We are in Jerusalem today ready to pick up our group of 50 people at the airport in a few hours. When I woke up this morning to the Muslim “call to prayer”, church bells ringing and horns honking I read this email that came from the United Kingdom…
It read, “Hi Steve! I know you are a busy man. Please answer the above issue when the time permits you. I am a Catholic but I cannot accept the kissing of statues. It goes against my conscience. I feel also it is against the bible teachings. Thanking you and awaiting your reply.”
I responded: Greetings from Jerusalem! I understand your sentiments and I don’t make a practice of going around kissing statues either though I have at times and certainly understand the reasoning and sentiment behind the action.
Notice the picture to the left. He is kneeling in front of a Bible. Is the man worshiping the Bible – he is kissing it after all. No, he loves the Word of God and is showing his love for God and his word. It is the same if a man kneels in front of a Bible while reading it.
Imagine your wife, if you’re married, is in a different country for a while and you miss her. Every once in a while you take an old picture of your wedding out of your pocket and look at it and think of her and it makes you miss her and love her. Once in a while you might close your eyes and kiss the picture as a means of demonstrating your love and devotion to her and your union together.
It’s no different with the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a saint or Jesus. It’s simply a way that people acknowledge and express their love and respect for the person behind the statue.
Just like you don’t fall in love with a picture and begin to worship the picture of your wife, so Catholics don’t love the statue or worship it; they are simply expressing their love and respect for the person behind the statue or that the statute represents.
There’s no need to read anything more nefarious into the action than that. It is simply an act of devotion and love for Mary, for Jesus, or for our brothers and sisters the saints who are alive in heaven.
Paragraph 1192 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Through sacred images of the holy Mother of God, of the angels and of the saints, we venerate the persons represented.” In other words, I as said above, we do not worship the image we love and honor the people they represent.
If you understand it this way you will be understanding it properly and you will do well.