Father Phil,

I have a question that my wife asked me, and I can't answer it. For non-canonized saints in heaven, how aware are they of us and our needs. Is it proper for me to offer a "prayer" to my Dad to intercede for my the loneliness my Mom is feeling?

If they are part of the "cloud of witnessess" (Heb 12) then what of those who die without Christ? Is there an evil communion of "demons"?

Thanks for your time,

Rick Ricciardi


Dear Rick,

I have thought about your question quite a bit, especially since my own dad died nearly two years ago. Someone asked me if he saw the funeral where Archbishop Murphy was the main celebrant. My reflection was "maybe, but he probably had something more interesting to look at." Wouldn't it be like going to Buffalo and then being taken to view some crummy stream rather than Niagra Falls?

As for praying to a specific person who has died, we are not forbidden to do that by the church. When I visit my dad's grave I find myself sometimes "talking" with him. The Catechism in a paragraph entitled "Cloud of Wittnesses" does say that besides contemplating and praising God, the saints (including those not officially "canonized") "constantly care for those whom they have left on earth" (#2683).

One caution: we should not be too quick to assume that someone (even Mother Teresa) is already in heaven. We have a biblical duty to pray for those who have died. The tradition of the church has been constant about praying for the deceased, particularly during the Eucharistic prayer. I learned a lot about this from the Aymara Indians whom I worked with for seven years in Peru.

There can be no "communion of demons." Hell is based on pride--put downs, bullying, that kind of thing. C.S. Lewis pictures hell in terms of the devils absorbing or "eating" lost souls or weaker demons. What the pantheists dream about will actually become a horrid reality in hell. God makes us more individual & unique, Satan more uniform & stale. Isn't that what we see happening in our mass culture? I am thinking for example about how we have been reduced to slogans and sound-bites instead of any genuine communication.

What do you think, Rick? God bless.

Fr. Phil


Thanks Fr. Phil,

I wasn't expecting such a quick response. I guess only working one day a week leaves you a lot of time for the network. :^) Just kidding of course. I'm amazed you can get to your E Mail at all.

I accept your caution for not assuming someone is in heaven. I do pray for the soul of my Dad, but he was the most righteous man I've ever known. I have to believe that he is with Jesus. If he isn't, what chance do I have?

So, in your opinion, if the Church teaches they "constantly care for those whom they have left on earth" (#2683), there can't be an opposite involvement by those with an evil intent? I realize this is more philosophical than theological.

I'm a member of St. Timothy Catholic Community here in Mesa, AZ. The pastor is Fr. Dale Fushek, also the founder of the LifeTeen Program. Have you ever heard of St. Tim or Fr. Dale? We lived in Everett and Mukilteo from 1979 -1984. I worked for Boeing. Now I'm with Boeing again (after 13 years with McDonnell Douglas).

Thanks again, Father,

Rick Ricciardi


Dear Rick,

I have heard of Life Teen. Sounds great. What has been your impression of it? Everyone here is asking for something for our teenagers.

Interesting question about whether lost souls could influence us. The picture I have (this is mainly from C.S. Lewis) is of subjugation, loss of personality in hell. Thus they might be allowed to frighten, but wouldn't have the actual ability to do much more. Have you read Perelandra? I just finished it for about the twentieth time. He has quite a description of what damnation, as well as salvation, might be like.

God bless,

Fr. Phil

P.S. Will be going down to Peru on Mon. I may post this corrrespondence on my website. Let me know if anything you would not want placed there for benefit of others.


Fr. Phil,

LifeTeen is absolutely awesome. It would be worth it for you to take a few days and flew in (Mesa, AZ) and meet with Fr. Dale and the LifeTeen staff. Stay and experience the LifeTeen mass on Sunday night. It is truly unbelievable. Visit their web page: www.lifeteen.org

Feel free to call the Church, St. Timothy, (602) 838-8844

While your visiting the LifeTeen web page, why don't you stop and check mine out. Let me know what you think:

I have never read any of C.S. Lewis' books. I need to do it though because EVERYBODY quotes him. I'm just about to begin "The Fire Within" and I'm just finishing "Life of the Beloved" by Henri Nouwen.

Feel free to use anything of mine. I want to help others. Have a wonderful and fruitful trip.

God Bless,

Rick Ricciardi