Catholic practices questionable

I am curious to know the answers to a couple of questions from a Catholic point of view & from some knowledgeable person.

The bible says, Lev 26:1 >Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up [any] image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I [am] the LORD your God.

Why do I always see statues & figures of Christ on the cross or Mary holding a dead Christ in churches & Catholic supported locations & why do people & priests alike bow down before these images & pray ?

The bible also says, Mat 6:7 > But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

What about the rosary ? Isn’t that repetitions of prayer ?

Thank you for your time & insight.

The command must be taken in context - the context is that we should not make images to “worship” - we know this as God expressly commanded the Israelites to infact create images of the Cheribum on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant and on the tapestries in the Holie of Holies (all per scripture). The bowing before the images is a sign of veneration (honor) not of worship. When catholics pray to saints (deceased believers) they are praying for their intercession (intercessory prayer) to Jesus - Jesus remains the sole mediator.

The bible also says, Mat 6:7 > But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

What about the rosary ? Isn’t that repetitions of prayer ?

Thank you for your time & insight.

The key is “vain” repetition - God doesn’t like long prayers that become route without spiritual meaning. Scripture tells us the saints in heaven pray to God constantly - “Holy, Holy, Holy” Lord - this isn’t vain repetition. The rosary is beautiful - have you actually read the prayers - they take us through the "our Father " (which Jesus expressly told us to pray); stories of the gospel and of Jesus life, death and resurrection and the Hail Mary comes directly from scripture (the announciation and the visitation).



Well let me try and answer the first question as best as I can…the graven images one…the commandment translates to the creation and worship of false idols. Meaning worshiping a statue itself or a picture itself. If you see a Catholic kneeling in front of a statue we aren’t praying to the statue itself…we are praying to God. If you see us praying in front of a picture or a statue of Mary, we aren’t worshiping the picture or the statue or even Mary herself. We are asking Mary to pray to Jesus for us. The statues and pictures and icons represent a reminder of God or of a holy person such as Mary or another saint. But we do not worship the icon itself…does that make any sense?

To try and answer the second question, the Bible means that people use longwinded prayers and phrases because they think it will please God because they are long and it seems like they have feeling, but they really don’t. These people are praying the long prayers without feeling or thought. The Rosary is a set of repeating prayers but they aren’t in vain. They are repeating to allow us to meditate on the life and death and resurrection of Christ.

I really hope I made some sense. :thumbsup:

Thank you Brian for your beautiful and true response to Janija,:):thumbsup:Carlan

I was reading Deut 4 like…10 minutes ago!
Anyway, are there any examples of people bowing/venerating objects in the Bible and this being considered a good thing?

Welcome to the forum.

Interesting questions.

The beginning of the passage you quote from Leviticus is: “Do not make false gods for yourselves.” (NAB Bible). These were part of the “instructions” God gave to Moses for the Israelites. The proscription was against “false gods”, praying to and worshiping images of deities other than the Lord.

When Catholics are praying before these, it is not to the image itself but to the Saint represented by that image or to God directly. Keep in mind that Catholics believe that one can petition a Saint to intercede for them before God.

However, I do understand your general impression about the images, statues, etc. I would agree that at times the amount of it is overdone, although it seems to be less in more contemporary churches. On the other hand, some of the most beautiful church interiors are those that contain elaborate carvings, statuary and soaring stained glass windows.

One history I read explained the number of images, the stained glass windows with scenes from the Bible, and the Stations of the Cross on the walls this way: Hundreds of years ago, especially before the printing press, the Catholic laity did not have Bibles and other religious books. Most could not read or write anyway. So they learned about God and the Bible from the readings at Mass, religious instruction and in the homilies. The images and statues reinforced those teachings and helped them in recalling key parts of scripture, the teachings of Jesus, and His Passion.

Regarding repetition, I would have to agree with you. The best prayer is one that comes direct from the heart. My opinion is that formula prayer is best done in a group, such as when the Lord’s Prayer is recited by the congregation together, or the Creed. Right after the part of Matthew that you quote, Jesus tells His disciples how to pray by teaching them the Lord’s Prayer. It is short, direct, and has all the elements of good prayer.

I like the passage in Luke 18 where Jesus points out the Pharisee and the tax collector praying. Because the tax collector confesses his failings, is humble and asks God for Mercy, Jesus says he is the one who is justified. Again, simple, heartfelt prayer is the best.

For some who pray the Rosary, it may have more meaning than just repetition. Because the prayers themselves become “automatic”, one can meditate on the meaning of “mysteries” that are contained in each “decade” of the rosary. These include some of the major events in the life of Jesus and of Mary, but especially on His death and resurrection. Others with more knowledge of and practice in praying the Rosary could give you a better and a more personal answer.

I do not know when the practice of the Rosary began, but I would think that it is similar to the situation of the images, in that it helped (and still helps) Catholics focus on key aspects of the Catholic faith.

Again, welcome aboard, and hope to see more good questions from you.

It is similar in origin to the stained glass and other visual representations of the events of Salvation History.

Priests pray the divine office daily-- reciting the 150 Psalms. Many of the faithful wanted to pray this office as well, but being illiterate could not read the office. The priests taught them to pray simple prayers that they knew by memory-- the Our Father, Hail Mary, etc-- in place of the Psalms. The beads, originally pebbles that could be counted, were to keep track of the 150 prayers. This eventually became the Rosary we have today.

God ALSO commanded elsewhere in Leviticus to make images of cherubim, and not only for the Ark of the Covenant, but to adorn the walls and curtains of the Tabernacle and Temple.

Don’t forget the images of serpents He also ordered to be made, so that all who looked upon them were healed of snakebites.

As far as “repetitions”, are all “repetitions” automatically vain?

When your church sings a hymn with a refrain (mistakenly called “chorus”), and this refrain is frequently repeated during the hymn, why are these not “vain repetitions”?

Anyway, look at Psalm 136, with “for His mercy endures for ever” at the end of each verse.

Why is this not vain repetition?

So, as you see, not all repetitions are vain.

But it does seem to some people that only Catholic repetitions are vain–never their own.

if you kiss a picture of your mom or your spouse, does that mean you’re in love with a piece of chemical-filled paper? why do people have picture of their family at home, at work, in their wallets, etc?

the statues function the same. they remind us of whom we pray to. we’re merely humans who needs this reminder at vision/sight brings us closer. looking at a photograph reminds us of our loved one and makes us feel closer to them. it does not mean we have replaced our loved one with a piece of photo-paper

yes, God is everywhere. but we’re only human and we’re weak. we often forget that. our instinct tells us that what we don’t see is not there.

and we do not pray to the statues, we pray to Jesus whom the statue represents. the same way when you whisper i love you to a photograph of a loved one doesn’t mean you’re in love with the photo paper nor the image it represents, but with the actual person whom you are reminded of by that image

Great questions, Janaji. I think that the earlier question about vain repetitions has been answered quite well by Brian. Christ gave us the Our Father to pray, for example - no amount of Our Fathers is “too much,” so long as we mean them when we pray them.

I wanted to take a more in-depth at your other question, though.

Most Protestant interpretations render pecel as “graven images,” and then claim that ANY religious imagery, regardless of whether the image is worshipped or not, is forbidden. But let’s consider that claim.
(1) Where does it say *religious *imagery? If Leviticus 26:1 bans all graven images, as these interpretations suggest, then sculptures and much of architecture is out. On the other hand, paintings of the saints are still ok, because they’re not engraved.
(2) In Exodus 25:18, God orders: “And thou shalt make two cherubim of gold; of beaten work shalt thou make them, at the two ends of the ark-cover.” Why aren’t these “graven images” a sin?

This second question is really the kicker. The normal responses - images are okay as long as you’re not kneeling in front of them, etc. - don’t apply here. Because Exodus 25:22 says that God will speak to Moses “from between the two cherubim,” we know that Moses is on his knees, or even on his face before God, and thus, before these two carved cherubim.

So making a golden calf is a sin, when you worship it, but making cherubim statues is not a sin when they remind you of divine realities, rather than serve as objects of worship.

Which one is Catholicism more like? Well, we don’t think that statues are alive or have inherent magical powers as the idolators do (which Romans 1 makes clear is the Biblical view of idolatry). We don’t even think that the Saints in Heaven which they remind us of have power independent of God. Rather, we’re reminded of those invisible realities in Heaven, and our thoughts are drawn upwards, to angels, to saints, and to God Himself. And that’s exactly what He seems to have had in mind in having angelic images for the Ark, the center of Old Testament worship!

Let us read the Book of Deuteronomy 4:14-19

[14] And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and ordinances, that you might do them in the land which you are going over to possess.
[15] "Therefore take good heed to yourselves. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire,
[16] beware lest you act corruptly by making a graven image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female,
[17] the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air,
[18] the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth.
[19] And beware lest you lift up your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and worship them and serve them, things which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.

From here, we see the reason why the making of graven images for worship was prohibited in the Old Testament: the sensible image of God, one that can be appreciated by the senses, was not yet revealed to the world, and therefore any graven image made in the likeness of God then would be inaccurate, and thus any worship directed by any such image would be false.

Of course, that does not mean that all graven images cannot be made at that times. One brings to mind the bronze snake of Moses, the seraphim on the Ark of the Covenant, and the statues inside the Temple of Solomon.

However, with the Incarnation, this changed: we now have a sensible, visible image of God in the form of Jesus Christ.

[1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
[14] And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.
John 1:1,14 (RSV)

[8] Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.”
[9] Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, `Show us the Father’?
John 14:8-9 (RSV)

[15] [Jesus Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation;
[16] for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.
Colossians 1:15-16 (RSV)

[4] In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of **Christ, who is the likeness of God. **
2 Corinthians 4:4 (RSV)

[3] For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh
Romans 8:3

And because God became visible in the form of Jesus Christ, there comes now what is called an “economy of images”:

1159 The sacred image, the liturgical icon, principally represents Christ. It cannot represent the invisible and incomprehensible God, but the incarnation of the Son of God has ushered in a new “economy” of images:

[INDENT]Previously God, who has neither a body nor a face, absolutely could not be represented by an image. But now that he has made himself visible in the flesh and has lived with men, I can make an image of what I have seen of God . . . and contemplate the glory of the Lord, his face unveiled (St. John Damascene, De imag. 1,16:PG 96:1245-1248.)
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 1159

2131 Basing itself on the mystery of the incarnate Word, the seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea (787) justified against the iconoclasts the veneration of icons - of Christ, but also of the Mother of God, the angels, and all the saints. By becoming incarnate, the Son of God introduced a new “economy” of images.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 2131

However, that does not mean that the images themselves are to be worshiped. Rather, these images help to direct the worship of Christians to God:

1162 "The beauty of the images moves me to contemplation, as a meadow delights the eyes and subtly infuses the soul with the glory of God."32 Similarly, the contemplation of sacred icons, united with meditation on the Word of God and the singing of liturgical hymns, enters into the harmony of the signs of celebration so that the mystery celebrated is imprinted in the heart’s memory and is then expressed in the new life of the faithful.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 1162

continued next post…

I like how musician David MacDonald puts it:

I got an email that said:

There [is] already enough art at the front ... to be a distraction [from Jesus]

I understand concerns about the “distractions” at Church. I like to think of the analogy of a visit to the King of a country that I heard from Patrick Madrid.

Scenario 1: I enter the majestic castle. The walls of the court have beautiful tapestries and there are courtiers in long robes. There is beautiful music by court musicians. There are beautiful statues of great administrators of the country in the hallway. At the front of the court there are two chairs. One for the King and one for the queen. Everyone in the court has a great honour for the queen. They kneel before her they kiss her hand they pick up her robe after her. But they know who has all the authority. It is the King. When they see him they are in awe. They want to serve him. They know he is Lord and that he has all authority. The beautiful queen at his side and the beautiful wall tapestries, statues, and the music, only serve to give greater majesty to the King. Because he is so great, nothing could obscure him. All of this beauty around him only serves to make him more majestic. (I think of this the Catholic model, and also the model of Heaven found in “Revelation”)

Scenario 2: Now let’s go to a big empty room - a warehouse. The walls are barren. No one is there. At the front is the King sitting alone on a plain chair. (I think of this as the Evangelical Model)


[8] And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all round and within, and day and night they never cease to sing, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"
Revelations 4:8 (RSV)

This is repetitious, but it is not made in vain, is it?

The Rosary may be repetitious, but, when it is properly prayed, it is hardly made in vain. It all depends on the intention of the pray-er. The previous posters have made good points on this, and I point you to them.

God bless you :thumbsup:

Luke 18:1-8

The Parable of the Persistent Widow
1Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

4"For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ "

6And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Another scripture that supports repetitive prayer

Hear, hear :tada:

Short answer - because what Catholics are doing, is not what those who used divine images did. A statue of a Saint is lifeless: it cannot do anything, and no-one expects it to. Even more important - it is not indwelt by a divine being.

In Ancient Iraq (Babylonia & Assyria, more or less), a statue of a god was a presence of that god: and it would be dressed, given food (that is what a sacrifice often was - the god’s meal), would travel (gods had their own transport, such as sacred barges, & so forth.Gods has a very full and busy life - they even had sacred animals, which sometimes approximated to being pets. The god would live in the heavens, but would have a “palace” and “household staff” on earth - that is what temples were, and what priestesses, priests, and other human functionaries were for. Many gods had over 20 temples, some of which staff running into the hundreds. Some of them had large wardrobes (if not quite as large as that of Imelda Marcos with her 4,000 pairs of shoes). Humans have allergies - gods have taboos: so some could not be fed certain foods.

They were looked after in this way because they were thought of as being in most respects very like humans - except that they were not men but gods.

As well as their heavenly & earthly palaces, they could be present in statues of them: the god would be in heaven with the others; but statues of him could be consecrated in a way that caused it to be a further presence of the god. Once that was done, the wood & gold & so on was no longer lifeless: it “became” the god. The rite for bringing this about was called Mis Pi, “Opening of the Mouth”. (The Egyptian “Opening of the Mouth” is a different ceremony, applied not to statues to make them gods, but to corpses to make them live in the beyond.) The “making of gods” through the Mis Pi seems to be what Jeremiah 10 is attacking here - the passage has nothing whatever to do with Christmas trees, as is sometimes claimed:

**1 Hear what the LORD says to you, O house of Israel. 2 This is what the LORD says: **
**"Do not learn the ways of the nations **
**or be terrified by signs in the sky, **
**though the nations are terrified by them. **

**3 For the customs of the peoples are worthless; **
**they cut a tree out of the forest, **
**and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. **
**4 They adorn it with silver and gold; **
**they fasten it with hammer and nails **
**so it will not totter. ****5 Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, **
**their idols cannot speak; **
**they must be carried **
**because they cannot walk. **
**Do not fear them; **
**they can do no harm **
**nor can they do any good." **

“Signs in the sky” is a reference to the practice of discerning the will of the gods by reading the sitir shamé, the “heavenly writing” which was what the motions of the stars and planets were believed to be.

Verses three to five of Jer.10 are recognisable as an attack upon gods who need human agency to become gods, or to move at all. The God of Israel, by contrast, moves & acts as He wills, & is beholden to nobody. The Prophets are very insulting indeed about other gods, until Second Isaiah, about 50 years after Jeremiah, denies absolutely that they so much as exist.

Because they were gods, the divine images received worship as gods - one of the features of Ancient Iraqi religion is that the distinction between a god’s person, property (such as weapons or body-parts), images, and images is rather fluid: the mace of the war-god Ninurta, the bed of Ishtar of Arbela, the god Marduk, the temple Esagila in Babylon that belonged to Marduk, & the divine image of Marduk regained from the Elamites by a pious Babylonian king, were all divine. The mace of Ninurta tries in one Sumerian poem to persuade him not to fight a monster (he fights - & wins). There are hymns to certain temples.

The point of all this is very simple: to say what (for example) the Ancient Iraqis did - so as to compare it with Catholic doctrine & usage & practice. Catholics know only One God, Who is identical in character with the God of the OT Prophets. The images used by Catholics are so far from being gods, that they are completely without life; they are not even inherently holy. They are neither consecrated nor worshipped as gods (or as God) nor fed nor clothed nor - in short, they are nothing.



There are partial exceptions to some of this: the statue of St. Peter in St. Peter’s is clothed with a mantle on his feast-day; and it is common for images of the Saints to be carried on certain feasts in a number of countries. AFAIK, that is the extent of the similarity in actual practice between the CC and Ancient Iraq. Divine images there
seem - up to a point - to be similar in function to the Eucharist in the CC; some of the thinking is similar. Both are forms of Divine Presence - that is not enough to make them the same kind of form, still less to be evidence that Catholicism is pagan; it may be in various ways - but suggestions of a relation between the two need more support than a few surface resemblances. Both religions need to be looked at in detail - Catholicism owes a lot to its descent from Judaism; & Judaism has much in common with Ancient Iraqi religion.

In Christianity images act as reminders of what they represent, but are not; this is not their function in Ancient Iraq - there, the representation functions as the god. The theological difference is enormous.

Hope that helps.

The bible also says, Mat 6:7 > But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

What about the rosary ? Isn’t that repetitions of prayer ?

Thank you for your time & insight.

Psalm 136 is repetitive in the same way. Jesus forbids, not repetition, but meaningless piling-up of words.

**5"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. **8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
**9"This, then, is how you should pray: **
" 'Our Father in heaven…

ISTM Jesus is saying that God’s children do not need to babble - they need only speak directly, without trying to impress self, others, or God by heaping up long prayers. ISTM Jesus is saying something like that, & is teaching His disciples to pray with simplicity, honesty, & purity of heart; all “showing-off” in prayer is forbidden. Several incidents in the gospels have to do with how not to pray.

**9"This, then, is how you should pray: **
" 'Our Father in heaven…

ISTM Jesus is saying that God’s children do not need to babble - they need only speak directly, without trying to impress self, others, or God by heaping up long prayers. ISTM Jesus is saying something like that, & is teaching His disciples to pray with simplicity, honesty, & purity of heart; all “showing-off” in prayer is forbidden. Several incidents in the gospels have to do with how not to pray. Heaping up words to be heard, as though one would not be heard otherwise, is not the same as His own practice of praying all night, as at times He is said to have done; nor as “praying in an agony”, as He also did; He was not babbling like a pagan, nor trying to impress. Long prayer when the heart is filled with trouble or praise or the like, is not praying in order to be heard *as though one would not be heard otherwise *- unlike that, it is a way of finding relief for the over-fullness of the heart. So AFAICS neither His practice, nor that in certain other Biblical prayers, nor liturgical prayer among Christians (I know zero about Jewish practice :o), nor the Rosary is forbidden by Him.

There is the further question whether the Lord’s Prayer is a framework for prayers, or a prayer in itself (or both): Matthew 6.9 is as ambiguous in Greek as in English, for houtōs & “in this manner” could be taken any of those ways.

The Ark of the Covenant could not even be touched - it was provided with long poles to be carried by, to prevent this. Yet it was no more than JHWH’s footstool, not He Himself. When Uzzah touched it to steady it (2 Sam.6), he died.

The oxen in the Temple built by Solomon that supported the “sea” of bronze were made in order to hold up the “waters under the earth” - that is what the “sea” was. The oxen that drew the Ark (2 Sam. 6), & the calves set up by Jeroboam I at Bethel & Dan, are alike in being “supports” for JHWH, for Him to stand upon: they were not meant as objects of worship.

Nehushtan the serpent of bronze (1 Kings 18.4) is an example of a made-made animal that was, or became, the object of an unlawful cultus: so it was destroyed.

In 1 Sam 5(?), the Ark, being a numinous object and taboo, is the occasion of a plague among its Philistine captors.

So objects could be “active” in a way - presumably because they were so very closely associated with God.

But the significance of the calves at Bethel & Dan was that unlike other such animals, they supported a God who was not visible: they represented Him only very indirectly. Instead of mountains or seas or calves or weapons being gods, the god of Israel was not within the “created order”. He was** like** the gods of the nations - but also utterly different from them.

Hi Belloc Fan, while I agree with the the part in bold above, I don’t see how Exodus 25 supports the Catholic position. When Moses bows down (or on his knees or face down) in front of the cherubim, God is before him. I take that to mean God is physically present in some form that Moses could see.

When a Catholic bows down in front of a statue God is not present in the same way (physically, with the person being able to see God) He was to Moses (at least I assume this is the case).

To me comparing what Moses did to what the average Catholic does is like comparing apples to oranges. Can you (or someone else) elaborate on this?


My point there was just that if someone prays to God in front of a statue while bowing, it’s not a sin. In fact, in some cases, as here, it’s precisely what God requires.

The notion of whether or not it’s okay to pray to saints (or whether it’s ok to kneel while praying to saints) is somewhat different. If you kneel by your mother’s grave, and ask her to look out for you while she’s in Heaven, you’re not imagining that your mother has become some sort of godess who can operate independently from God’s graces and power, nor are you kneeling by her grave out of worship/latria.

So kneeling in front of a statue can suggest one of four things:
(1) worship of the statue
(2) worship of the individual depicted
(3) worship of God, possibly invoking the intercession of the saints, or possibly just using the statue as a reminder of Heavenly realities.
(4) respect, reverence, and humility towards a person who is in Heaven.

The first two are gravely sinful, and the last two are fine. Rendering the verse in question as a literal “graven images” (when *pecel ***only **ever means idol worship anytime it’s used in the OT, and is never used to describe non-idolatrous statues) would mean that all four were unacceptable, and we know from the OT explicitly that #3 is not.

As for #4, praying to saints while on your knees, it makes sense. These are people who have been freed from sin, and who are now “partakers” in the Divinity of Christ - they see Him as He is, because they have become like Him. They live in the presence of God, in a sinless and unparalleled existence, and are motivated to help us simply out of the abundance of love that they feel towards all of Humanity (you can’t be that close to God and not become overwhelmed by His Love). When they condescend to help us, our sinful and petty lives, we really should be on our knees.

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