Q. 1. My non-Catholic friends accuses me and Catholics of praying to the Saints, therefore elevating the Saints as gods. While it is true that we pray to the Saints, we do not consider the Saints, nor the Virgin Mary, as an equal to God. How do I answer these persons?
A. 1. First of all, it is important to identify the "saints" versus the "saints." The "saints," with a small "s" are all the members of the Catholic Church. The "Saints" with a capital "S" are those individuals, including martyrs for the faith, who have been elevated to the title of Sainthood by the Catholic Church. Therefore, your reference is to the Heavenly Saints and not the members of the Church on earth.
In ancient time, when the word "pray" was used during prayer time, as when was said, "we pray thee," it meant, "we ask you." So when you prayed to the Saints in ancient time, "you were asking them." This practice has not changed. Unfortunately, some persons do not know the "other meaning" of the word "pray to" the Saints.
With this clarification, when Catholics pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary or any of the thousands of Saints, they are asking the Saints to intercede on their behalf before the Lord Jesus.
Therefore, when you pray to St. Jude for assistance in finding a lost object, you are asking Saint Jude to intercede before God on your behalf, to obtain the grace that is necessary for you to recover your lost object.
When you pray a Novena to the Virgin Mary for a miraculous cure, you are asking Mary, the Mother of God, to obtain the favour that you seek from her beloved Son Jesus. You are asking Mary to intercede on your behalf. This is in accordance with the teaching of the Holy Bible where it says, "Surely, from now on all generations will call me (Mary) blessed..." [Lk. 1:48]
In conclusion, Catholics do not consider the Blessed Virgin Mary or any of the Saints as gods, equal to God. Nor do Catholics expect their prayers to be answered "by" the Blessed Virgin Mary or the Saints. Prayers are answered "through" their intercession.