Saturday, October 20, 2012
AND WHY DO WE VENERATE THE SAINTS? IS THAT IDOLATRY?
By Susan Fox
Folks, here is a comment from Wayne who I met at the National Catholic Register online discussion board. If I publish the comment by the regular means, I can’t answer the question. Please I encourage you to comment on this posting if you have anything to add to my answer. Your insights will be most welcome. Notice on this site you can sign up to become a follower. (Right Hand column below -- just above the Total Pageviews.) This allows me to send you an email directly without knowing your email address.
Hi, its me, your friend wayne.
Heres a quote fom your piece....Jesus said, "Begone Satan: for it is written, "The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve." And Satan left Him.
You were , along with sister tarah, the only 2 who made sense in that NCR site. Now, if you could, help me out with this one. The adore part. Dont the catholics adore hundreds of "saints" and poor old mary? i know the prevailing theory is that these departed ones in turn pray to Jesus for you. The word adore...i dont see any problem with that. But does that quote mean to adore god only? i dont see adore as meaning worship. i adore. I adore Welches white grape peach juice. Glad to talk to you again
Yes, Wayne I adore chocolate, but – you are correct -- that is different than adoring God. It’s too bad we can’t use the Greek language because they have a whole bunch of verbs that mean different kinds of love, and that’s what we are really talking about.
I adore you, too, Wayne, but in that context I am really talking about friendship. I adore my husband, but in that context I am talking about romantic married love. My love for chocolate is self indulgent, though not necessarily bad, whereas friendship and married love involve a certain element of selfless giving. At least that is the goal.
But the love I have for God is totally different. If any of my other loves interfere with the love of God, I have to put them aside and chose God alone. You know Jesus said, any man who has left brothers, sisters, father, mother or children, or lands for My sake and the Gospel, he shall receive a hundredfold now in this life houses, brothers, sisters, mothers and children with persecutions and eternal life in the world to come. (Mark 10: 29-30)
We do indeed believe we can adore only God and Him alone. It comes from this commandment: “Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole mind, your whole strength, your whole being and your neighbor as yourself.”
So as they say on Star Trek: THIS IS THE PRIME DIRECTIVE, the essence of the Christian life as Christ has laid it out for us. Our loves are prioritized.
So where does this leave poor Mary? Or poor old St. Anthony? I really love Mary. I really love St. Francis, St. Anthony, St. Faustina, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Isaac Jogues, St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, St. Joseph, St. Peter To Rot, St. Juan Diego, St. Pio. I love so many saints I can’t list them all. I was tempted to say I adore them, but I adore them the same way I adore you, Wayne – they are my friends. So I do not adore them the same way I adore God, and if I did, I would be committing the sin of idolatry.
The Catholic Church calls this form of friendship veneration. We venerate the saints. For me, it means loving them as my friends in heaven. But the definition of venerate is “to regard with reverential respect or with admiring deference.”
So how do we venerate a person in heaven without giving them the regard due to God? It’s simple. HERE IS THE ANSWER: All devotion to the saints must have as its end Jesus Christ.
That is if you find yourself loving St. Anthony to the exclusion of God (and I know some people who don’t go to Mass but they always pray to St. Anthony), then our love has become disordered. It is idolatry.
But in the Catholic Church we are always running around talking about “True Devotion to Mary.” TRUE Devotion as opposed to FALSE (idolatry) devotion. It’s means that we do not worship her as a goddess, by no means, she is a creature created by God. We go to her instead as a more perfect means to get to Jesus. Jesus is always the goal in any devotion to the saints. Well, why not go directly to Jesus? You can! And you can go to your friends in heaven as well, and end up at the same place, God.
In fact, one of the most frustrating things about the Blessed Virgin Mary is whenever I go to her, I end up with Jesus or the Father or the Holy Spirit. She just disappears. I can’t get a firm fix on her. I ask St. Anthony to get me a parking space. I find a parking space and I thank God! I forget St. Anthony. And you know what? That makes him very happy because he lived his life loving God with his whole heart. He is one of those Christians, who gave up father, brother, sister, mother, children, lands to serve God. I think he even slept in a tree, which is much more than I do. I sleep in an apartment.
He was one crazy dude (from the world’s point of view), but he loved God more than anything in this world and it was evidenced by his life. He was a Catholic priest, a Franciscan in the time that St. Francis lived. He really embraced poverty just like St. Francis.
Most of the time we Catholics pray to St. Anthony to ask him to find something that is lost. But it almost seems to me sacrilegious because he was such an incredible man. (It’s not sacrilegious however. The saints are very humble.) He was sent to preach to the Waldensians (early Protestants), and they hid in their houses and refused to listen. He happened to be standing on a bluff next to the sea and all the creatures there came to the top of the water. They seemed to be listening, so St. Anthony began to preach to them and eventually 50 people came out to listen to him along with the sea creatures.
One man didn’t believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, so St. Anthony made a deal with him. The man had a mule. So St. Anthony said, “Starve the mule for one day and at the end of that time, we’ll offer him food or the opportunity to worship Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.” The man agreed. St Anthony prayed all night and said Mass on the next morning. The man did not feed his donkey for one day. St. Anthony put Jesus in a gold vessel called a Monstrance. The donkey was put in a pen. Hay was placed on one side of the pen and St. Anthony came with Jesus on the other side of the pen. The donkey did not go to his food. He went to Our Lord Jesus Christ present in the Holy Eucharist and held by St. Anthony. Then the donkey knelt.
I know that’s impossible! It was a miracle. But the man who owned the donkey returned to the Catholic faith, so I guess God felt the miracle was necessary. (See poem about this below)
One time on my birthday I lost my favorite Brown Scapular (it’s like a Catholic altar call. It’s a rope with a brown cloth and an image of Our Lady on it, worn around the neck, and it means I belong to Jesus, not to the world.)
So I said to St. Anthony, “I hate to ask you to help find my scapular because you were such an incredible miracle worker, but could ya? Would ya?”
Now I don’t hear voices or see visions but somehow I understood that I would find my scapular before the end of the day. Suddenly I noticed it was 11:30 p.m. on my birthday and I didn’t have my scapular. So I said, “St. Anthony. It’s 11:30 p.m.!” Wayne, I kid you not, I was walking out of my dark bedroom where my husband was sleeping when I said that, and I reached out for the doorknob behind the bedroom door and my scapular was hanging on it! Now, of course, I thanked God! (not poor St. Anthony).
If you wish to know more about St. Anthony there is an article on him on our blog
Or check the labels on the right side for an article called, “St. Anthony of Padua.”
I did mention earlier that Mary is a more perfect means to Jesus, and why is that? Mary is His Mother. Christianity is really about relationships. Our God is Three Persons in a Triune Relationship. Our God is One, but He is also a Community of Persons. If I want to get to Jesus only the Holy Spirit can bring me. I can’t even say His name unless the Holy Spirit allows me to. If I want to reach the Father, only Jesus can bring me. Jesus and The Father send the Spirit. The path of holiness for myself is to understand who am I in relation to God? Who am I in relation to each Person of the Blessed Trinity? Mary was Jesus’ mother. Jesus is the God who said, “Honor Your Father and Mother.” He doesn’t disobey his own commandments. He also gave away his most precious and last possession from the cross – His mother. (He'd given up everything else, including his clothes at that point.) He said to John, “Behold Your Mother.” And to Mary, he said, “Behold your son.” It was his last moments on earth and He was dying. But He gave away His mother. So Jesus felt His mother could help us. He was giving us a short cut to salvation.
Do you know about short cuts? They have them in computer games. They are called cheat codes. You learn the cheat code and you can win the game faster and easier. In some of the games my son played he never ever would have unlocked the puzzle to get to the next level unless he first searched online for the “cheat codes.” In giving us His mother, Jesus gave us the “cheat code” to salvation. (Disclaimer: this is my explanation of the Catholic teaching on Mary, not that of the Catholic Church.)
In the Old Testament, when people wanted something from the King, they approached the King’s mother first to sort of soften him up. St. Louis Marie de Montfort, who wrote “True Devotion to Mary,” said that when a soul gives himself to Jesus through Mary, it’s like handing a wormy apple to the King’s mother. Mary slices the apple, cuts out the worms (our gifts are not perfect) and places the apple slices on a gold plate and hands it to Jesus. And Jesus is very pleased with you.
St. Louis Marie de Montfort called devotion to Mary the short, sure and easy way to enter the Kingdom of God. And the veneration we Catholics give to Mary is greater than the veneration we give to all the other saints. But still we realize she is a creature of God, and He made her. But what a creature! I am so grateful to her. When I think about the fact that if she hadn’t told God, “Yes, I’ll be the Mother of Your Son,” then I, Susan Fox, would never, ever have met Jesus. How sad my life would have been without Him.
Now below I share a poem I wrote some years ago about St. Anthony’s miracle:
St. Anthony's Bread
(St. Anthony of Padua converted an unbeliever by working a miracle. He gave a mule a choice between his feed or the Eucharist. The mule had been starved, but chose to kneel in front of the Eucharist instead of eating.)
I am a poor dumb mule,
starved for a day and given a choice:
my feed or the Food of the Universe.
I knew Him:
He was the Baker who kneaded my life.
He was the King who once lay in the cold before my kind
in the form of a baby.
My knees were not made for this.
I am constructed awkwardly.
But my choice was simple:
I knelt before the Bread of my life.
I knelt before my Maker.