Deb Bartlett wrote:

Hi, guys —

My brother is searching for a way to understand how it is that we have shrines to Saints since he feels that by calling these places "shrines", we are implying that they are places of "worship" to that particular Saint.

He also feels that:

  • we should worship God, the Father and not worship Jesus and
  • that displaying the crucifix at the altar and in our homes, is idolatry.

He is very sincere and searching for answers with all his heart but I am weak when trying to explain the faith to him.



  { How do I explain the purpose of shrines to saints to my brother and is worshipping Jesus OK? }

Mary Ann replied:

Hi, Deb —

RE: your first question about shrines. Your brother puts a meaning in the word "shrine" that is not meant in the English language. A Shrine in English is simply a place of memorial to a person.
It could be a place:

  • that holds relics {or mementoes] of that person (as a shrine over a grave, or
  • a shrine with relics of a saint, or
  • a shrine to your mom, with photos and mementoes.

As for your second question, your brother must not be a Christian. Christianity is the religion of those who know by Revelation from God that He is Triune, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that the Son became Man, the man called Jesus. Jesus is divine. We should worship Jesus.

All Christians worship Jesus, who is God.

If your brother is not a Christian, and wants to understand Christianity, Mike can provide a Catechism but your brother, if he is not Christian, can not tell Christians how they should believe as Christians. He may want Christians to believe as he does, but then they wouldn't be Christians.

Maybe your brother would like to ask questions of the board.

Mary Ann

Mike replied:

Hi Deb,

Thanks for the question.

Don't worry about being stuck or confused when explaining shrines that honor the saints of the Church. The punchiest answer I've heard was given by St. Augustine:

When God rewards us for our labors, he is only crowning his work in us.

So Shrines obviously could be places of worship, but they only honor the saint; they don't worship the saint.

I dealt with a similar question on Mary that you may be interested in:

In Catholic Christianity, worship is given to God alone and as Mary Ann alluded to: the Trinity is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus, who is Incarnated God, is consubstantial, or "of one substance" with God, the Father, so when we worship Jesus at Sunday Mass, we do worship the Father.

Displaying the crucifix is not idolatry. Canon Law requires that every Catholic parish has a crucifix.

  • Why?

Because it's the ultimate symbol of our Redemption: Jesus' saving Death on the Cross. The blessed crucifix, itself, is just a piece of wood or metal, but what it depicts is important to all Christians; we don't worship a crucifix, we worship Jesus, Our Lord.

Whether your brother is a Protestant or a poorly catechized Catholic, encourage him to consider buying a cheap copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to learn everything we believe as Catholics . . . plus with the advent of new technology there are now more and cheaper ways to read the Catechism.

Hope this helps,


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