Why Do We Display Statues?

Of all Catholic devotional items, certainly one of the most distinctive, traditional - and pervasive - is
the statue.

For centuries statues have adorned Catholic churches, convents, rectories, homes, and cemeteries. They are cast, carved, or sculpted. They are made of marble or granite, ceramic or plaster, wood or bronze. Some are quite large, like the concrete statue of Christ in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Most are much smaller. Almost every sacred person in the Catholic tradition is depicted in a statue.

Why does the Catholic Church not only allow but promote the practice of owning and displaying statues?

The first reason has to do with the fact that Christianity is an incarnational religion. This means that visible, tangible realities are used either to embody or to represent the divine. Statues serve as visible reminders of persons who are considered sacred by the Church. Statues help us remember that saints and holy persons are not disembodied angels, but human beings like us. Statues also serve as reminders that we experience salvation incarnationally - in history, in the world, in our own bodies of flesh and blood.

Yet, while statues have incarnational value, we must also keep in mind that their power is merely symbolic. This means that, while statues may certainly serve as powerful reminders of sacred persons, they have no power in themselves. It is precisely their power as symbols that makes statues an element of religious faith rather than superstition. The belief that spiritual power exists within things themselves, rather than in God, is at the heart of superstition. The Catholic faith holds that all spiritual power belongs to God, and to God alone.

A final reason for the use of statues has to do with the Catholic belief in intercessory prayer. At times we may pray before the statue of a saint because we believe he or she will present our needs to God on our behalf. This has nothing to do with the attitude that we human beings are unworthy to approach God ourselves. Rather, we are part of a universal community of believers, both living and deceased, who together are seeking greater union with God.

Source: Oblates; May/June 2002; Vol. 59, No. 3

All of the above statues can be found at St. Isidore Church. You are invited to visit and be reminded of the holy lives that these statues represent.

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