Knowing the origin of Catholic saint worship explains why the practice lacks any Biblical support and why those truly saved must renounce it.
In an attempt to hoodwink Catholics from seeing how abominable this practice is, the Council of Trent says:
“And though the church has been accustomed to celebrate at times certain masses in honor and memory of the saint, she does not teach that sacrifice is offered to them but to God alone who crowned them; whence the priest … implores their favor that they may vouchsafe to intercede for us in heaven whose memory we celebrate on earth” (Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, 146).
If the saints are being sought for protection and blessings then what is being accorded to them is worship. Besides why seek out the spirits of the dead for what God can give?
Catholics object to the term “saint worship,” they argue that what they offer to God is latria (worship) in Greek and what they offer to saints is dulia (veneration). These are the same word games cults like to play – redefining words to hide a heresy.
Even if you address someone as “your worship” you can’t really be said to worship that person as a deity, but when you pray to him, build him a shrine, light him a candle or kiss his bones to receive a supernatural assistance or favour, then you are worshipping him.
In Scripture, the gestures – bowing, kneeling and honour – directed to God in worship are also displayed by Catholics towards their “saints”:
“But the LORD … is the one you must worship. To him you shall bow down and to him offer sacrifices” (2Kings 17:36)
“But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple” (Psalm 5:7)
“Come let us bow in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker” (Psalm 95:6)
“…These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men” (Mark 7:6-7)
Note that the words “worship” and “honour” were used interchangeably, and in the Old Testament, there were altars and a temple built to the Lord just like Catholics build altars and shrines for their saints. Pagan religions express the same devotion to their many deities.
Ancient Babylon for example, worshipped up to 5,000 deities. Like Catholicism, they also believed their gods were once living heroes on earth but were now on a higher plane. They believed “every month and every day of the month was under the protection of a particular deity” (The Historians’ History of the World 1:518).
From the Bible, we can see that Syrian pagans also believed in different deities limited to certain geographical locations. When they lost a war against Israel, they said “their gods are gods of the hills; therefore they were stronger than we; but let us fight them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they” (1Kings 20:23).
Eastern religions generally had their worship of various deities, as the goddess of sailors, the god of war, gods of fertility, gods of special neighbourhood or occupation. The same for ancient Rome:
“There were gods who presided over every moment of a man’s life, gods of house and garden, of food and drink, of health and sickness” (Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Simon and Schuster, 1950, III:61).
They had various “patron gods” for every aspect of life just like Catholics have their “saints” today.
Ceres was the goddess of corn, wheat and vegetation. Minerva was the goddess of wisdom, music and crafts. Venus was the goddess of sexual love and birth. Vesta was the goddess of bakers and sacred fires. Ops was the goddess of wealth. Castor and Pollux were regarded as the protectors of Rome and of travellers at sea. Janus was the god of doors and gates and so on.
Since this concept was in existence before Christianity and was known outside the church, its presence in Catholicism today points to its assimilation at some point.
This pagan influx majorly started from the 4th century. The pagans that flocked into the churchea ostensibly wanted to continue their devotions to their pantheon of gods, so step by step, it was revived in the church, this time under a new toga – as “saints.”
Here’s a break down:
1. Saints for different occupations
Just like the pagan Romans had different deities for different profession with different days of devotion, Catholicism too developed different “saints” for different aspects of life with different “feast days.”
St. Thomas (Dec. 21) for architects.
St. Matthew (Sept. 21) for bankers.
St. Luke (Oct. 18) for doctors.
St. John Bosco (Jan. 31) for editors.
St. Andrew (Nov. 30) for fishermen.
St. Francis of Assisi (Oct. 4) for merchants.
St. Anne (July 26) for housekeepers.
St. Thomas Aquinas (Mar. 7) for students.
Whatever may be your occupation, mama Rome has a ‘saint’ for you.
2. Saints for various problems
Like the old pagans gods, saints were also believed to be endowed with powers to solve specific problems: St. Anthony of Padua was for barren women; St. Nicholas for alcoholics; St. Lawrence for the poor; St. Joseph for spinsters seeking husbands; St. Dominic for children; St. Columban for floods; St. Eustachius for family troubles and St. George for fevers etc.
With this list of “friends on the other side” to help people get whatever they want, God was reduced to a mere spectator.
3. Changing of the gods
According to a historian, “Paganism survived … in the form of ancient rites and customs condoned, or accepted and transformed by an often indulgent Church. An intimate and trustful worship of saints replaced the cult of pagan gods” (The Story of Civilization, IV: 75).
Sometimes, as the old pagan gods were being renamed, the names of the old deities were slightly modified, but their rites and external features were left intact.
The goddess Victoria of the Basses-Alpes (France) was renamed as “St.” Victoire.
Cheron became “St.” Ceranos. Artemis became “St.” Artemidos. Demeter, a Greek goddess became “St.” Demetrios – a masculine warrior saint. Mars, the Roman god of war was conveniently renamed as “St.” Martin the warlike saint, and Lares became “St.” Lawrence.
4. Pagan legends became saints’ stories.
The Catholic Encyclopedia admits that saint “legends repeat conceptions found in the pre-Christian religious tales … The legend is not Christian, only Christianized … In many cases, it has obviously the same origin as the myth”
Why is this so? It continues, “This transference was promoted by the numerous cases in which Christian saints became the successors of local deities, and Christian worship supplanted local worship” (Vol IX: 130, 131 art. “Legends”)
5. Pagan emblems adopted
Ancient arts show that the pagans represented their deities with a drawing of halo around their heads, the same was adopted for Catholic saints.
The New Catholic Encyclopedia (XII, 963) says:
“The most common attribute, applied to all saints, is the nimbus (cloud), a luminous defined shape surrounding the head of the saint. Its origins are pre-Christian, and example are found in Hellenistic art of pagan inspiration; the halo was used as evidence in mosaics and coins, for demigods and divinities such a Neptune, Jupiter, Bacchus and in particular Apollo (god of the sun).”
The New Encyclopedia Britannica (IV:864) states:
“In Hellenistic and Roman art, the sun-god Helios and Roman emperors often appear with a crown of rays … It was not until the 6th century that the halo became customary for the Virgin Mary and other saints.”
Fredrick Goodman writes that “the circle is the most important unit in magic symbolism and in almost every case where it is used … it is intended to denote spirit or spiritual forces … and it has survived in Christian art forms as the halo – a circle of gold…” (Magic and Symbols, Brian Trodd, 1989, p. 17).
In essence, those who invoke or pray to “saints” whether in Catholicism, Santeria or Voodoo are really communing with demonic entities pretending to be “saints.”
6. Pagan temples became shrines
The Pantheon Temple still remaining in Rome is a good example of this pagan assimilation.
In pagan Rome, that temple was dedicated to “Jove and all the gods” as seen on the inscription over the portico. Pope Boniface IV ‘re-consecrated’ it to “the Virgin Mary and all the saints.” Such restoration of pagan temples was common in other places.
The Celtic goddess Brigit (renamed as “St.” Bridget) had her main pagan temple at Kildare, Ireland, served by vestal virgins who tended the sacred fires. The temple was taken over and made a Catholic convent and nuns continue to tend the sacred fire which they now call “St. Bridget’s fire” (Ethel Urlin, Festivals, Holy Days and Saints’ Days, 1915, p. 26).
“Churches or ruins of churches have been frequently found on the sites where pagan shrines or temples originally stood … It is also to some extent true that sometimes the saint whose aid was to be invoked at the Christian shrine bore some outward analogy to the deity previously hallowed in that place” (Cath. Ency. 2:44)
In other words, paganism died in a way, only to live again within Catholicism.
The very spirits the pagan world bowed to only changed their names, they are still being bowed to today in the same temples for the same ‘favours’. God wants our Catholic and Eastern Orthodox friends to renounce this false worship.