22 November 2012

Uncommon Commentary #304: It's Better to Idolize a Saint than a Pop Celebrity Anyway

Prayer is not the same as worship.  When a sinner prays to a canonized saint, he's not worshiping that person, but, rather, asking (v.i.) somebody who's in the presence of God to intercede for him before the Deity, just as Moses interceded for the Israelites when he was in His presence. (To "pray" means to entreat or implore, and was formerly used, in a derived sense, as a function word equivalent to "please".)  It ought to be noted also that the Church Militant (that is, the believers still on Earth) can ask friends in person or over the telephone or via electronic mail or in some other way to pray for them, but that high technology still doesn't enable us to send our petitions to Heaven, where dwell the Church Triumphant (viz., those who have died in the state of divine grace), and so we have no means other than prayer for communicating our requests to our celestial friends the saints. (I'm not arguing that no one overdoes devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary; many Roman Catholics, in my opinion, exaggerate the rôle of the BVM, but they still stop well short of committing "idolatry", contrary to the opinion of most Protestants.)
Nor is veneration the same as worship; the former means "a holding as holy or sacrosanct because of character, association, or age", to quote Webster's dictionary.  I've never seen a holy relic in person, but I've seen pictures of the Shroud of Turin, which is unquestionably the burial cloth of Christ. (Its authenticity is questioned by some, but their reasons for doing so are very poor.)  Viewing something that actually touched the body in which God became incarnate, and looking upon not just an artist's representation of the Savior but the actual image of His face, inspires awe and reverence in me; in other words, it's an aid to worship, not an object of worship.
Neither prayer to a saint nor veneration of a relic therefore qualifies as idolatry; anyone who says otherwise effectively accuses thousands of persons over the ages, who are themselves considered to have attained sainthood, of having been idolaters.  That's enough to make the Church Triumphant militant!