“He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit; Seen by the angels; preached among the Gentiles; Believed in throughout the world, taken up into glory.” 1 Timothy 3:16
Most of us fill our houses with the things we like, whether functional or just pleasant to look at. In doing so we make our home a haven, a place where we feel good. When we surround ourselves with things that make us feel good we create an atmosphere that nourishes our senses, an atmosphere that reminds us of who we were, who we are now, or who we wish to become in the future.
In this same way, many Catholics and Christians surround themselves with images of their faith. Some even go so far as to say that Catholics actually ‘worship’ statues, along with other images and objects we might display. This is completely false. God alone is worshipped by Catholics; The Triune Godhead: God The Father, God The Son, God The Holy Spirit. Only through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, may we be saved and enter the Gates of Heaven.
Read further if you truly want to understand why we have faith images in our homes and churches. In reality, religious art, figurines, and symbols serve to remind us of our all important relationship with our heavenly creator and His love for us. I call them ‘earthly reminders of heavenly things’. When seeing an image of Jesus The Shepherd holding a lamb and surrounded by His sheep, our thoughts might dwell on how we are also one of His flock, and a desire might ignite within our soul to better follow Him and His example for our lives. That’s inspiration not worship.
And then there are Saints that also inspire us. Saints were real people who lived and died in faithfully great service to God. Their real earthly lives serve as role models for our own lives. We actually seek to learn and know about them so we can emulate their faithful service. And, just as we have heavenly family members who have gone before us, who we believe can pray for us, we also believe the Saints can pray for us in our times of need. We see it as no different than asking an earthly friend to pray for us. So yes we pray to Saints – to ask for their prayers. We do not worship them. When I am in true need and desperate for help, I will seek all avenues open to me for earnest prayer on my behalf or for whom ever I pray.
We also might have or carry with us a beautiful and inspiring prayer card, such as one with an image of Saint Frances on one side and his beautiful Peace Prayer on the other. It can help us remember to be kind to all of God’s creatures, and we can ask for His prayers to help us in doing so. Or, we may like to read that prayer wherever we are when feeling disturbed in our heart. This is a spiritual aid for our daily grind, not worship of an image or object.
Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is a big sticking point for many when watching us Catholics. We believe Jesus gave us His Mother to be our spiritual mother (John 19:26-27); a heavenly mother to whom we can turn in our times of need, asking her to pray on our behalf to her Son.
I need to make a point clear here. Throughout this article I have chosen to use the word prayer rather than intercede because many believe going through Mary, or any Saint, to get to Jesus is some type of blasphemy. I, and these are my personal thoughts, believe when you ask a friend, anyone on earth or in Heaven above, to pray for you or someone you love for whatever the reason, be it illness, calamity, or life direction, you are asking for an intercession. You are placing that earthly person, Saint, Angel, or Mary directly between your request and God. Yes, you always have a direct line every second of every day to Jesus, to God, and nothing more is ever necessary. That doesn’t mean more is not helpful. God asks for prayer, for all earnest and faithful prayer. I ask, why you ever ask anyone for prayers if you don’t believe or have faith that they help? When you do, you are asking them to step in and plead your case, to ‘intercede’ on behalf of your cause.
That said, we Catholics pray the Rosary, also a big sticking point. We pray for Mary to wrap our prayers and petitions in the same package as hers and deliver them personally to her Son. What son wouldn’t lovingly accept prayers and petitions coming through his beloved mom? The beads hold no power. I feel I have to say that loud and clear. We do not believe the beads have power. The power is in the spiritual linking of our heart and mind to Mary through the special prayers and reflections of the Rosary, so that together, as we send forth our petitions, we lift up our humble spirit within to praise and worship God in those beautiful prayerful moments.
For us Catholics, and many Christians, each Spiritual image, in its own way, causes us to turn out hearts to God at that moment; to reflect on what is the most important thing in this earthly life, our relationship with God, our Creator. We believe it is the sole purpose of every Angel, Saint, and Mary, to ever point the way to Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. When we surround ourselves with these reminders we create a spiritual atmosphere that is way more conducive to living life as we should, to living a grace-filled life.
One last mention. In a similar way, a Creche or Manger scene is the focal point of our decorations for the Christmas season. Let’s say it is ‘Christmas Central’ in our home. Through its figurines of Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus, it tells the Christmas Story of the babe in a manger who came into the World, and was the Light for all mankind. The Crèche and it’s figures serve as a reminder of who we were, who we are, and who we are to become. And all of this in one small setting of figurines; it is our earthly reminder of the One heavenly thing most important in our lives, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior.
“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we have seen His glory; The glory of an only Son coming from the Father, filled with enduring love.” John 1:14