What is the deal with Catholics and their statues? Are they committing idol worship? Is this not against the 1st Commandment? These are common objections Protestants have against the owning of holy images. This article will be focused on showing three reasons why possessing sacred art and statues is something all Catholics should do and how they help build our faith.
Deepen Our Belief in the Incarnation
Having a statue of a saint in your home deepens your belief in God. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2141, “The veneration of sacred images is based on the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God. It is not contrary to the first commandment.” Often, we forget that Jesus is 100% human along with being 100% God. His miracle stories in the Gospels and Resurrection sometimes overshadow the fact that Jesus Christ lived a human life—he slept, ate, and experienced emotion.
Possessing saint statues anchors our faith in the Incarnation because God became fully human. A certain tangibility, rawness, and realness of humanity is provoked whenever I am in a Catholic Church with sacred art (icons and statues) of Jesus and the saints. If you’ve ever entered a church without such art you experience a dullness or staleness. Should not the same be true for your home? St. John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation Familaris Consortio, “the little domestic Church, like the greater Church, needs to be constantly and intensely evangelized: hence its duty regarding permanent education in the faith” Keeping saint statues around your home will help elicit questions from your children, or visitors, about important figures in Catholic Church history.
Guides to God
A second key reason to have a saint statue in your home is tied closely with the first—saints help point you to Christ. The Catechism speaks of saints in paragraph 957, “Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself.” Proper veneration of the saints leads us towards Christ, never away from Him. A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary located in your dining or living room and other saints around your home will only aid as a reminder—you are not alone in this journey toward Heaven.
Growing up, our statue of Mary in our dining room helped to remind me that she is our Mother and helps us get to her Son—Jesus. This reminder helped keep my eyes on Christ, especially during my teen years!
Family, Friends, Fellowship
Along with deepening your faith in the Mystery of the Incarnation and pointing you towards Christ, keeping holy statues will help foster fellowship. Traditionally, Catholics name children after a saint. The reason for this is because we honor and look to these holy men and women for guidance. You may have been named for more than a couple saints (if you include first, middle, and confirmation name!).
Among the highlights of marriage my wife and I anticipated, during our engagement was the naming of our children. All members of the family are called to holiness. We selected saint names whose lives exemplified heroic virtue and testimony of truth: Bernadette, Teresa of Avila, Matthew, Catherine of Siena, Maria Faustina, and Fabian just to name a few!
A simple way to grow in fellowship with your family’s patron saints is to celebrate their feast day. Owning a statue of a saint unique to your family will provide a more tangible connection to your holy friend. Gazing at the face of your patron saint, in the living room or bedroom, will help remind you daily of their holy life and strong love of God. I am comforted during a stressful day every time I see the image of Mary Queen of Peace in our living room.
Utilizing sacred images, especially saint statues, deepens your faith, guides you to Christ, and provides opportunities to develop unique family traditions of your own while fostering fellowship with God’s holy ones. Go get a saint statue today!
In this fourth installment of the Spiritual Surgeons series, I will discuss the medicinal teachings of St. Alphonsus Liguori. The moral decay occurring with the fracturing of the family unit, vicious abortion bills signed into legislation, the promotion of euthanasia, and the devaluing of others different from ourselves makes the Italian saint as relevant as ever!
I have been blessed with the opportunity to learn about his wondrous and healing works. In reading his works I have grown closer to God. We will be examining Alphosus’ Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ and Uniformity with God’s Will in this article. The patron saint of confessor possesses an unparalleled ability to synthesize the wisdom of the Doctors of the Church, strong adherence to the will of God, and devotion to Mary.
Following the Will of God
According to Alphonsus in Uniformity with God’s will, “The greatest glory we can give to God is to do his will in everything.” Uniting our will to the Divine Will not only shows great love to God, but only satisfied our internal unrest. We are to follow God’s will in everything—not only in the good times. The Italian saint reminds us that complaining is purposeless—save for increasing bitterness. Suffering, even if God did not actively will it, affords an opportunity for us to grow in union and closeness to Him.
Following God’s will definitely is easier when we receive spiritual consolations. However, our character is tested during periods of spiritual desolation. Alphonsus spends his sixth chapter to reflection on spiritual desolation in Uniformity with God’s Will. “When a soul begins to cultivate the spiritual life, God usually showers his consolations upon her to wean her away from the world; but when he sees her making solid progress, he withdraws his hand to test her and to see if she will love and serve him without the reward of sensible consolations,” the Doctored saint tells us. He also makes sure to remind to not think that God has abandoned you in these situations. Alphonsus declares, “When God sends spiritual darkness and desolation, his true friends are known.” Saints endure these dark nights and in the end their faith is rewarded in Heaven.
Along with Alphonsus’ strong commitment in following God’s will, his expertise in the faith is second to none. In The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, the moral Doctor demonstrates his theological acumen via his articulate exposition on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and vast references to other Doctors of the Church. No other spiritual work that I have read contains such a concentration of spiritual quotes as Alphonsus’ work.
Check out this powerhouse list of saintly references: St. Teresa of Avila (61 times); St. Francis de Sales (44 times), St. Thomas Aquinas (21 times); St. Bernard of Clairvoux (20 times); St. Augustine (20 times); St. John Chryostom (11 times); and St. John of the Cross (10 times)!
Learning about Love
Alphonsus outlines and expands on St. Paul’s theological definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Every chapter in The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ focuses on an aspect love. These include love being: patience, kindness, humility, slow to anger, and enduring. In his first chapter Love is Patient, the Italian saint writes, “nothing is more pleasing to God than to see a soul suffering with patience all the crosses sent her by him.” This statement definitely hits home for me.
Those that have followed my story over the years know that my wife and I lost children due to miscarriage. This sunk us into despair. God removed his consolations. We patiently endured, not always without complaint, these crosses. Love is also kind. Alphonsus cites St. Vincent de Paul on this aspect, “Affability, love, and humility have a wonderful efficacy in winning the hearts of men, and in prevailing on them to undertake things most repugnant to nature” (The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, chapter 2).
Later in the book, Alphonsus spends a chapter to provide a detailed and clear guide to avoid tepidity in the faith. His basic blueprint includes these five steps—desire, resolution, mental prayer, communion, and prayer.
According to St. Louise de Montfort, “[Mary] is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus and will surrender themselves to her, body and soul, without reserve in order to belong entirely to Jesus.” This path towards holiness is definitely evident in the writings of St. Alphonsus Liguori. In The Glories of Mary, the Italian saint states, “A true servant of Mary cannot be lost.”
To conclude every chapter of The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ Alphonsus petitions the Blessed Virgin Mary for help. He uses the following Marian titles: Mother, dispenser of graces, refuge of sinners, Holy Virgin, my hope, Queen, advocate, and spouse of the Holy Spirit. This panoply of appellations demonstrates the saint’s comprehensive understanding of Mariology and his strong devotion to Mary. “As long as temptation lasts, let us never cease calling on Jesus and Mary,” he proclaims (The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, chapter 8).
Individualism dominates our world today. We are constantly being told that seek out your will—that will lead to happiness. Experience proves us otherwise. Selfishness works in the short-term. But it is fleeting. St. Alphonsus reminds of the remedy to these ailments—follow the will of God always! His comprehensive knowledge of the Catholic spirituality and strong devotion to Mary make the Doctor of the Church a great role model for all Christians today.
From a young age, I always saw the world through a scientific lens. I needed to understand how the world works. When I attended college, that way of thinking applied to research papers and ensuring I had logical and concise arguments to articulate my interpretation of a particular historical event.
When I read the Gospel of John there is a logical flow to his account of the Gospel events. His entire gospel is masterfully written and laden with tons of symbolism. As a cradle Catholic, I heard John 6 [Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse] preached frequently during the Mass. It took years of analyzing this chapter and critically viewing it before I realized the genius and truth contained in Christ’s message. Inevitability my close reading of John 6 led me to this conclusion– the evangelist truly believed that Jesus was the literal bread of life that gives humanity eternal life! I give three strong pieces of evidence for this case:
Jesus as a Good Teacher
I think most people would agree with me that Jesus’ followers considered him a good teacher. Jesus could relate to an array of people: rich, poor, fisherman, tax collectors, sinners, and strangers alike. Secondly, Jesus taught using a plethora of means including: sermons, parables, and miracles to name a few. A quality in any good teacher is consistency in content along with the ability to clarify their subject content should disputes arise. In the bread of life discourse in John 6, Jesus presented both his teaching consistently and clearly. Within a span of 24 verses [John 6:35-59] Jesus mentions point blank at least 6 times he is the bread of life. In verse 35, Jesus states, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” Verses 38, 48, 53-58 also support the Nazarene’s intrepid claim.
It’s all Greek to Me
There are a variety of Greek words for the English verb “to eat”. Jesus says in John 6:54, “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day.” The Greek word that the Evangelist uses in this verse is trōgō. Trōgō translates as “chew” or “gnaw”. Why would John use such a fleshy and literal word for eat in this context? This translation only makes sense if we accept that Jesus literally meant that he is the bread of life. John even goes on to use trōgō in verses 56, 57, and 58– a grand total of four times!
Loss of Followers
The evangelist writes in John 6:66 that many people who followed Jesus from the start of his ministry left him never to return. They were scandalized by the teaching of Jesus as the bread of life. I thought long and hard on this point. Why would many of Jesus’ followers leave him if he only spoke symbolically that he was the bread of life?
Well, if Jesus truly did intend for his claim that he is the “bread of life” to be interpreted figuratively, I doubt many followers would have left him that day. I mean think about it! People tend to become disenchanted with a leader when his or her message becomes too scandalous to bear. I doubt a man speaking figuratively, and poetically, would gather such scandal. Jesus repeatedly claimed “I am the bread of life”. He never qualified that assertion to be taken figuratively. Such difficult news may have been too much for these fair weather followers to swallow.
Most Holy Eucharist
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). It is a non-negotiable belief. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Saint John knew of the importance of this sacrament and he stressed it frequently in Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse. Through my Catholic faith, I accept Jesus’ claim that he is the bread of life. I ponder this question of Jesus frequently: Will you also go away? I ultimately hope that my answer is consistent with Peter’s response, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:67-69).
The timing of Cardinal Newman’s canonization is definitely providential. God is reminding us, and hopeful more Catholics will learn, of the wonderful, keen, and common sense approach to holiness of the English priest.
I am excited for his official sainthood. I hope you are as well. Please check out a sermon or writing of John Henry Newman this summer. I guarantee your fervor for the faith will ignite 🔥 🔥!
Check out more content on Cardinal Newman from my latest article for EpicPew at the link 👇