Do Catholics Worship Images?
How is it that there is a portion of the Commandments of God that clearly instructs us not to make graven images for ourselves, nor bow down to such; not of things on earth nor things in heaven (Exodus 20:4–6) yet we (Catholics) go ahead and do the exact opposite (as some accuse us of)?
In responding to this argument made by those who think it is improper to use images during the worship of God, usually put forward by protestant Christian movements/denominations, I will love us to begin from a standpoint of common reasoning.
Is there any organization in the entire universe that does not have a logo? Is there any society that one can refer to by simply looking into thin air? How do people recollect events, describe concepts or spark the imaginative capacities of the mind without the use of visual illustrations of some sort? Have you imagined what it could have been like to explain to a six-year-old that someone like Jesus Christ existed without pointing to an image? Or to a Muslim that the Prophet Mohammed once lived without having some visual guide as to how he may have looked? I will leave this paragraph as-is so we can think of these scenarios for ourselves.
Chances are that your responses to the preceding questions will point to the fact that one may need a graphical illustration (either in pictures or 3-D formats) to support the process of learning, imagination and the presentation of historical events. Even when you call the word “God”, everyone has some mental image that naturally depicts how God may look like; for me, it is a huge bright cloud formed somewhere in the skies from which there is a possibility of hearing a thunderous voice if God so wishes to speak. At least whenever we see a Cross, our minds are immediately drawn to a religion called “Christianity”, and for me, a half shaped moon with a star in its middle points immediately to the religion: “Islam”.
But do Catholics worship these images? I will again ask a question that may help you understand what goes on when you see images/statues of Jesus, Mary, the Saints, etc. placed in places of worship:
When you have the image of a friend or family member who may have passed on, what comes to your mind whenever you see the image? Again, chances are that you recall a memory or two you may have had with that individual. It may not necessarily mean you idolize such an image (except you do, which will be wrong anyway).
From the Catholic perspective, these images/statues are all pointers to the persons they represent and not that they are gods in themselves. When you see a Catholic bow down before the image of Jesus Christ, she is only worshipping the risen Christ and not the picture itself. God is not opposed to having statues in places of worship, else he wouldn’t have vividly described the objects that King Solomon should place in the Sanctuary of worship as we can find in the book of Exodus Chapter 25.
Lastly, Catholics believe that those who have died can pray (intercede) for those who are alive. That explains why you may find many more images and statues of the Saints (those who are believed to have lived very holy lives and are in heaven currently), to remember them and to ask for their intercession to God. Catholics worship God, not the images. As with all things, images are only a tool to help guide the mind to focus on the subject and are not the subject themselves.
Merci beaucoup, au revoir.