Honoring The Saints, Our Lady, and Holy Images

[Questions Asked by Protestants Briefly Answered by Father M. Philipps, Rector of St. Joseph’s Church, Buffalo, NY. Cabinet of Catholic Information, 1903 Imprimatur: Archbishop John Farley]

Praying to the Saints

What do you mean by praying to the saints?

Praying to the saints means to ask the saints to pray for us. It does not mean to adore them as we pray to and adore God.

Does the Bible say that we may ask the saints to pray for us? The Bible says that it is allowed and very useful to ask the prayers of people on earth and the prayers of the angels in heaven; from this we conclude that it is also allowed to ask the prayers of the saints who reign with Christ in heaven and who are still our friends. “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, through our Lord Jesus Christ and by the charity of the Holy Ghost, that you help me in your prayers for me to God.” Rom. 15:30. The same he said in his letter to the Ephesians 6:18 and Thessalonians 5:25.

Does the Bible say that the angels and saints pray for people on earth? In Zach. 1:12, we read that an angel prayed for the Jews: “Lord of host, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem, and on the cities of Juda against which thou art angry.” God heard the prayers of the angel and said: “Thou hast spoken good words, consoling words….I will have mercy on Jerusalem.” In 2 Peter 1:15, we read: “And I will do my endeavor that after my death also you may often have prayers whereby you may keep a memory of these things.” St. Peter wished to pray for his friends even after his death.

St. John saw four and twenty ancients “who fell down before the lamb and all had harps and golden vials full of odors which are the prayers of the saints.” This proves that the saints in heaven pray for us.

The Bible says we should call on the Lord alone for help. Paral. 16:18. If we ask the prayers of the saints and angels, we believe that they pray to God for us; help, therefore, comes from God.

But why not pray to God directly as Christ taught us in the Our Father? We may pray to God directly as we do in many cases, and we may ask the prayers of the saints to assist us in our unworthiness and obtain for us what we cannot receive. Both ways are recommended.

The saints are too far off to hear us.

The Bible says that the saints and angels do hear us: “There shall be joy before the angels of God upon one sinner doing penance.” Luke 15:10 The saints being with the angels in heaven hear us through God.

In Jeremias 17:5, we read: “Cursed he who places his trust in man.” Jeremias meant that we should not trust in man and exclude God. God Himself told us to observe and trust his angel. Exodus 23.

Catholics call the saints our hope, our mercy, etc. Is not God our hope and our mercy?

By using these expressions, Catholics do not mean to say that the saints are our hope and mercy as God is. Often we call a friend our only hope, without excluding God. [For more on the honor shown to the Saints, see: Praying to Saints and On Worshiping Mary and the Saints.]

Why do Catholics pay so much honor to the Blessed Virgin Mary?

  1. Because she was chosen by God to be the mother of our Savior, and if we honor the mother of a general who saved his country, how much more should we honor the mother of Him Who saved the whole world.

  2. Because the angel honored Mary by the great titles of: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women.

  3. Because Jesus Christ wished that we honor His mother, when He said on the Cross, “See thy mother.”

  4. Because the first Christians honored her with the most intense love.

  5. Because Mary is, after God, the most perfect model of purity, of justice and of holiness for us to imitate.

  6. Because people who honored her, were amply rewarded by Almighty God: the lame walked, the blind began to see, the sick recovered, etc.

But is it not derogatory to God’s honor to pay so much honor to a creature? The honor we give to Mary is infinitely inferior to the honor we give to God, and all honor we give to Mary redounds to God’s honor.

Did the Blessed Virgin Mary have any other children besides Jesus? No, the Bible calls Mary a “virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph….and the virgin’s name was Mary.” And the Bible says that Mary remained a virgin till after the Birth of Jesus. Math. 1:25. That she continued in the same state of virginity during the rest of her days is taught by the Nicene Creed and by the Church in the remotest antiquity calling her “the glorious ever virgin Mary.”

But the evangelist says: “Joseph…knew her not till she brought forth her first born son.”

The words “not till” mean, not till then, nor after. The same expression is used in Gen.8:7: “The raven went forth from the ark and did not return till the waters were dried up,” that is not till then, nor after; or the raven never returned. The same expression is found in 1 Kings 15:30.

But Jesus is called Mary’s first born, which implies other children. The word “first born” was given to the first born of every Jewish woman, whether children followed or not. See similar case is in Josue 17:1. And the frequent mention of the brethren of Jesus is evident because Jesus called all His followers His brethren. [See Mary Every Virgin.]

Does the Bible say that Mary was always free from original sin?In Genesis we read: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed. She shall crush thy head.” Gen. 3:15. The seed is Jesus, the woman is Mary, the serpent is the devil. The enmity placed between the woman and the devil is an absolute and perpetual one. God’s words do not admit of a momentary reconciliation, and not a moment when original sin could be in Mary.

The angel called Mary holy, “hail full of grace;” if full of grace no sin can be there. The angel also called Mary: “blessed art thou amongst women.”

What other reasons are there to prove that Mary was without original sin?

  1. It would have been unworthy of a God of infinite purity to have been born of a woman that was even for an instant under the dominion of sin.

  2. Mary was chosen by God to give flesh of her flesh to the infant Jesus. Jesus as God could not assume a sinful flesh, if he was similar to us, except sin.

  3. The Catholic Church guided by the Holy Ghost teaches that Mary was free from original sin even from the moment of her conception.

  4. Mary herself appeared at Lourdes in France and declared that she is the Immaculate Conception, that is, free from original sin from the moment of her conception. In order to verify this apparition, a well of clear water sprung up out of the ground were previously not a sign of water or of a well was seen. And as a lasting testimony, thousands of people afflicted with all kinds of diseases, when dipped in this water come forth cured by the power of God, which is daily attested by eye witnesses, both Catholic and Protestants. [See It’s All or Nothing.]

Holy Pictures

Why do Catholics keep holy pictures in their houses? Because these pictures remind us of the life and virtues for the saint they represent, and incite us to follow their example.

Do Catholics pray to these pictures or statues? If Catholics kneel down or bow before statues, they imagine they kneel before Christ or bow to the saint in heaven it represents, as we bow to a friend in meeting him.

Does the Bible say that we are allowed to make pictures and statues to honor them?

In Exodus 25:18, we read: “Thou shalt make also two Cherubins of beaten gold, on the two sides of the oracle…Let them cover both sides of the propitiatory.” In the book of Num. 21:8, we read: “And the Lord said to him: make a brazen serpent, and set it up for a sign; whosoever being struck shall look on it, shall live…when they were bitten, looked upon it, they were healed.” The brazen serpent was a type of Christ. The Jews honored the Ark of the Covenant. “Josue rent his garments and fell flat on the ground, before the ark of the Lord until evening, both he and all the ancients of Israel.”

But God said: “Thou shalt not make a picture of any other likeness…thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them?” God forbids to make pictures to be adored, but He did not absolutely forbid the making of pictures, as He Himself ordered pictures to be placed in the Ark. If among the Jews the pictures were not much in use, it was more on account of their inclination of falling into idolatry. [See Saint John Damascene and the Iconoclasts.]