Graven Images

Graven Images

Catholic churches contain statues and pictures of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and other saints. 

These man-made representations or memorials call to mind holy people and events from the history of our Church and are used in the ritual worship of God.

Catholics do not worship these images but use them to venerate the holy person that they represent and give proper honor to God.

Unlike a statue, an idol is an image that is worshipped for itself and treated as a god. When this occurs it is referred to as idolatry, a serious sin condemned by the Church.

While the First Commandment forbids the worship of graven images, their religious use is allowed and has even been required by God.

Showing us what our Christian family is about:

Venerating statues because they connect us with the divine:

But miserable, with their hopes set on dead things, are the men who give the name “gods” to the works of men’s hands, gold and silver fashioned with skill, and likenesses of animals, or a useless stone, the work of an ancient hand.

Wisdom 13: 10

Catholics worship God and only God:

God is glorified in what He has created:

Authentic Christian art is that which, through sensible perception, gives the intuition that the Lord is present in his Church, that the events of salvation history give meaning and orientation to our life, that the glory that is promised us already transforms our existence. Sacred art must tend to offer us a visual synthesis of all dimensions of our faith. Church art must aim at speaking the language of the Incarnation and, with the elements of matter, express the One who “deigned to dwell in matter and bring about our salvation through matter” according to Saint John Damascene’s beautiful expression.

Pope John Paul II, Duodecimum Saeculum, December 4, 1987

The First Commandment forbids making other gods and worshipping them:

God commanded his people to make images:

For images and against iconoclasm:

The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, “the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype,” and “whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it.” The honor paid to sacred images is a “respectful veneration,” not the adoration due to God alone: Religious worship is not directed to images in themselves, considered as mere things, but under their distinctive aspect as images leading us on to God incarnate. The movement toward the image does not terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2132

Sacred images are part of the liturgy itself:

Eastern Catholic Churches favor pictures over statues:

The Truth, Goodness, and Beauty of the Catholic Church

Come follow Me:

Share this page with friends and family to start a conversation about your faith.

Don’t miss a post. Learn more about the Catholic Church and strengthen your Catholic faith.

Find more Fiercely Catholic video issues here.

Subscribe here.

Book a Fiercely Catholic program at your next conference, retreat, or other Catholic event.