Can veneration of the saints turn into idolatry

I find that sometimes I can get really invested in the saints and because of that sometimes I feel like they distract me from God. I’m afraid that sometimes I let my love of the saints turn into idolatry and I’m wondering the best way to show devotion to the saints without letting yourself be distracted from God. Thanks!

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anything can be turned into idolatry if you let it. It’s all a matter of making sure your time and adoration are going to God. The Saints are alive, and willing to pray for us. Just keep that in mind. They are glorified men and women; not God.


God first. That is the only priority you need. Look to - but through - the Saints to see God.

Someone on here flagged me for stating the obvious and it is not off topic or inappropriate!! All I said in a round about way was pray to God about it, directly and that is not to say that the Saints should not at all be contacted for help. I am not belittling anyone or the Saints. I quote Scripture: John 14:6 ( Catholic Jerusalem Bible )
*Now if that was off topic then everyone answering should be flagged as well!! God is Omnipresence

There are some obvious practices that border on idolatry imho. Burying a statue of St Joseph upside down in the garden when you are selling your house. Gluing a coin to the bottom of a statue of the Infant of Prague in the hope of getting money.

My daughter just loves Joan of Arc and gobbles up anything she can find about her. The wonderful thing about the Saints is that there is a kindred Christian spirit for everyone.

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Anything can turn into idolatry; it’s all about how we relate to each thing. (Whether we’re talking about saints, popularity, food, etc.)

First up, remember that you don’t have to show devotion to a saint at all if at this particular time in your life, you find it distracting you from God (rather than drawing you closer to God). Use your own judgement and prudence to keep your spiritual life healthy in your own circumstances.

Second up, and it’s hard to give too-specific advice without knowing exactly how you’re ‘showing devotion’ currently, but maybe take a second look at the language you use when you pray to saints or think about them? Like, make sure you’re asking a saint to pray to God for you (just like you’d ask any human on earth to pray to God for you), rather than asking a saint to ‘do’ something for you, as if they themselves have supernatural powers. Try to moderate your language so that nothing you say to a saint is different from what you’d say to your buddy in the next pew at Mass, and it’ll probably be hard to consider your respect/relationship with that person (living or dead) to ‘distract’ you from God. Remember that the saints (living and dead) are examples for us, of a Christian life successfully lived, so it is appropriate for us to be encouraged by their example: by the example of the great goodness God graced into their lives, and by the example of their human response to God’s graces. If that’s what we’re seeing in a saint’s life (the encouraging example of how good God was to them, and how admirably they cooperated with God), I’m not sure how we could find ourselves ‘distracted from God’ when we see them. Rather, every saint becomes a window through which we can see God more clearly.

Is there something specific about your current approach to Christian saints, that you particularly worry is problematic, that we could help with?

Yes if you ever say that anything done from an intercession was because of that particular Saint and not by God working through that Saint. All comes from God first and foremost.

We honor the saints and we try to imitate them. Pray when that idolatry is about to happen.

You may start worrying about idolatry only when you start offering sacrifices on altars to saints.


Potential catholic convert here, raised in the southern baptist church. I think that learning about the saints, for one, really deepens my faith because for a long time i had the idea that God doesn’t do miracles anymore. But like i was reading about Saint Patrick and even that brief line about not feeling the cold of the winter weather while he was praying was amazing, to me. I always thought stuff like that was stuff for the book of Acts growing up.

As i am still learning about the catholic faith, take everything i say with a grain of salt and a lot of prayer…but i’m more concerned with the heart’s intentions, personally. I did a lot of reading and prayer on it and i see nothing wrong with asking saints in heaven for prayer because we ask other believers here and at church service for prayers all the time.

Beyond that, i can’t say. Its a very personal, individual thing, i think. Your intentions, the heart behind it, matter the most. The first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. So long as someone is doing that and not putting them as equal to God, i think they’re are fine.


I find that even being a fanatic is not inherently bad. When I keep rereading my favorite saints’ stories I’m always saying subconsciously and sometimes consciously “Wow look at what God did in this person’s life!!!” The saints, like us humans, would be nothing without God. Make a point to always remember that and I trust this won’t be an issue.

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I’m not sure I understand what you mean with this. Everything good and likeable in the Saints are all from God, and all their good and likeable actions were likewise. Honoring the Saints is essentially just thanking God for His Grace, working through these admirable people. How that can be distracting I don’t see, but if that’s what you feel then I don’t mean to dispute it.

You cannot accidentally let veneration become idolatry. Despite what is said in all the nasty attacks on the saints and iconography from certain Christian denominations, commiting the number one sin in the Ten Commandments is not so easy to slip into on accident. Idolatry(specifically) means to make an idol, and then believe that said Idol contains the Essence of God(or a god). Just like we hold that the Eucharist is really and truly God, only idolatry is relating to a false object.

Worshipping other gods than God in general is also something you can’t do without knowing. If you believe that Mary is the fourth person of the Trinity, or that God has divided his substance among all the Saints, then that is heretical and wrong. Or if you believe that all saints are sent to other planets after we die to become gods in their own right then that is also wrong. But if you believe that the Saints are normal people who have been raised up to Heaven by God, with all that entails, then you don’t need to worry.

Honor them as much as you like, God does not mind so long as you don’t liken them to Him, and indeed venerating the Saints is a practice He has given us for our benefit. I don’t think it’s possible to honor them too much, as love is not going to cause someone to stop and measure whether an action is too good for the amount of love they feel. Such actions do need to be sensible though, it makes sense to ask God to take away sins since he is God, but asking St. Joseph to take away sins is clearly beyond his abilities. But, provided the action is rightly ordered, any action inspired by love is also inspired by God.

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What I always find, um, interesting, is how often Catholic saints or practices are focused on as ‘leading to idolatry’ and how seldom following entertainment, sports, and thousands of other secular practices aren’t.

“Oh heavens, I’m praying ‘too much to a saint’ (how does one gauge this anyway), it’s IDOLATRY.”

But never a thought to how many hours daily one spends in contemplation of the latest music, entertainers, sports, politics, get rich quick schemes, astrology, ‘decluttering’, ‘mindfulness’, constant internet surfing etc. Oh no. Those are ‘necessary’. I mean, we have to LIVE, right?

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Yes but unlike fellow parishioners the saints are already in heaven and their prayer carries more power and effectiveness. They are our heavenly helpers.

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That was my other argument, but I tried to be more constructive :laughing: But yes VERY true

Concupiscence. Veneration of the TV can become American Idol.

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