Why Do Catholics Worship Statues? *
In Deuteronomy, God warns the Israelites against “fashioning an idol to represent any figure, whether it be the form of a man or of a woman” or of other creatures (see 4:15-18). Joining biblical passages such as these with the divine commandment against idols (see ex 20:4; “graven images” in the King James Version), many Christians insist that all statues of religious subjects are forbidden. We must note, however, that as the rest of the commandment makes clear, God has forbidden only the making of such images with the intention of worshiping them, as the pagans did. He has by no means banned the creation of all religious images.
On the contrary, the Lord actually instructed the Israelites to store those very commandments, carved in stone, within a sacred container (ark) to be decorated with golden images of angelic beings called cherubim (see Ex 25:10-22). He also commanded the people to decorate the places where they worshiped with gold, bronze, and wooden images of animals and plants (see Ex 25:33-36; 26:1; 1 Kgs 6:23-7:51; 2 Chr 3:10-4:22).
Why do Catholic churches, schools, and homes display religious statues and other images? Such images are an aid to remembering and honoring our Lord, his mother, the saints, and the angels. No Catholic who knows anything about the Catholic faith has ever worshiped a religious image. Even when Catholics kneel to pray before a statue, or burn candles or place flowers before it, they aren’t worshiping the image. They are simply expressing love and honor for the person represented by the stature.
Think of how most people display photos of their loved ones in their home and workplaces or carry them on their person. They may occasionally even kiss a picture. When they do, are they worshiping these images? Of course not! The affection they show to the photos is actually directed toward those the photos portray.
Does venerating saints and angels in this way somehow “steal” honor from God? No. They are his “handiwork” (Eph 2:10). Our praise of the masterpieces redounds to the glory of the Artist who created them.
Finally, consider this: If we cherish the memory of statesmen, war heroes, and even sports celebrities by making statues of the, then what can be our objection to honoring the heroes of the faith? (See Sir 44:1-15.)
Other related scriptures: Rom 12:10; 1 Cor 4:9; Heb 1:14; 11:1-40; 12:22-24
Catechism of the Catholic Church: 2129-2132.
*Quoted from The New Catholic Answer Bible. Wichita, Kansas, Fireside Catholic Publishing, 2005. www.firesidecatholic.com
Additional insights at: www.catholic.com