Letter to Mo Derniste continued: “Why I remain a Catholic”
I remain a Catholic because of relics, statues and religious images. We Catholics get a lot of grief because of statues etc. The Bible forbids graven images doesn't it? Not exactly. It forbids the making of idols — that is the images of gods. Admittedly Catholics allow the representation of Christ and the Trinity because God chose to show his own divine image in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. As for the rest of our imagery, it is the saints that we picture. No true Catholic believes that a saint is a god or goddess. We may honor the Blessed Mother and the saints, but we certainly don't worship them.
It is interesting to me that those same people who criticize our religious art often are themselves guilty of idolatry. They make over the image of God in their own likeness. Perhaps you've heard someone say that, "I could never worship a god who....” (fill in the blanks; allows the holocaust, or doesn't permit artificial birth control; or abortion, or divorce and remarriage, etc.) We have religious art, but those who invent their own religion and create a god who blesses their favorite sins are the true idolaters.
We Catholics live in a world populated by saints. Relics, religious art and sacred architecture remind us constantly that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves. We live in a communion of saints. Perhaps you have heard of the treasury of the merits of the saints, perhaps not. I think of it like this. On a ship you have water tight compartments. They are sealed when the ship is in danger of sinking. That's how I think of the saints. The Church constantly hits obstacles, but the lives of the saints, their writings, their works and their prayers are sealed and unshakeable. They sustain the Church in difficult times. We are a communion of two thousand years and more. Our imagery and our relics remind us that the present difficulties are only a small part of the story.
In a certain sense, there are three testaments: the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Lives of the Saints. This third Testament teaches us how to live in the world and in the Kingdom of God at the same time. Modern people constantly want to reinvent the truth to suite our present situation. They forget that we are part of something that has been and that will be. The narcissism of the present age demands that truth conform itself to our needs, forgetting that we stand on the shoulders of the saints and we are responsible to generations yet unborn. There is an old saying, "He who is married to the spirit of the age soon finds himself a widower." The communion of the saints surrounds and sustains us in these tangible reminders, the images, the relics and their lives and writings.
We are part of something eternal. The faith is not our plaything. It has been handed on to us from the first saints and martyrs all the way down to Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. John Paul the Great and the great host of current martyrs. I will do my best to hand it on to those who come after me.