By Jenna Marie Cooper
Q: With over 7 billion people in the world, it stands to reason that at any given moment in time, thousands of people are praying to any given saint (Our Lady being an example). If the saints still have minds like they did when alive on earth, how can they possibly grasp and process all of those prayers? (Ruther Glen, Virginia)
A: I think a key phrase in your question is, “If the saints still have minds like they did….”
There is a reason why we sometimes refer to a person’s death as “entering into eternity.” Linear time, as we know it, is something specific to our mortal lives on earth and does not carry over into the afterlife. Heaven, like hell and purgatory, is a state that exists outside of time. Even though prior to Vatican II, partial indulgences were sometimes referenced in terms of days or years saved from purgatory, this was meant to represent the amount of time it would take to obtain a similar amount of purifying grace for someone on earth, not a literal timeline for the one actually in purgatory awaiting heaven.
So, my thought is that the saints upon whom we call to intercede for us experience these requests as part of one large eternal “now,” not as a to-do list they struggle to fit into a schedule. God is not bound by time.
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Jenna Marie Cooper, who holds a licentiate in canon law, is a consecrated virgin and a canonist whose column appears weekly at OSV News. Send your questions to [email protected].