Statues of Mary and Joseph in Church

Hi all.

I am in the diocese of Dallas. We have a new church building in our parish and one of the things I miss that really helped with prayer and worship during the Mass or during private prayer were the statues of St Joseph and St. Mary in front at the sides of the sanctuary.

Other parishioners have evidently voiced their desire for there to be statues of the same saints in similar locations within the church. Right now the walls on both sides are bare. Our parish priest addressed this concern last Sunday and explained that the reason for there to not be statues had something to do with what our diocese allows.

I don’t believe that he is trying to deceive us, but I think he may have the wrong information. I hate to ask him about this, because he doesn’t respond well to differences in opinion, suggestions, or constructive criticism.

Does anybody know of what document I could start reading or where I could find the information about what’s permitted in a church? I want to know if a diocese would actually not permit statues of Ss Mary and Joseph to be placed in certain locations in a church.

Thanks and God Bless!

The only document I know that mentions statues is the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy

  1. The practice of placing sacred images in churches so that they may be venerated by the faithful is to be maintained. Nevertheless their number should be moderate and their relative positions should reflect right order. For otherwise they may create confusion among the Christian people and foster devotion of doubtful orthodoxy.
  1. Along with the revision of the liturgical books, as laid down in Art. 25, there is to be an early revision of the canons and ecclesiastical statutes which govern the provision of material things involved in sacred worship. These laws refer especially to the worthy and well planned construction of sacred buildings, the shape and construction of altars, the nobility, placing, and safety of the eucharistic (sic) tabernacle, the dignity and suitability of the baptistery, the proper ordering of sacred images, embellishments, and vestments. Laws which seem less suited to the reformed liturgy are to be brought into harmony with it, or else abolished; and any which are helpful are to be retained if already in use, or introduced where they are lacking.

According to the norm of Art. 22 of this Constitution, the territorial bodies of bishops are empowered to adapt such things to the needs and customs of their different regions; this applies especially to the materials and form of sacred furnishings and vestments.

Sift through your diocese’s website. Many contain such things in a “building committee” page or something like that.

Out of curiousity, what exactly does adorn your new Temple? Presumably there is an altar and crucifix. Anything else? Perhaps some religious art? Stations of the Cross?

It is difficult to make an honest comparison to other norms without understanding the whole picture, so to speak.

FWIW - I found this online photo gallery - In and Around the Diocese of Dallas

There seems to be quite a few statues featured, and the architecture of the various churches featured demonstrated a decent range of variation on classic styles.

There is a statue of Mary in my parish behind the altar. A church I recently attended had two statues of St. Joseph and St. Jude in the back of the chapel. I have also seen a mass on the internet that had a St. Patrick and St. Brigid statues on either side of the crucifix.

If one is not afraid of stepping on toes of the pastor, email (phone etc) the Chancery. If the response is in the affirmative, one could write to Rome. If the Bishop and/or Priest is firm tho in their ‘unusual’ decree, there will be nearly nothing to change the situation.

A very sad situation. Remember to pray for them.

Good suggestion. Out of curiousity, I took a look at the diocesan website. There is a section on Diocesan policies. While there is one entited Celebration of Mass - Sacred Space, it does not cover this subject.

I took a look at the policy statement entitled Celebration of Mass - Postures. Some of the more traditional among us may find it interesting in certain places.

The new Temple has what I believe are essentials. We have the altar and a large traditional crucifix in the sanctuary. We have stations of the cross plaques on the walls on left and right sides.

Also, we have a statue of Mary and St Joseph on one side towards the back. Its nice for private prayer and devotion. A marble “Pieta” on the opposite side donated by a lay person many years before any idea of a new church was going to be needed.

I still think it helps during the liturgy to have them or another set preferably in a different style statues of Mary and Joseph at the front somewhere helps with worship during the Mass.

But what I think really isn’t that important. What matters is if the statues are permitted as we once had them before.

Thanks for everyone’s replies so far.

To me, this is a sad commentary on why the so many are either weak Catholics that don’t go to Sunday mass or are leaving. I find statues are very helpful in my devotion and prayer. I have come back to the Catholic Church after 30 years. I found an FSSP parish where they have statues. I am a visual person and it helps me view Jesus or Mary or even how reverent I need to be. I can’t exactly explain it but it helps. Honestly, if it wasn’t for this parish, I don’t think I would be nearly as devoubt as I am. Why after 1900 years of using statues in our faith, are they suddenly bad. I know Protestants don’t like them but I thought we were Catholic.

Does anyone ask why Traditional Latin churches are full and exciting, why Tradional Latin seminaries are overflowing, but why regular ‘modernist’ churches are dying with no young people? I don’t think it is because we just like statues, I think it is a blessing by Gods Holy Spirit. I don’t know what it is by that FSSP parish that has struggled to survive while Bishops and other parishes fought to keep it out, is now thriving with about half the people in church under the age of 30. Thanks be to God for our many blessings.

I don’t think there would be any harm in asking the priest one on one to clarify the diocesan rules that prevent the statues from being up by the altar. Why not ask him personally to expand on his announcement on Sunday? There could be a way of doing it without sounding like you’re accusing him but you’re more the curious parishoner and want to learn more about your diocese.

Good advice, yet it does beg the question why any diocese would consciously suppress the use of statues, particularly of Mary and Joseph, which have long adorned Catholic churches in America.

That’s probably why I would ask myself if I was the OP. I would love to know the reasoning behind the ruling, if there is such a ruling. Sometimes what makes no sense to us actually has a very good reasoning why a rule has occurred.

Indeed. As for advice for the OP, there is also the possibility that the priest feels his hands are tied and may not necessarly agree with the position. We can try to give him the old benefit of the doubt. It’s easy for a priest to say “the bishop made me do it”. It’s more challenging for the priest to explain the decision, whether or not he agrees.

Makes you think that a captain of a high school / college debate team (assuming one is male, of course) might be uniquely qualified to consider the priesthood in this modern era.

Perhaps I will take this advice. I hope that even if I don’t get the answer, that the priest won’t be offended by me asking. That probably shouldn’t really matter, but I am a sensitive one, you see?

Good luck, and keep us posted. We’ll say a Hail Mary and St. Joseph’s Prayer for you!

Having statues or pictures of saints and angels in the front of a church represents the “cloud of witnesses” who worship along with us during Mass.

Indeed, so why then might a Catholic bishop want to suppress their use?

This may be what your pastor is referring to. You say you have statues of the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph already in the back.

The GIRM states: “In accord with ancient tradition, images of Christ, Mary and the saints are venerated in churches. They should, however, be placed so as not to distract the faithful from the actual celebration. They should not be too numerous, there should not be more than one image of the same saint, and correct order of saints should be observed. In general, the piety of the entire community should be considered in the decoration and arrangement of the church.”

That does sound very consistent to what he said, because he referenced an authority above him or guidelines and that the statues could be “distracting”. I intentionally left out the part about him saying that the statues could be distracting because I didn’t feel it’s important that he said that at the time. I didn’t want to direct so much attention and feelings towards him and what he said, but rather what he may be referring to that’s “barring” us from having our Mary and Joseph.

I guess that part of the GIRM leaves lots of room for interpretation. The only way I see statues of saints that could cause distraction would be if there were so much things out of order like random placement, disproprotionate sizes, clashing colors, and more.

At the local monastery of the Discalced Carmelites they have at least 8 to 10 beautiful statues in the sanctuary beautifully arranged, and they are not one bit distracting to me and I’m sure others. Here people are only wishing for two statues. Statues of the same two saints we had in the old church building in front. I don’t know about others but when I see Mary and Joseph, they point to Christ and help my disposition to better participate in private prayer and the Mass.

The biggest distractions for me during the Mass that same day he gave the explanation were the young ladies going up to the do the readings wearing sleeveless short dresses. I’ve maintained purity for a blessed long time and feel so empowered by the Holy Ghost, but these things still affect me. I think these distractions are here to stay for a long time.

I sent our priest a brief E-mail simply asking for clarification and references to any documents. I also don’t want to make a big deal out of this, but I feel others and myself are deprived. In the mean time, I’ll bring my own little images of the saints on prayer cards or something.

It may also be the part of the GIRM that says there should not be more than one image of the same saint. You mentioned the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph and an image of the Pieta in the back of the church and how people use them to pray.

Are you asking for him to move those statues forward, or add two new statues? Adding more would be a problem. Moving the ones you have in the back makes the most sence to me. I hope you are successful.

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