Catholics praying before statues

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“Fr While Catholics may say they do not adore statues, their actions prove otherwise… Catholics kiss statues, bow down before them, and pray in front of them, is that not worship?”

My response:

And so, we have finally come to the last part of this topic on images. As I write this, I wish to make a very passionate appeal to all my readers, both Catholics and non Catholics to have an OPEN MIND as that is the only way we can learn from each other.

This topic has generated so many questions and debates both on my page and outside of my page. At one end, there is that non-catholic brother who is typing: “You Catholics worship idols, you go against the Bible to practice human traditions, repent or you perish.” At the other end, there is that Catholic sister typing: “The Catholic Church gave you the Bible you are using. You carry about your pastor’s pictures and stickers for protection, repent.”

Friends, we can’t have a reasonable discussion with mindsets like that. I brought up this topic on images so that we can have a healthy debate rooted on scriptures. And so far, only very few engaged me maturely and with points.

Firstly, permit me to address Catholics.

Dear Catholics, you cannot understand the arguments of non-catholics on images unless you could take the bold step of standing like an outsider, like someone who just entered the Catholic Church for the first time, or someone who grew up in a church where he had never seen images in churches before.

Then, as you enter the Catholic church, you watch people going to the grotto or inside the church. They kneel before a moulded image, and as you watch, one person starts talking to the image and in the process starts crying. Some will even lie down holding the image in a way that suggests that the image is everything to them.

As a Catholic who sees this everyday and grew up with it, it may not mean so much to you; you already understand the perspective from which those who kneel before images are coming from. But as a non-catholic who just entered the Church for the first time to see all these. . .you can’t convince that person that what he or she saw is not idolatry.

There are fanatics everywhere, there are those who have grown to think that images are the same as what they represent — the image of Mary for them is Mary as a whole, no difference. There are those who feel that until an altar with images of Christ is kept in their house, Jesus has not yet entered the house. There are those who cannot drive a car unless an image of archangel Michael is placed on the dashboard.

We must teach these people that they are wrong. For in a bid to get connected to what an image represents, people should not start seeing images as ultimate and something they can’t do without.

Now, let me address non catholics

Dear friends, there is no where in the Catholic teachings that suggest in anyway that images are to be worshipped. And as we have seen in our previous discussions, quoting Exodus 20:4 does not mean God is against images in themselves. For if it is so, everyone of us is guilty. All our mouldings and carvings and pictures should be abolished. But we saw that the correct understanding of that text is in Verse 5, where he talked about worshipping them.

The church sees those images as holy images, not because they are holy on their own, but because of the person or persons they represent. The Bible for example is a holy book not because it is not ink and paper like every other book but because of what it represents. That is why we don’t use them to play. That is why you hold the bible so sacred. That is why Catholics hold images with respect. For if they represent something of value, you don’t treat them like trash especially if they are blessed.

I have seen people carry Bibles and place them on their bed when sick. I have seen people carry Bible to cast out demons. I have done that severally. I have equally used the crucifix to deliver some persons possessed of demons. What they say the shout at the mere sight of the crucifix is beyond whatever argument we have against images.

The power of the Bible is not in the bible as per the book, nor the power of the crucifix in the crucifix as per a wood with an image of Christ on it. No! The power is in what they represent and the devil knows that.

As a missionary, the first thing I received after the Holy Bible was the crucifix. As I go on mission I carry it. This is to remind me always that all my messages and life must be centered on Christ crucified.

Then on kneeling to statues…my simple response will be using my example on what I occasionally do when I miss my late dad. I go to where his picture is or where he is buried, I kneel or reverence it and with tears I say things like, “I miss you. . . Please wherever you are, just know I love you. Till we meet.” Then I feel consoled.

My heart and soul is not in the image but my mind is thinking about him and all the good memories we had. Someone who is looking at me from afar may think I am kneeling to my dad’s picture and may tag it idolatry. It is only me that knows what goes on in me and to those that I explain it to that care to see it the way I see it.

Some people have attachment to Mary the mother of Christ, after reading about how she bore all the pains of her son’s death. How she watched him die at the age of 33. It is only a good mother that understands the pains.

So, when a woman goes before the statue of Mary and starts crying. . . Don’t judge her quickly. She might just be saying “Mary, how did you manage to bear those pains seeing your son die. Right now, I am watching how my son is struggling to make it in life and how he cries everyday and I can’t bear the sight. How did you survive it. I wish I can have your grace. I don’t want to have HBP.”

To an outsider, it may seem she is kneeling to a statue…but no, she has something beyond that. People are seeing her and the statue… she is seeing her problem and someone who has gone through worst and she is trying to draw inspiration.

 

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Fr. Kelvin Ugwu
Fr. Kelvin Ugwu
Fr Kelvin Ugwu MSP is an influential Nigerian Catholic priest on a mission in The Gambia.

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