Think about this idea for a moment: when the statues of the saints were removed from the churches in the Protestant Revolution of our time (i.e. post Vatican II wreck-ovation) the communion of saints also vanished.
The more I think about this, the more true it becomes.
Where, in your experience, have you come across a Catholic church or community that has an avid and vital devotion to the saints and also a church that has no images of saints?
I contend that when it comes to saints and angels–out of sight out of mind.
Think about it. Why were the statues of the saints removed anyway?
Some Protestants removed them because they thought they violated the Old Testament commandment not to have graven images. For Biblical literalists this is dumb because later in the Old Testament God commands Moses to make the Ark of the Covenant which has carved angels on top.
Why were the statues removed after Vatican II? Because someone must have considered them to be useless, antique, out of date and… useless and dusty and meaningless and too quaint for words and….useless and tied to legalistic superstitious devotions and…useless and linked with mythological concepts of heaven and hell and superstitious notions about praying to dead people and dead people praying for us and…useless.
While many Catholic lament the destruction of the churches, the removal of statues, the bashing of icons and the brutal iconoclasm we should remember that there was always a reason for what they did.
They got rid of the statues because they no longer believed in the efficacy of praying to saints. If not in fact, then in practice they denied the communion of the saints and the interaction of angels and saints with this world and the next.
What did we get instead?
The saints became role models only. Sure, modern Catholics still told the stories of saints, but they were handed out in colorful children’s books with the stories of the saints and their heroism. That’s all well and good, but saints are more than role models. The communion of the saints is more than a book shelf full of biographies. The saints are not simply holy heroes or saintly celebrities.
When statues of saints are placed in churches they are there to inspire devotion, prayer and sacrifices. They are not simply “pretty Catholic stuff”.
We also have relics. Deacon Richard Ballard has collected a number of relics over the years and for All Saints Day we have them on display in church for the faithful to venerate them as the Litany of Saints is sung.
When we see images and relics of saints they are supposed to spark in our hearts a sense of love and admiration, and a crowd of statues and icons in a church reminds us that we are “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.”
We are not alone in the pilgrimage of grace, but we are part of a triumphant army of humble souls–ordinary people who have gone before us.
Who are we to forget them? Who are we to cast aside their images and the signs of their presence?
If saints and angels are out of sight they are out of mind.
I’m for bringing them into our earthly vision so we might share in their heavenly vision.