The Mary statue was not for sale. Mary’s head kept falling off, the shopkeeper explained. He dutifully kept gluing it back on. I told him I’d still buy her. I was on the hunt for a Mary statue for my garden. And she’d do just fine.
But he remained resolute. Not for sale. Next to Mary stood a larger St Francis statue. I decided I’d settle for St Francis. But he wasn’t for sale either. And he had problems too, the shopkeeper explained, his bird kept falling off.
I left the store empty-handed and shaking my head, somewhat amused.
Why did this Catholic store owner refuse to sell his broken statues? And why would a Catholic like me want to buy one anyway?
Non-Catholics might call us nutters, or worse, idolaters. But no, we are people of faith, that’s why.
And as the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “in the Old Testament, God ordained or permitted the making of images that pointed symbolically toward salvation by the incarnate Word: so, it was with the bronze serpent, the ark of the covenant, and the cherubim” (CCC 2130).
The Lord knew we needed reminders of our faith during our earthly lives. That’s why he instructed us to make them. We need to be reminded of the eternal so we continue to reach for it. We respectfully venerate statues of Jesus, the Mother of God, angels and saints because they remind us of our faith. But God alone we adore.
Today, secular culture would have us believe that life is meaningless. There is no after-life, no God, nothing sacred or holy. The worldview the culture offers is grim. The symbols of our Catholic faith offer the hopeful reminder of a different worldview — one with a God that doesn’t disappoint; of eternal life and where life is sacred, every single one.
This Christian worldview is becoming less tolerated and offensive to those who oppose it. Why?
If there’s an all-powerful God, then there’s an authority figure above ourselves. We can’t be our own God. And our lives should be ordered toward God and not by our flights of fancy. It requires conversion.
Yes, Christian symbols are offensive today.
Earlier this month a Catholic family in Novi, Michigan received a request from their homeowners association to remove the Virgin Mary statue that has been in their yard since 2003.
The Samona family say they are being unfairly discriminated against for their Catholic faith. Joseph Samona told the Detroit Free Press, “There is no doubt in my mind that this is an attack on our religion.” He pointed out that neighbors have “lawn ornaments” that aren’t religious and were not sent letters.
The family immigrated to the United States from Iraq decades ago to escape religious discrimination there. Now they’re dealing with it here. And this isn’t the first time. In 2005 they received a letter to remove a Nativity scene from their lawn.
They are pushing back and considering taking legal action.
“We’re just looking to let people know that no matter what your faith is — whether it’s Catholicism, Islam, Judaism — don’t let anyone tell you that you have to back down from that,” Samona said.
The symbols of our faith are an affront to secular culture. And that’s OK. They will offend some, and that’s OK too. We should surround ourselves with them anyway. And others may be pointed to the truth through their beauty too.
The countless statues of Catholic saints found in churches, in lawns, parks, etc. serve as reminders that there were brave people who said “yes” to Christ, usually turning their back to the world. They’re reminders that the Lord asks the same of us.
We should not be ashamed of the symbols of our faith. We should display them unapologetically, whether it’s a Mary statue in our garden or a cross worn on the outside of our shirt at the workplace.
When I leave my home in the morning I want to be reminded that the Blessed Mother is watching over me. I want to be reminded that the way to peace and happiness is by saying “yes” to her son, that the world could never offer me what my faith does.
So, my hunt for a Blessed Mary Statue continues and I hope I find one that stands very very tall.
Kim Griffin is a member of the Parish of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, Philadelphia.
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