There is a tremendous amount of misinformation out there in the world among other religions regarding the presence of statues in church and in the homes of Catholics. They have the false idea that we ‘worship’ these objects.
Some have the idea that we actually ask for those designated as Saints to answer our prayers. They believe that we raise these objects and people to a place intended only for God Himself, and so we are basically a bunch of ‘idol worshipers’ who give our attention to ‘false gods’.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The Catholic Church interpretation of the First Commandment goes something like this: ‘Being the one true God, He alone is to be adored. All rendering to creatures of the worship which belongs to Him falls under the ban of His displeasure.’
In the Church, the making of ‘graven things’ is condemned. Not all pictures, drawings, photos, paintings, statues, and other works of art, but instead those that are intended to be adored and served.
Idolatry, or the worshiping of idols such as statues or paintings as being divine, is forbidden in the Church. In the Church, this idea has been extended to the worship of anyone or anything but the one true God. It even extends to worshiping the one true God in the wrong ways.
In ancient days, some made images, idols, statues of men or animals and bestowed on these people and things the powers of God, and thus worshiped the creature rather than the Creator. Others believed that the world made up the essence of God Himself, and so worshiped all of its parts, such as worshiping the waters, the land, the mountains, the trees, and the air. These are just a couple of many examples of the ways in which men have gone astray in their development as spiritual beings.
The term ‘veneration’ is what is important in the Catholic Church as regards images. Veneration means to provide profound respect or ‘reverence’, which itself means to have a feeling of profound awe and respect, and often of love.
The Church recognizes a basic difference between idolatry and the veneration of images. Catholics are taught that in images there is no divinity or virtue on account of which they are to be worshipped, that no petitions can be addressed to them, and that no trust is to be placed in them. We are taught that the honour which is given to them is referred to those which they represent.
In this way, through the images which we may kiss, and before which we uncover our heads and kneel, we adore only Christ and venerate the Saints whose likenesses they are representing.
The practice of praying to the Saints is also often misunderstood. Scripture contains many references supporting the idea that those in Heaven can indeed hear our prayers, that their mediating on our behalf in no way violates the idea of Christ as our primary mediator. Sincere requests for intervention are in no way akin to the occult practice of trying to obtain information by communicating with the dead, something that is expressly forbidden.
In just one of many Biblical examples, the Book of Revelation shows us that the Saints in Heaven offer to God the prayers of the Saints on earth. Through a closer look at the true meaning behind our practices and traditions, we realize that as Catholics we worship God Himself.
We give our love to Jesus Christ, and may pray to Him through the intervention on our behalf by the Saints in His presence. In this way, Catholics are wholly in keeping with both the spirit and the substance of the first of the Ten Commandments.
This is another in a series of both ‘Sunday Sermon’ postings, which come each Sunday here at the website, and which can all be accessed by searching under that label, as well as a continuation of a series on each of the ‘Ten Commandments’ in particular, which itself can be accessed by searching under this label.