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Richard G. Malloy, SJ Answers:
The simple answer is that statues of saints remind us of the saint and their heroic efforts on behalf of the people of God and the spreading of the Gospel Good News so needed in every age. We gaze upon and ponder statues and pray to become like the great witnesses to God’s love and mercy and justice. We don’t worship the statue or the saint. We let our imagination be fired up by thoughts of who that saint was and what he or she did. We hope to grow to be like the saint in their dedication to God and God’s people.
I have coffee mug with an image of a young St. Ignatius on it and a famous quote of his. Every morning, the image and the quote remind me to strive to be a faithful and loving Jesuit as St. Ignatius wants us to be.
Graven images are things used to manipulate God. Idols are things put in place of the space in our lives God ought to occupy “Idolatry is a perversion of man’s innate religious sense. An idolater is someone who ‘transfers his indestructible notion of God to anything other than God’” (CCC 2114). Anyone using a statue of a saint as a graven image is misusing the gift the image of the saint is. Empty idols make their worshippers empty” (CCC#2112)