Built of Living Stones 137-138: Multiple Images

Let’s wrap up the discussion of sacred images.

§ 137 § The placement of images can be a challenge, especially when a number of cultural traditions are part of a single parish community and each has its own devotional life and practices. Restraint in the number and prominence of sacred images (SC 125) is encouraged to help people focus on the liturgical action that is celebrated in the church. Separate alcoves for statues or icons can display a variety of images through the year. Some parishes designate an area as the shrine for an image that is being venerated on a given day or for a period of time, such as the image of a saint on his or her feast day.

§ 138 § It is important that the images in the church depict saints for whom devotion currently exists in the parish. It is particularly desirable that a significant image of the patron of the church be fittingly displayed, as well as an image of Mary, the Mother of God, as a fitting tribute to her unique role in the plan of salvation. As time passes and demographics change, saints who were once the object of veneration by many parishioners may at another time be venerated by only a few. When this happens, these images could be removed, provided sensitivity is shown with regard to the piety of the faithful and the impact on the building.

The citation of SC 125 in its entirety:

The practice of placing sacred images in churches so that they may be venerated by the faithful is to be firmly maintained. Nevertheless their number should be moderate and their relative locations should reflect right order. Otherwise they may create confusion among the Christian people and promote a faulty sense of devotion.


Underused is the good option of rotating images in one location. Our sister parish in town displays a saint’s image in its narthex, depending on the feast or season.

Developing new devotions can be slow. In one parish in which I served, two alcoves for devotion existed–in addition to the ledges for statues in the main worship space. One houses the Holy Family. The other was fitted with doors and is now a closet for wedding supplies. I had not thought of rotating images at the time of renovation–that would have been my suggestion today.

All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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