Category Archives: saints

Do Catholics Worship Statues?

When chatting with a lady recently, she identified herself as being “born again” and said that she had left the Catholic Church many years ago. I asked her, “Do you have any questions about particular Catholic beliefs?

She said, “As a matter of fact, I have a big problem with the Catholic Church: I don’t think Catholics should worship statues.”

I replied, “Well, I don’t personally know any Catholics that worship statues, and if you do, then please tell them to stop immediately! That’s idolatry!”

I continued, “You know that God forbids the worship of idols (Exodus 20:4-5), but God commanded His people several times to make images and statues for use in their worship of Him. For example He once commanded the Israelites to ‘make two cherubim (angels) out of hammered gold’ and put them over the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:17-22).”

I went on, “and in the book of Numbers, we see God commanding the Israelites to make a bronze snake and put it up on a pole so that anyone who had been bitten by a poisonous snake looked at it would be healed. (Numbers 21:4-9). And God certainly commanded His people to create engraved images of angels, trees, flowers, oxen, lions and even pomegranates for His temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 6:23-29, 7:25-45). God certainly hates idolatry, but He doesn’t seem to have a problem with the use of religious art in worship.”

“You see, for us Catholics, statues and religious images are just like photographs – they help us remember our holy brothers and sisters, the saints. When you gaze lovingly upon a photograph of someone you love or admire, nobody accuses you of worshipping the photograph, so please don’t accuse us of the same thing.”

My friend, replied, “I have to admit that sometimes I look at my mom’s picture, and say, ‘Mom, if you can hear me…’”

I replied, “Exactly! And furthermore if your mom was a member of the Body of Christ when she died, she can hear you and even pray for you.” But that’s a subject I’ll leave for another day.

Praying to Saints?

Why do we Catholics ask the Saints in Heaven to pray for us?  Is there any basis for that in the Bible?  Let’s take a look.

Should members of the Body of Christ pray for each other?

Our non-Catholic friends may ask, “Shouldn’t we bring our petitions to Jesus first?  Absolutely! This is our duty as Christians.  But we often ask others to pray for us, and we know that God delights in this.  How do we know that God wants the members of the Body of Christ to pray for each other?  Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 to pray for each other, and that this pleases God.  In other places Paul asks others to pray for him (Rom. 15:30–32,  Eph. 6:18–20, Col. 4:3, 1 Thess. 5:25, 2 Thess. 3:1), and he told them that he was praying for them too (2 Thess. 1:11).

You see, the saints in heaven are still part of the Body of Christ.  St. Paul gives an excellent description of the Body of Christ in Corinthians 12, and mentions that each believer is a member of it and has an indispensable function.  Death does not rob a Christian of his membership in this Body.

The Scriptures do not tell us that our God-given ability to intercede for each other is diminished by death.  On the contrary, James tells us that “the prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” (James 5:16).  Well, aren’t the saints in heaven are indeed among the most righteous men and woman (Hebrews 12:22-23)?  And if they are, aren’t their prayers are powerful?

Are the Saints in heaven aware of our prayers and needs?

But, some ask, “Are the Saints in heaven aware of our prayers and needs?”  The New Testament amply supports the idea that heavenly beings, both angels and men, are aware of our circumstances here on earth. The guardian angels that Jesus told us about (Matthew 18:10) certainly could not be considered “guardians” if they were not intimately aware of the plight of their assigned children on earth! Remember too that when Jesus was transfigured on Mt. Tabor in Luke 9:28-36, Elijah and Moses appeared with him, and they discussed with Jesus about what was about to happen to him in Jerusalem.  Elijah and Moses, both dead, certainly were aware of what was happening on earth.   Lastly, in Revelation 5:8 and 8:3-4 we read of an angel and elders offering the prayers of the Saints before the altar of God.

How can the saints in heaven possibly hear all of our requests for prayers at once?

By the grace of God.  We know that on the Day of Judgment that we will be aware of all of the events of our lives and the events in the lives of others (Luke 12:2-3).  Now, this is certainly a lot of information to process, but since we know that we will be able to do this at that time, it is not unreasonable to believe that through God’s grace and when freed from the limitations of space and time, the Saints can be aware of the requests for prayers from believers.

Doesn’t the Bible forbid us to contact the dead?

God has certainly forbidden us to conjure up spirits (Deut.18:10-15).  God’s people are warned not to conjure up spirits for the purposes of gaining information, but rather, to look to his prophets instead (Deut. 18:15).  When we ask the saints to pray for us, we are not asking them to speak through us or to us. We are not asking them to appear to us. We are not asking for secret information. Requesting their prayers is entirely different than conducting a séance, which is strictly forbidden.

The Cloud of Witnesses

We believe that the saints in heaven are part of the Body of Christ, and as such, they have not lost any of their intercessory power, but rather have gained more.  This power to intercede for us is entirely dependent upon the grace of God.  We Catholics believe in a radical interdependence between members of the Body of Christ, both living and dead.  This interdependence even transcends death.  The author of the letter to the Hebrews paints an exciting word picture of this reality in the twelfth chapter of that letter.  There we see the saints in heaven are like a “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1), a full stadium of interested, fully engaged spectators who cheer us on in our race. Later in that same chapter, we learn that we are not only drawn near to God and to Jesus our mediator, but also to “innumerable angels in festal gathering“, “the assembly of the first-born” and to “the spirits of just men made perfect” (Hebrews 12: 22-24).

So let us lift our concerns up to God in prayer, remembering to ask our brothers and sisters on earth and in heaven to pray for us.