Saturday, November 28, 2009

Do Catholics worship the Saints?

In response to a comment that Catholics worship Mary I gave the following answer.

The short answer is no ;-) Catholics only worship the Trinity.

Catholics believe that God is Love and because of that we believe that God is a trinity. The Father pours himself out in love and this outpouring of his love is so real and perfect that it is another person, the Son. The Son gives himself completely back to the Father in love, so real and perfect that the Love between them becomes yet a third person, the Holy Spirit. We believe that this is God and we are called to share in his divine life, to have his life poured out in us and to be images of his love to the world. We believe that this happens in the Church, specifically in the Eucharist, the bread and wine that, when consecrated by a priest, becomes the very life of God. When we partake in the Eucharist we offer worship to God by offering him our lives and receiving his Life in return.

How do the saints and such come in you ask? Well, for that I'll need to explain some of the Catholic thinking...

Since God is complete in his Love he doesn't need creation, yet because God is love He desires to share his love onto others. Much like a man in love desires the whole world to know of it so God desires for us to share in his inner life of Love. Because of this we believe that creation is the first way in which God reveals himself to us, it's a physical sign or thing that makes the invisible God in some way visible, or a sacrament. We believe that we are meant to share in the inner life of God, by giving ourselves totally to God and receiving him totally in return and to participate in his work of creation by bringing His image into the world. We believe that we are meant to be sacraments (making elements of the invisible God visible through our lives).

Now, because we believe that God wants us to love him in return we believe that he gave us free will. You can't force someone to love you, so God loves us so much that he allows us to choose NOT to love him. We stand before the two trees, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Satan) and the Tree of Life (Jesus) and we are asked to choose. When we choose Satan's tree we don't bring the image of God into the world, but the image of Satan, which brings disorder, disunity/loneliness, darkness and death into the world (instead of God's order, love, light and life).

We believe that our first parents choose to reject God. God knew this would happen, but he allowed it to show the depths of his Love for us. But this was only the beginning of the process, he had a plan and in the fullness of time the Son stepped into creation. Jesus is the ultimate sacrament as The Image revealing the inner heart of God (which is love). We believe that Jesus was fully God and fully Man and because of this we believe that the two *most* important things he did were his crucifixion and resurrection.

We believe that In the crucifixion, because he had a human body, he really did die, and by doing so showed us the kind of love God is (no greater love is there than to lay down your life for a friend). Because He is God the whole trinity is there in the crucifixion. This is the outpouring of the life of God through Jesus back into creation, this is how he has chosen to pour this beautiful Trinitarian life into creation so we can receive in into ourselves. And his resurrection is important because in his Body he took all our brokenness and failures and buried it with him in death, and when he's resurrected all our brokenness is done away with.

We believe that we too, when we are incorporated into him, will be recreated in him without all our brokenness, in the new creation at the end of time. However, creation isn't finished yet; it is still being created. We are meant to, in this life, choose to receive God's life into us and begin the process of re-creation that will be finished at the end of time with the resurrection of our bodies. We believe that this is accomplished through the Church and the Sacraments, particularly in the Eucharist as I mentioned above.

There are those in this life who do an exceptional job of being open to the life of God pouring out into them and thus bring the image of God into the world. We look up to these people as examples of how we can also bring the image of Jesus into the world (since not everyone is called to be a 1st century carpenter). We honor them as roll models and older siblings who have finished the race; although someone might begin to worship a roll model, having a roll model doesn't automatically mean you are worshiping that person. Someone may worship a dog, but having a dog doesn't mean you are worshiping cats, on the other hand are jealous gods...

Furthermore, because we believe that God is life and unity, we believe that those who accept God's life are united to us in a real way as the Body of Christ. Since we believe that our souls do not die; those who fall asleep with Christ are not separated from his Body, but still united with us in a very real way. We believe that love does not end with death (since God is love and he did not create death) and thus they continue to love their brothers and sisters in Christ and continue to support us with their prayers. Because we believe this we believe that we can continue to ask them to pray for us as we would here in this life. This is also not worship, anymore than asking your friend or sister to pray for you is worshiping them.

I'm sorry for the length, but I hope this has cleared some things up; it's an oft misunderstanding that Catholics worship the saints.