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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

16 September 2015: Father Peter Hollins, St Laurence Catholic Church

Statues Offer us a Key to the Spiritual

Several years ago at St Swithun’s, Southsea, the large statue of Our Lady of Lourdes was peeling all over and looked awful. It was sent away for professional restoration. Unfortunately this took much longer than expected. A familiar friend seemed to be missing from church. People would still stand in front of the empty plinth and light a candle, say their prayers and leave little notes of petition. Somebody put a tiny plastic statue of Mary on the plinth. Eventually it was returned and to my horror had been painted a different shade of blue! Apparently different churches have different shades of blue for Mary: our statue had been painted in Church of England colours! Various people said that we would get used to it, and we did.

The Book of Exodus reads, ‘You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.’ (20:4). History has given statues a hard time. The Eastern Church, particularly in the 7th century, struggled with this passage from Exodus and many statues were destroyed. Similarly the Reformation saw the destruction and removal of many sculptures: for example, faces hacked from the altarpiece in St Martin’s Cathedral, Utrecht.

It seems plain silly to suggest that Catholics worship statues. We do ‘not bow down to them or serve them’ any more than we bow down to the photograph of our parents at home. Statues offer us a key to the spiritual. They draw our attention to the wonderful example of the saints and to aspects of our faith. They invite us to focus on Jesus who ‘is the image of the unseen God and the first-born of all creation.’ (Colossians 1:15)

St Peter's Fete takes palce this coming Saturday: 19 September

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