GIRM 318: Sacred Images

Images of the saints and such:

318. In the earthly Liturgy, the Church participates, by a foretaste, in that heavenly Liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem, toward which she journeys as a pilgrim, and where Christ is seated at the right hand of God; and by venerating the memory of the Saints, she hopes one day to have some share and fellowship with them. [Sacrosanctum Concilium 8]

Touring an orthodox cathedral when I was in grad school, the rector described the purpose of surrounding the assembly with icons of the saints reinforced the sense that on earth they assisted us in spiritual ways, even in our earthbound worship of God.

Thus, in sacred buildings images of the Lord, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saints, in accordance with most ancient tradition of the Church, should be displayed for veneration by the faithful[Cf. Rite of Dedication of a Church, chapter IV, no. 10; Book of Blessings 984-1031] and should be so arranged so as to lead the faithful toward the mysteries of faith celebrated there. Care should, therefore, be taken that their number not be increased indiscriminately, and moreover that they be arranged in proper order so as not to draw the attention of the faithful to themselves and away from the celebration itself.[Sacrosanctum Concilium 125] There should usually be only one image of any given Saint. Generally speaking, in the ornamentation and arrangement of a church, as far as images are concerned, provision should be made for the devotion of the entire community as well as for the beauty and dignity of the images.

What do you think of this principle of moderation? Of pointing to the Eucharist and sacraments? Need a number be attached to it? What of multiple depictions in different media: glass, statuary, and opaque image? Does anybody really monitor this?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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11 Responses to GIRM 318: Sacred Images

  1. Liam says:

    This should not go entirely unremarked: “. . . provision should be made for the devotion of the entire community . . . .”

    This means you don’t design new churches with the off-limits -private- chapels of yore (often, they might be mortuary chapels of distinguished families, for examples; go do that in the crypt or churchyard now, not in the main body of the church); while that design issue faded after Trent, it was not, I believe, non-existent thereafter. Another FCAP moment.

    It would be up to the parochial and diocesan commissions for liturgical arts to be eyes on the ground for these things.

  2. Alexander says:

    can we keep pictures of lay people of other religion

    • Todd says:

      Good question, probably without an easy answer. My sense is that an honored image for public, community veneration should be of a person who shares our religious tradition and is an acknowledged holy person, if not a saint.

      But Indian Catholics venerating a person like Gandhi … if that were a community-driven sensibility, it would have to be considered. Likewise Martin Luther King in a Black Catholic parish.

      For individual admiration/veneration, I suppose the bounds are a bit looser. I keep an image of my wife and me from our wedding day. That image has more spiritual meaning for me than any holy card I possess.

      • Liam says:

        Just to clarify: The only images in churches of specific known individuals are those whose public veneration has been approved and who have been raised to the altars in some recognized way. Same thing with inclusion in prayers like the Litany of Saints.

  3. Alexander says:

    Can a clergyman preach anti-Semitism in pretext of explaining
    jewish law

  4. Alexander says:

    In his homily Deacon quoted as follows to explain about the parable of good samartian
    The Jewish law he quoted :-

    “A Jew cannot be given death sentence if he kill a non Jew because it not worth killing a
    Jew for a gentile.”

    “A Jew should not help a non Jewish woman when she is in labour pain; if she/he does they are allowing a gentile to be born in the world”

    pl clarify is there any such law in Judaisim ?. Anyway wrote a letter to him expressing my disheartened stand but he got annoyed what is your opinion on this

    • Todd says:

      I’m no expert in Judaism, and I wasn’t present for the homily. But a few questions come to mind …

      When a preacher “shows off” his knowledge (citing Jewish law like he knows it vs citing the Scriptures) I have to wonder if its more about him than about the Lord.

      Even if true, these cited prescriptions of “Jewish law” offend our American sense of fairness, and they tend to draw attention to themselves. I would tend to see such preaching as anti-Semitic because they seem so peripheral to the point of Christian preaching.

      Or in other words, let’s tear down someone else so our gospel appears high and lofty. Even if not anti-Semitic, it strikes me as lazy. Lazy intellectually. Lazy spiritually.

  5. Alexander says:

    What is your opinion if our lady with infant Jesus and saints like St Joseph St Antony being shown with animation and lip movement etc which is broadcasted in a TV channel belonged to a Minor Basilca in my town. Is this tantamount to ‘make believe’ and profanity ?

  6. Should the amount of saintly images be at the discretion of the residing pastor.

    • Todd says:

      Pastors come and go, but he should be a leader in discernment. What piety is in place in a community, and what sorts of devotions can be nurtured?

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