Whenever I’m asked if Catholics worship statues, I’m reminded of a story I once heard from a traveling priest at our parish. He mentioned touring the church he was to celebrate mass at the next day and he noticed a group of children praying to the statue of Mary.
Upon further inspection, he realized that it was a collective statue of the Fatima children and Our Lady of Fatima. He couldn’t resist commenting to the tour guide: “What a religion! Not only do we worship statues, but our statues worship statues!”
Statues and scripture
A common misconception about Catholics is that we worship statues. The most well-known Bible verse our Protestant brothers and sisters will use in their defense is from the book of Exodus: “You shall not make for yourself a graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: you shall not bow down to them or serve them.”
Yet, we also find a verse in the Bible (in Exodus, none the less) that mentions God commanding the building of statues in a religious worship context:
“And you shall make two cherubim of gold of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end; of one piece of the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be.”
Our Heavenly family pictures
Around my house, the walls are full of pictures depicting loved ones who are alive and those have left this world. However, someone walking into my house wouldn’t think that I worship those pictures. It’s similar to the statues and images of Mary, Jesus, and the Saints that are also in my house.
When a Catholic hangs a crucifix on the wall, he doesn’t believe that the crucifix is really Christ, hanging on his living room wall. Instead, he believes that this image of Christ crucified will remind him of the true Christ in Heaven – the crucifix serving as an aide in prayer.
The Catholic Church condemns idolatry and similar practices. It’s important to realize the difference between seeing a statue as a god and seeing a statue as a visual reminder of the true presence in Heaven.
Want to know more about why the statues in Church’s aren’t “graven images”? On Catholic Answers, watch Tim Staples answer a caller who objects to Catholicism because of statues: