We worship God by the virtue of religion by adoring Him alone as the one and Supreme Being, the chief expression of adoration being prayer. We adore God by acknowledging His infinite excellence, our complete dependence upon Him, our absolute subjection to His will; we pray to God by lifting up our minds and hearts to Him.
Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, veneration of saints, relics, and images, are not opposed to this virtue. We do not worship the saints; we only honor them as the special friends and servants of God. We adore God alone. Neither do we worship images and sacred pictures or relics. We only pay them honor as belonging to or representing God or the saints. In a similar manner we commonly cherish the photographs of our dear friends.
The principal sins against the virtue of religion are: superstition, sacrilege, idolatry, and simony.
We fail in our duty of worship when we spend all our lives for the world, for material interests, in pride, lust, or avarice.
A person sins by superstition when he attributes to a creature a power that belongs to God alone.
Examples of superstitious practices are: the use of charms or spells, belief in dreams or fortune telling. As today practiced, all these superstitions are mere nonsense: they may be taken only as some social fun, like Bingo. Only idiots actually believe in these practices, in mascots, omens, astrology.
As today practiced, manifestations of superstitions beliefs are fraudulent. Those "magicians" merely perform sleight-of-hand tricks: the "witches" "fortune-tellers", and "spiritists" only use their sharp faculties of observation and their retentive memory.
And yet there are still unintelligent persons who believe in lucky and unlucky days and numbers: they believe finding a horseshoe is good luck, breaking a mirror means seven years' bad luck, and so on. On the contrary, all is nonsense. However we also must realize that satan, as the fallen angel, can produce things to suck people into believing in these superstitions.
A charm is anything used with the belief that it has magic power to protect. Spells are words by the saying of which the superstitious believe evil can be averted or good fortune obtained.
It is foolish to interpret dreams, because they are most often the result of too heavy a supper. The "dreams" in the Holy Scripture and the lives of the saints are, more properly speaking, revelation or inspiration rather than dreams; God uses particular means for exceptional cases.
Spiritism consists in attempts to communicate with the spirits of the dead, or with other spirits, usually by the use of mediums and sťances. Magic refers to manifestations of wonders, through the intervention of evil spirits, whether real or pretended, going as far as invocation of devils.
There is no positive proof that a spiritist or magician has been able to communicate with the spirits of the dead. Houdini, who was the greatest of all magicians, laid a public wager that he would reproduce any spiritistic manifestation by using purely natural means.
If there were such a thing as fortune telling, why do not those fortune-tellers improve their own fortunes by foretelling the rise of the stock market and buying up all the stock? Then they would not need to labor at the telling of fortunes at only so much per fortune predicted.
A person sins by sacrilege when he mistreats sacred persons, places, or things.
Sacrilege is a kind of blasphemy consisting of the violation or profanation of a person, place, or thing consecrated to God. For example, it is sacrilege incurring excommunication to lay violent hands upon a priest, a nun, or any other person consecrated to God. It is sacrilege to commit acts of impurity or of violence, like killing or fighting, in a church or consecrated grave yard, to receive the sacraments unworthily, to steal sacred vessels or other Church property, to do damage in a church, to despise relics and holy pictures, mutilate images, etc.
Baltassar, King of Babylon, was guilty of sacrilege when he used the sacred vessels of the Temple of Jerusalem as drinking cups at a feast. His punishment, as announced by the handwriting on the wall, is well known. In order to avoid possible disrespect to sacred images and holy pictures that are already too old to use , we should burn them.
Sadly today, with the advent of the new modern church architecture, many of these sacramentals and sacred images are being discarded or worse, sold, and used for secular purposes such as a monstrance for a planter, or communion railings or an altar as a part of the decor of bars in nightclubs.
A person sins by idolatry when he pays to a creature the supreme worship due to God alone as Creator and Preserver of all things. In the early days of Christianity, many Christians were put to death for refusing to burn incense before idols. The old Egyptians, and many pagans today, worship the sun, fire, or animals like the crocodile. God punished the Israelites for their idolatry. Another form of idolatry is our entertainment today when we have made entertainers in music and acting and sports celebrities idols. We have come to regard the great cathedrals of America as the football stadiums where everything stops on Sunday, attendance at church or family time be damned.
One who knows the Catholic Church to be the True Church, yet refuses to join and obey it, is guilty of resisting the known Christian truth, a form of idolatry, since by it one stubbornly denies due worship to God. The doctrine "No Salvation Outside the Church" definitely holds true here.
The Scribes and Pharisees knew well all the prophecies concerning the Messiah. Jesus Christ proved Himself the promised Messiah by wonderful miracles, after announcing Himself as the Son of God. But their pride was a barrier to their humble acknowledgment of Jesus; they calumniated and persecuted Him to the limit. They were guilty of resisting the known Christian truth. Freemasons, especially those who were born and bred Catholics, may be guilty of this sin if they will not permit a priest to approach them on their deathbed: "They stop their ears, not to hear, and make their heart as the adamant stone" (Zacharia 7:11).
A person sins by simony when he buys or sells sacred or spiritual things or positions.
The term "simony" comes from Simon Magus, who offered the Apostles money to give him the power of giving the Holy Ghost (Acts 8: 19-20). It is simony to sell a rosary for more than its ordinary price on account of a blessing it has. Thus sold, indulgenced objects lost their indulgence.
Giving a priest money to say Mass for our intention is not simony, because we do not and cannot buy a Mass. The money is only an offering towards the materials for the Mass, and to help support the priest.
This is right and proper for St. Paul said, "They who serve the altar have their share with the altar. So also the Lord directed that those who preach the Gospel should have their living from the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:14). It would not be for the dignity of the priesthood nor for the benefit of religious work if priests needed to labor at secular occupations to support themselves. The same holds true for nuns and other religious and dedicated lay people who devote their lives to spreading the gospel.
Next Thursday: The First Commandment part six - Sins Against Hope and Charity