To My Protestant Friends
But to my Protestant Christians, I know what you might be thinking. What is with all the symbolism? Why all the grandeur when the Bible is all you need? Why all the statues when Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life? What are Catholics actually worshipping?
To be able to understand a place of worship that is so beautiful and grand and magnificent, first, you must try and open your eyes and let what you see before you do the work. Stop over thinking Exodus 20: 4-5 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below, You shall not bow down to them or worship them…”
What you see in these glorious cathedrals are not false idols or deities. You are in the presence of craftsmanship, by the most sophisticated artists, who wished to bring beauty to the place they felt closest to God. These artisans, like us, were made by our Creator, in His image. They used their God-given talents to bring wondrous and awe-inspiring sculptures, stained glass windows, paintings, and architecture to honor the Lord. Not to replace Him.
Places of Worship can be Artful Masterpieces and Houses of God
Catholics know they live a flawed life, full of sin, therefore constantly needing forgiveness. Catholics know that attending Mass on Sunday means being with fellow humans who also live flawed lives, full of sin, also needing forgiveness. Flawed people can worship among statues of Mary, which are meant to honor her for bestowing the greatest gift upon the Earth. Sins can be washed away in places of wondrous beauty.
As Catholics, we can attend church anywhere in the world, regardless if we know the language. Our church is universal and we shall still receive the Body of Christ. Worshipping in a place built by our flawed and forgiven ancestors serves as a reminder. God’s forgiveness is as abundant and glorious as the cathedral that the eye beholds. So when a magnificent cathedral like Notre Dame burns the significance and sadness are hard to escape.
Our journey with faith and God is personal. How God feeds our individual souls is as multi-faceted as the human race which He created. As Catholics sometimes our biggest flaw, most consistent sin, isn’t admitting our mistakes, rather failing to seek God’s forgiveness. If anything good can come from such a destructive fire let it be the this: as Catholics we need to stop whatever is causing our internal burning and remember that God is always seeking to put out the flames. Forgiveness is never more than a simple prayer away.
So to my Protestant friends, our great churches, cathedrals, statues, artwork, and symbolism are not what Catholics are worshipping. The grandeur is to reverence God, not to replace the Bible. We worship God’s greatest gift, His only begotten Son Jesus Christ, for whoever believes in Him shall have eternal life.
Peace be with you.