Baltimore Catechism 3

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Honoring the Saints, Relics, and Images


 * Q. 214. Does the first commandment forbid us to honor the saints in heaven?
A. The first commandment does not forbid us to honor the saints in heaven, provided we do not give them the honor that belongs to God alone.


 * A saint, in the strict sense of the word, is a person who is declared officially by the Church to be in heaven and who may be publicly venerated.

 * The veneration paid to the saints in heaven differs essentially from the adoration of God. The saints are creatures and are not to be given the supreme worship due to the Creator alone. The supreme honor given to God only is adoration in the full and strict sense of the word. The veneration given to the Blessed Mother and to the saints is an act of respect and honor of an entirely different nature. The veneration given to the Blessed Mother of God surpasses that given to the saints and angels.

 * > "Behold I will send my angel ... Take notice of him and hear his voice, and do not think him one to be contemned" (Exodus 23:20-21).

 * > "And he answered: No: but I am prince of the host of the Lord, and now I am come. fell on his face to the ground. And worshipping, said: What saith my Lord to his servant?" (Josue 5:14-15).

 * > "Let us now praise men of renown, and our fathers in their generation" (Ecclesiasticus 44:1).

 * > "Then Jesus said to him, 'Begone, Satan! for it is written, "The Lord thy God shalt thou worship and him only shalt thou serve" ' " (Matthew 4:10).

 * > "For, behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed" (Luke 1:48).


 * Q. 215. Why do we honor the saints in heaven?
A. We honor the saints in heaven because they practiced great virtue when they were on earth, and because in honoring those who are the chosen friends of God we honor God Himself.


 * Q. 216. How can we honor the saints?
A. We can honor the saints: first, by imitating their holy lives; second, by praying to them; third, by showing respect to their relics and images.


 * > "And Eliseus died, and they buried him. And the rovers from Moab came into the land the same year. And some that were burying a man, saw the rovers, and cast the body into the sepulchre of Eliseus. And when it had touched the bones of Eliseus, the man came to life, and stood upon his feet" (4 Kings 13:20-21).

 * > "Go to my servant ... .And my servant shall pray for you. His face I will accept" (Job 42:8).

 * > "And God worked more than the usual miracles by the hand of Paul; so that even handkerchiefs and aprons were carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out" (Acts 19:11-12).

 * > "Brethren, be imitators of me, and mark those who walk after the pattern you have in us" (Philippians 3:17).


 * Q. 217. When we pray to the saints what do we ask them to do?
A. When we pray to the saints, we ask them to offer their prayers to God for us.


 * Q. 218. How do we know that the saints will pray for us?
A. We know that the saints will pray for us because they are with God and have great love for us.


 * Q. 219. Why do we honor relics?
A. We honor relics because they are the bodies of the saints or objects connected with the saints or with Our Lord.


 * The honor given to a relic does not stop at the sacred object itself but is directed to the person whose relic is venerated.

 * See Scripture, question 216, 4 Kings 13:20-21; Acts 19:11-12.


 * Q. 220. When does the first commandment forbid the making or the use of statues and pictures?
A. The first commandment forbids the making or the use of statues and pictures only when they promote false worship.


 * > "Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth. Thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them" (Exodus 20:4-5).

 * > "Keep therefore your souls carefully. You saw not any similitude in the day that the Lord God spoke to you in Horeb from the midst of the fire: lest perhaps being deceived you might make you a graven similitude, or image of male or female, the similitude of any beasts, that are upon the earth, or of birds, that fly under heaven, or of creeping things, 'that move on the earth, or of fishes, that abide in the waters under the earth: lest perhaps lifting up thy eyes to heaven, thou see the sun and the moon, and all the stars of heaven, and being deceived by error thou adore and serve them, which the Lord thy God created for the service of all the nations, that are under heaven" (l5-19).


 * Q. 221. Is it right to show respect to the statues and pictures of Christ and of the saints?
A. It is right to show respect to the statues and pictures of Christ and of the saints, just as it is right to show respect to the images of those whom we honor or love on earth.


 * Q. 222. Do we honor Christ and the saints when we pray before the crucifix, relics, and sacred images?
A. We honor Christ and the saints when we pray before the crucifix, relics, and sacred images because we honor the persons they represent; we adore Christ and venerate the saints.


 * Q. 223. Do we pray to the crucifix or to the images and relics of the saints?
A. We do not pray to the crucifix or to the images and relics of the saints, but to the persons they represent.


 * In venerating relics, statues, and pictures of Our Lord and the saints we must not believe that any divine power resides in them, nor should we put our trust in them as though they had the power of to bestow favors. We place our trust in God and the intercessory power of the saints.




 * Devotion to the saints is one of the Catholic practices most misunderstood and most opposed by non-Catholics. Yet, it is a most reasonable devotion. If we truly love God, we shall love those who are dear to Him; and the saints in heaven are the souls most dear to God, united to Him for all eternity. Since they are so near to Him, their prayers are most effective, so we ask them to pray for us. We can have a particular devotion to certain saints, whose condition in life was similar to our own, or who we believe will show a special interest in us. Thus, the members of a religious order whose founder is among the canonized saints will naturally have a special devotion to this saint. All Catholics should have a special devotion to the Queen of Saints, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

 * In the liturgy of the Catholic Church seven general classes of saints are distinguished-apostles, martyrs, popes, confessors who were bishops, confessors who were not bishops, virgins, and women who were not virgins. Thus, everyone can find saints whose state in life was like his own. It should be noted here that when we speak of a saint as a confessor we mean, not that he heard confessions, but that he openly confessed himself a follower of Christ.

 * Naturally we cherish and venerate the images of the saints and their relics, just as the citizens of a nation respect and honor the images of the country's heroes and the articles they used in life. Catholics know full well that pictures and relics are only material things, incapable of helping us in our needs; but we find in them a means of inspiring us with pious affections, of reminding us of the saints, and of helping us to pray more devoutly. That is why every truly Catholic home has holy pictures on the walls or sacred images among the furnishings. Only lukewarm, cowardly Catholics are afraid to have such representations in their homes out of fear lest their non-Catholic friends may laugh at them.

 * Of all holy images, the most sacred is the representation of Christ's death on the cross, the crucifix. This should find a place in every Catholic home, especially in every bedroom, so that the occupants may say their morning and night prayers before this reminder of God's great love for us. The most venerated relic of the Church is the Cross on which our Saviour died. The largest portion of this is kept in the Church of the Holy Cross in Rome, and small pieces are distributed to different churches throughout the world. Frequently a bishop carries a relic of the true Cross in the pectoral cross which he wears on his breast.

 * The Church does not permit the public veneration of a relic unless it is properly encased and sealed and its authenticity supported by a document, signed by a bishop or other ecclesiastical dignitary. This does not mean necessarily that it is absolutely certain that the relic is genuine; but it means that reasonable care has been taken to establish the fact that the relic is a true one.

 * There are three classes of relics-first-class relics, which are the bodies or portions of the bodies of the saints; second-class relics, which are articles used by a saint, such as his clothing or books; third-class relics, which are articles that have touched a first or second-class relic, such as the coffin in which the saint was buried.

 * We honor the saints best by imitating their virtues. Every Catholic should be familiar with the lives of some of the saints, and especially of the saints whose names were given him or her in Baptism. Sometimes, indeed the saints performed extraordinary deeds, or actions which were not in accord with ordinary prudence. In these things we must not try to imitate them, for on those occasions they were especially inspired by God. But we can all imitate the spirit that animated the saints, especially their love for God and for their fellow-men. They were human beings like ourselves, subject to temptation; some of them had sinned gravely before they became saints. We are all called to be saints; for to all of us Our Lord said: "You therefore are to be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:48).




 * Resolve to choose certain saints, pray to them, in particular, and try to imitate their lives.

 * Complete Exercises For Lesson 17





 * (Select the word or phrase which most exactly and most completely fills out the sentence.)


 * The honor we give to a relic is directed toward (the relic itself ... God ... the person whose relic it is).

 * A saint in the strict sense of the word is (anyone in sanctifying grace ... .one who has been canonized ... one who has been beatified).

 * When we pray to the saints we ask them (to offer their prayers to God for us ... to enlighten our minds ... to confer grace on us).

 * We give Jesus Christ (the honor due to a great man ... the honor due to a great saint ... the honor due to God).

 * All Catholics should have a special devotion to (St. Theresa of the Child Jesus ... the Blessed Virgin Mary ... St. Joseph).

 * The most sacred of all images is (the crucifix ... the statue of the Blessed Virgin ... the statue of the Sacred Heart).

 * The largest portion of the true cross is kept in (St. Peter's church in Rome ... the church of the Holy Cross in Rome ... Jerusalem).

 * A person who has sinned gravely (can never be a canonized saint ... can be beatified but not canonized ... can become a canonized saint).

 * When a relic has a document in support of its authenticity (we can be absolutely sure that the relic is genuine ... we know that reasonable care has been taken to establish the fact that it is genuine ... the document proves nothing).

 * When we call St. Gerard Majella a confessor we mean that (he heard confessions ... he frequently went to confession ... he openly confessed himself a follower of Christ).



 * (Answer the questions orally or write them as your teacher may direct):


 * Jay, a politician and a Presbyterian without much religion, ridicules the idea of Catholics honoring the saints. Write him a short letter asking him in a friendly way if he condemns patriotic Americans who pay their respects to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln at the respective monuments to those outstanding citizens in Washington, D. C., and at other shrines erected to their memory throughout the nation. In a polite way, show him the reasonableness of our Catholic custom.

 * Judith, a poorly-instructed Catholic, has great devotion to St. Anthony of Padua. She visits his shrine every day, rain or shine, even though on Sundays she sometimes misses Mass without a good excuse. She will spend from fifteen to forty-five minutes before St. Anthony's shrine, paying little or no attention to Our Lord in His Real Presence beyond a sort of curtsey as she enters or leaves the church. Is that well-regulated devotion? What advice would you give Judith?

 * What do you consider well-regulated devotion towards the saints? Arrange the following saints in the order of your preference: St.

 * Aloysius, St. Agnes, The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Little Flower, St. Anthony, St. Joseph, St. Patrick, St. Boniface, St. Francis Xavier, St. Francis of Assisi. Now from the foregoing list select three only, naming them in the order of your preference, together with a short reason why you rank them first, second, and third. If your favorite saint is not listed, you may supply that saint's name.

 * Ambrose wants to know how to honor his patron saint. Can you tell him ways in which he can honor his great patron? How can he secure information about Saint Ambrose?

 * St. Rose of Lima did some rather extraordinary things, such as cutting off her beautiful hair, observing an extremely rigorous Lenten fast, torturing her innocent flesh with sharp instruments of penance. Rose, a schoolgirl of 11, would like to know if she should do the things her illustrious patron did. What answer are you going to give her?

 * Eric inquires whether or not the prayers he offers to St. Ann eventually reach God. What is your reply to Eric? Explain it.

 * Anna has a tiny bone relic of the Little Flower of Jesus; Winifred has a piece of her Carmelite habit; Vivian, a small square of linen that was touched to one of the Saint's prayer books. Classify each relic.

 * Jeremiah's family are moving into a new house. They leave behind them many old and worn out things, among them a picture of the Holy Family. They take with them the frame, but the picture itself is thrown in with the rubbish. Write three or four sentences to Jerry telling him what you think about the treatment of the discarded picture, and what you would have done under the same circumstances.

 * On your own person do you habitually carry any religious image? Give at least two reasons why you think it is a good practice.

 * What religious image is appropriate in the bedrooms of our homes?

 * Marcella, a newlywed, says it is fashionable nowadays not to ornament the walls of one's home with pictures of any kind. What reply can be made to Marcella?

 * What relic is generally found in the bishop's pectoral cross? Where is the largest portion of this relic kept at the present time?


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