09 June, 2009

Does the veneration of saints take away from the worship of Christ?

“There are several degrees of this worship:

if it is addressed directly to God, it is superior, absolute, supreme worship, or worship of adoration, or, according to the consecrated theological term, a worship of latria. This sovereign worship is due to God alone; addressed to a creature it would become idolatry. When worship is addressed only indirectly to God, that is, when its object is the veneration of martyrs, of angels, or of saints, it is a subordinate worship dependent on the first, and relative, in so far as it honours the creatures of God for their peculiar relations with Him; it is designated by theologians as the worship of dulia, a term denoting servitude, and implying, when used to signify our worship of distinguished servants of God, that their service to Him is their title to our veneration (cf. Chollet, loc. cit., col. 2407, and Bouquillon, Tractatus de virtute religionis, I, Bruges, 1880, 22 sq.). As the Blessed Virgin has a separate and absolutely supereminent rank among the saints, the worship paid to her is called hyperdulia (for the meaning and history of these terms see Suicer, Thesaurus ecclesiasticus, 1728).”
I do not know why some are opposed to this definition as it clearly states that the worship is Christocentric but allow me to try to explain it further.

Throughout history the Church has given special honor to the Blessed Mother. The definition is an attempt to differentiate the differences in the way the blessed mother is venerated and the other Saints with the adoration we as Catholics have for the incarnate Word of God, the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Saints are revered with “dulia” which is human reverence and devotion given because of their intercession on behalf of us and is very similar to the reverence given to friends who pray for us in times of need.

The mother of God receives hyperdulia which is also human reverence and devotion but with a deeper respect for her closeness to her son in intercession for our prayers. All prayer, whether it comes from a saint or from the blessed mother on our behalf, is totally and absolutely dependent on Christ.

What one should try to understand is that Catholic devotion to the blessed mother does not take away from our adoration of Christ but instead gives our adoration a better focus. This is not like idol worship which changes one’s focus from the true God but through imitation of her devotion we are focused on Him. Every saint by their life spent in devotion and service to God gives us encouragement and their prayers for us give us greater hope that we also will endure to final salvation as their example exemplifies.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

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