Friday, June 04, 2010

St. Augustine on the Myth that the Saints and Martyrs are Worshipped

"What is the Church if not the assembly of all the saints?"  [CCC 946

"For all that, we Christians do not assign to the martyrs temples, priests, ceremonies and sacrifices.  They are not gods for us; their God is our God.  We certainly honour the memory of our martyrs, as holy men of God, who have contended for the truth as far as the death of their bodies, so that the true religion might be made known and fiction and falsehood convicted.  There may have been some in previous times who thought as they did, but, if so, fear kept them silent.
     "But has any of the faithful heard the priest say, in his prayers as he stands at the altar, even if that altar has been erected for the glory and worship of God over the body of a holy martyr, 'I offer sacrifice to you, Peter, or Paul, or Cyprian'?  He has not.  For at the memorials of martyrs the sacrifice is offered to God who made them men and made them martyrs, and has brought them into fellowship with his holy angels in the glory of heaven.  And so in this solemn celebration we offer thanks to the true God for their victories, and by renewing their memory we encourage ourselves to emulate their crowns and palms of victory, calling upon God to help us.  Thus all the acts of reverence which the devout perform at the shrines of the martyrs are acts of respect to their memoryThey are not ceremonies or sacrifices offered to the dead as to gods.
      "There are some Christians who bring banquets to the memorials.  This is not the custom of the better-instructed, and in most parts of the world the practice is unknown.  But even those who do this first lay the food at the tomb, then say their prayers and then remove the viands, which they either eat themselves, or distribute to the poor.  Their intention is that the food would be sanctified through the merits of the martyrs in the name of the Lord of martyrs.  That this is not a sacrifice to the martyrs is well known to anyone who knows of the one and only Christian sacrifice, which is offered there also.
      "Thus we honour our martyrs neither with divine worship nor with human slanders as the pagans worship their gods.  We neither offer sacrifice to them, nor turn their disgraces into religious ceremonies.
      "Consider the stories of Isis, the Egyptian goddess, wife of Osiris, and their ancestors, who, according to Egyptian literature, were all kings....There are full accounts of the misdeeds of this the books of the Egyptian mysteries...  Those who have the inclination and the ability to read about them should do so, and should think over what they have read.  Then they should ask themselves what kind of human beings these were for whom religious rites were established after their death, and what kind of actions were the basis of these ceremonies.  Let them not, in heaven's name, have the audacity to compare them in any way with our holy martyrs, although they hold them to be gods, whereas we Christians do not deify our martyrs.  We have not established priests in their honour, nor do we offer sacrifice to them; that would be unfitting, improper, and forbidden, since sacrifice is due only to God.... "
[St. Augustine, "City of God", Book VIII, Ch. 27]

     "We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always [attentive] to our prayers" (Paul VI, CPG § 30).  [CCC 962]

     On his African tour in 1969, Pope Paul VI told 22 young Ugandan converts that "being a Christian is a fine thing but not always an easy one."

Pictured:  Top Left:  St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs, Feast Day June 3rd.  Middle Right:  Fr. Stanley Rother, Martyr, in the process of sainthood.  Lower Right:  St. Augustine of Hippo, Feast Day August 28

1 comment:

  1. Great quotes - AGAIN! Thanks cathmom5!

    In JMJ,


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