Since this is a thread that I started I thought I’d try and respond to some of your points…
I’m trying to understand what you are saying.
The Church is not simply an institution. It is Christ’s presence on earth because it is His Body. As a Body, it is visible. Hence, we get the Catholic Church, a visible Church upon earth.
God became Man. The invisible God became visible to us. So we can see that God likes to make things concrete, visible, to help us. Such as the Sacraments, through which we receive grace. Or the Church being visible
the issue with Protestantism is that in focusing so much on the invisible, as if the visible is a distraction, - that seems very Gnostic to me.
Evil is in rejecting God’s will, in concupiscence, in the fall. In the “flesh” and disordered “passions”. But NOT in visible creation. That is Gnosticism. So visible creation is not a distraction to spirituality.
Yes there are times when we need to fast, or give up sensory things in order to heal or Disordered attachment to these things, and love God first. Because we cling to the created things too much. But IF these things bring us closer to God, then it’s not a worry. That’s why the Sacraments having visible aspects aren’t a worry. That’s why images in church are not a worry. Because they don’t distract.
Many times, images have helped me to pray. Especially coming in from outside, with the cars and fashions and other distracting things, - seeing the holy images around me has helped me to remember what our faith truly is. If the church was just a bare white room, I might bring the worldly images with me and focus on them instead. Because we are human, that’s what happens with our minds. But this way, I instead think of the holy things because I have something to help me concentrate on them. Same with music and other things. I don’t believe these things are distracting because they actually help to raise the mind towards God.
In the resurrection of the dead, we won’t have concupiscence or distractions, but we will have a body. This body will interact with visible things in the environment, that are created. That’s not bad, that’s how God made things to be. I wonder why Protestantism tries to remove anything visible from the Church, - from the definition of “the Church” to images, - when God didn’t make the world this way? The world includes the Incarnation. A visible Church. Jesus has a Body. Having an image of His holy Humanity helps us to think about His Humanity more.
As for these things “not being necessary for salvation”… salvation isn’t just choosing God once in our lives and then that’s it, we’re saved. It means loving God, persevering, really following Him, repenting and letting Him transform us. It means sharing in His life. For this, we need help because we are weak. God helps us in His grace that we receive primarily through the Sacraments. He helps us in prayer. The life of grace that we can have in Christ, needs to be nurtured and strong. All the other things that the Church offers us, the prayers and novenas and Saints and holy images, help us to concentrate more on God, to be disposed to receive more graces… because our disposition matters a lot. God doesn’t force His grace on us. If we are disposed well, we would receive more, and be transformed more into who God wants us to be.
Think of salvation as a state of grace sharing in God’s life. We are complicated human beings we have an intellect and a will, and emotions, passions, concupiscence, etc, all this needs to be healed, fixed, brought back to God. Otherwise we go backwards, not forwards, and we might not persevere. Things like images in church can help us to be more focused in prayer, to be better disposed. I know they’ve helped me many times. Same with everything the Church offers that Protestants typically say “isn’t necessary”. This ignores the point that it’s difficult for us to be well disposed, to cooperate with God’s grace, - even though this is by grace too, - we need to cooperate. Everything in the Church helps us to do this better.
St John Vianney is someone you might be interested in. He had nothing, he lived very very poorly. He mostly ate cold or even mouldy potatoes. Yet he tried really hard to make his church look respectful and beautiful, as an act of worship. He was a priest and God did many miracles through him.