesus and followed Jesus. It is never too late to be converted to the Lord who is good and great in love.”
Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the pope encouraged Catholics to ask the saints to intercede for them and the whole world.
“There is a mysterious solidarity in Christ between those who have already passed to the other life and we pilgrims in this one: from heaven, our beloved deceased continue to take care of us. They pray for us, and we pray for them and we pray with them,” he said.
The pope added that we gain an insight into the communion of the saints when we pray for those around us.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
“To pray for others is the first way to love them and it moves us toward concretely drawing near,” he said, recommending that people pray especially for those with whom they are in conflict.
“And something changes with prayer. The first thing that changes is my heart and my attitude. The Lord changes it so it might be turned into an encounter, a new encounter so that the conflict does not become a never-ending war,” he noted.
The pope also called on Catholics in times of trouble to pray to the saint associated with their baptismal name.
He said: “The name given to us at baptism is not a label or a decoration! It is usually the name of the Virgin, or a saint, who expect nothing other than to ‘give us a hand’ in life, to give us a hand to obtain the grace from God that we need.”
“If the trials of life have not reached the breaking point, if we are still capable of persevering, if despite everything we proceed trustingly, more than due to our own merits, perhaps we owe all this to the intercession of all the saints, some who are in heaven, others who are pilgrims like us on earth, who have protected and accompanied us, because all of us know there are holy people here on this earth, saintly men and women who live in holiness.”
At the end of the general audience, Pope Francis said that he was praying for victims of floods in Indonesia and East Timor that have killed more than 150 people.