Non-Catholics: Why do you Catholics worship statues?
Catholics: We don’t.
Non-Catholics: Sure you do, and the Vatican tells you to.
Catholics: Really! Statues are only symbols. We don’t actually worship them.
Non-Catholics: It’s idolatry you know. And the Bible condemns that! Repent now or go to hell!
Catholics: ::Facepalm:: Like talking to a wall.
My YouTube channel has a constant influx of people who claim that Catholics worship statues. This is even in spite of my making a video on that very topic proving that we don’t! After all, statues are only wood, marble, and plaster. They are dead! They cannot hear us. They cannot see us. They cannot do anything because they are dead.
Catholics understand this. We know that they are just symbols, representations of our brothers and sisters of faith who have gone before us, and these statues remind us of their holy lives. It’s like having pictures of your family in your wallet. But whatever. Catholics still worship statues!
These non-Catholics consistently point out that Catholics kneel before statues, bow before them, and kiss them proving that they worship statues and make idols out of them. They will then take you to Exodus 20 where they wrongly believe God said don’t make any statues. I say wrongly because statues and graven images were used also for God’s holy purposes in the old Testament. They just couldn’t be worshipped. We agree!
Yes, but Catholics DO worship them because they kiss them and bow before them. “Woah there Mr. non-Catholic. Don’t be so hasty in your judgements.” Just because something looks like one thing doesn’t mean it actually is.
Just because a person kisses something does not mean they are worshipping it. Otherwise, I must be worship my wife every day – or her picture when we are apart. Kissing can = worship in rare cases, but in our everyday life and culture, most kissing is not worship and has a plethora of meanings.
So how can someone without knowing the heart or intent of an individual quickly assume that it MUST be worship. Because so many people have been lied to about Catholics and do not know better, nor have they taken any time to care or find out.
Why do Catholics kneel before statues and kiss them?
I had a friend once in college, and his father died. When we found out, a bunch of guys ran like mad around the campus looking for this poor boy in order to tell him the tragic news. Apparently, he already found out. When we finally located him, he was in a chapel praying and crying. He was sitting on the floor holding a picture of his deceased father, and he was hugging the picture and kissing it all while crying his eyes out.
I immediately scolded him to stop worshiping that picture and to stop kissing it. After condemning him in a self-righteous tone, I informed him that he should worship the true God and not the false idol he was kissing.
No, of course I did nothing of the sort. I knew that his father was dead and that he could no longer hug or kiss his father anymore. Thus, he was hugging and kissing the picture, the next best thing and a tangible sign of his father. This picture was now a memory of his father.
It is the same for Catholics. It’s literally that simple. In the Catholic Church whether you are living now, in the past or in the future, if you are part of the body of Christ, you are family. Statues are simply reminders of those brothers and sisters in faith who have gone before us. Every time we see a statue, it recalls to our minds their lives of holiness and how they followed Christ with their whole hearts.
If someone kisses a statue of Jesus for example, we know that it is not the real Jesus – obviously – it is simply an external and symbolic gesture of our love for Him in the same way my friend kissed a picture of his father whom he loved. It’s a reminder. Statues of saints call to our minds the holy lives they lived, and it inspires us to follow Jesus even more.
Analogously, just because a person kneels or bows before something does not mean they are worshipping it. Like kissing, it all depends on the intention behind it. The Bible exhorts us to kiss one another with a holy kiss (2 Corinthians 13:12). At the same time, Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. So, the intention is of utmost importance.
After all, Protestants kneel on the floor in front of their Bibles. Some non-Catholics kiss the Bible. “How dare they!!!!” No….. Catholics do not emotionally fly off the handle because they understand that when Prots kiss the Bible, they are not worshipping the book, but the Person the books teaches us about. Their kiss is a symbol of their love for God who they read about. Likewise, Catholics don’t get all hot and foamy at the mouth yelling about Protestants who kneel before the Bible and accuse them of worshipping it.
When Catholics kneel before a statue or a picture, it is a posture of prayer to God. Even if we ask a saint to pray for us, the end goal and desire of all of our prayers is God. Since He is the end of our prayers, our kneeling is to Him. I have never seen anyone bow before a statue before. Perhaps it’s the bowing of a head??? Not sure. Either way, we are certainly not kneeling to a dead statue and trying to worship it as if it was God. That is silly nonsense. It may look that way to the uneducated passerby, but it’s not.
Bowing in the Bible:
In the Bible, bowing can be used for worship or for honor and veneration. It all depends on the intention. In Revelation 22:8-9, it says John worships an angel and bows before it. He is rightly scolded for such an act. Whereas, in Joshua 5:14, Joshua bows down in honor before an angel without worshipping it and without getting reprimanded in any way. It was a sign of respect and humility. No problem. All depends on the intention of the heart.
Similarly, in 2 Kings 4:37, a woman bows down before prophet Elisha. “She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground; then she took up her son and went out.” No worship involved. In 1 Kings 1:31, “Bathsheba bowed her face to the ground to David and did obeisance to the king, and said, “May my lord King David live forever!” David likewise bowed his face down to the ground before Bathsheba in 1 Kings 2:19.
Even Jesus promises in Revelation 3:9 “Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and learn that I have loved you.”
These people are not worshipping the Israelites with such an act, but it is a posture of humility and respect and honor and all depends on the intention. There are many more instances of reverencing, honoring and venerating people in the Bible, holy people that God has raised up. This obviously isn’t to be confused with the worship that is due to God alone. It is the same when Catholics honor the saints and holy people who have gone before us. We are honoring them, but worship is reserved for God alone and no human. Only God is the God of the universe forever and without end.
I hope this has helped Catholics and non-Catholics alike to understand more our beliefs and practices. If you have any follow up questions, please add them to the comments section below. Also, check out my video on statues and the other great resources I have listed below.
God bless you and come back soon! 😊
- The Catholicism Answer Book: 300 of the most Frequently asked Questions: https://goo.gl/YKpVVd
- The Case for Catholicism – Answers to classic and contemporary objections. (This is the most up-to-date, comprehensive, and thorough defense of the Catholic Church against Protestant objections in print). – https://goo.gl/RwtpWy
- Where is the in the Bible? By Patrick Madrid (Where Catholic beliefs are found in the Bible) https://amzn.to/2EslGzS
- Why is that in Tradition? (What are teachings from tradition and why?) – https://amzn.to/2wowkmF
- “Catholicism for Dummies” by Rev. John Trigilio, Jr.; Rev. Kenneth Brighenti. https://amzn.to/2PMtvnV