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Question of the Day

Great response. I would add that since the 17th century, theology as a discipline has largely been seen as distinct from philosophy. Theology, though, historically and today, has drawn from philosophy and philosophers (throughout its history) have addressed religiously significant themes. Philosophy of religion is a respected sub-field of philosophy (see the entry Philosophy of Religion in the free online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) just like philosophy of science, philosophy of art, and so on. There is also the practice of what is called philosophical theology --this is usually a matter of practicing philosophy within a tradition. In this sense a Christian philosopher might offer a philosophical analysis of the Trinity or Incarnation or Prayer.

The question of whether this sounds forced or not is a hard one to make a judgment about, but the answer, as I understand it, is pretty much the one you've heard. If one prays to a saint, one is asking the saint to intercede; not to perform the miracle. Although we might say loosely that a saint "performed a miracle," the saint has no powers over nature of his/her own and if a miracle occurs, the source of the miracle is God.

This isn't to suggest that your question is a bad one. Why bother, one might ask, with this circuitous route? After all, God (assuming there is a God) hears the prayer, knows what the petitioner want, and grants the request or not—even if the petitioner addressed the request to a saint.

Perhaps a panelist with a deeper understanding of Catholic tradition can chime in, but Catholicism has a genius for appealing to the religious imagination of its adherents. And since religion is at least as much a matter of the heart as of the mind, one can imagine an argument to the effect that God, understanding full well that humans are like this, created the order of things in a way that takes account of the human heart and not just the mind. That, however, is a gesture at an answer rather than a piece of theology, and in any case, a gesture that amounts to a guess by someone who's not part of the tradition you're asking about.