Project Canterbury

Locust Street Letters

By Frank Lawrence Vernon

Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.




We constantly hear from people who have never understood the meaning of the Communion of Saints, that we who honor the Saints rob God of the honor which is His due. Disregard of the Saints is said to deepen regard for God.

Now the first thing to be said about that is, that the Catholic Church teaches that there are two kinds of worship. First, the worship which is due to God alone. Second, the honor or reverence which is due to those whom God has exalted. The first is called latria. The second is called dulia. It is idolatry to give to the creature the latria or worship which is due only to the Creator. It is irreverent to withhold from the creature due reverence for virtue bestowed by the Creator. There is nothing new or unusual in this. It is precisely the course we follow in the matter of our duty to God and our neighbor. We worship God. We honor men and women deserving honor. I am writing this on Armistice Day. Among other things today we honor heroes. The fact that we do this does not mean that we cease to worship God.

It is just the question “who is my neighbor” that makes the difference. The Christian Religion teaches us that death does not sever relationships. “We are compassed with a great cloud of witnesses.” We do not cease to reverence holy persons when they leave this world. No one ever thinks of doing that, unless the person happens to be a Saint! The fact is that in honoring God's good people we honor God who made them good.

I suppose that you are not unfamiliar with the type of person who nurses the idea that any Saint not mentioned in the Prayer Book must be a suspicious character. You know people who regard such Saints as being merely dead Roman Catholics. There are crowds of Roman Catholic Saints, praise God. The people I have in mind would be civil to a Saint if they were to meet one abroad. Then why turn a cold shoulder towards a Saint who happens to be living in Heaven? After all a Saint is a Saint. It does not really matter very much where Sainthood was won.

Then there are people who are very fearful lest too much honor should be paid to. the Virgin Mother of Our Lord. The answer to that is that the Blessed Virgin outranks all the Saints. A reverence above the dulia of all Saints is due to her. She alone is worthy of hyperdulia, as God alone is worthy of latria. Let such people read their Bibles. Let them read the Gospel record of the Annunciation, and the Nativity. Let them meditate on the salutation of the Archangel and of Elisabeth. Let them read the Apostles' and the Nicene Creed. Let them read the Magnificat. Would such people seriously dissociate themselves from all generations who call Mary blessed? Would they seriously protest against the act of Him Who is mighty and has magnified her? Would they seriously refuse to honor the Mother of Him who has commanded us to honor our own mothers? Would they resolutely refuse even to speak to her with whom Our Redeemer held filial converse? It would seem unthinkable if the ghastly thing were not happening every day, among people who profess and call themselves Christians.

It is on earth as in Heaven. We worship God. We honor the Saints. We reverence the Virgin Mother.

Affectionately in Our Lord,

Project Canterbury