Pious Devotion and what it Means


Pious Devotion and

what it Means

Richard Hollerman


Most of us know Catholic friends and neighbors.  Maybe we have family members or relatives who are part of the Catholic Church.  With over one billion members worldwide, this communion of professing “Christians” wields a great influence on world politics.


Sometimes we don’t take the time to examine religious beliefs of others, including the Roman Catholic Church.  While now is not the time to discuss in detail all of the Roman beliefs and practices, one did come to my attention recently when I noticed an announcement that the relics of John Bosco are being taken around the world during a multi-year tour and will be in the United States. 

Let’s notice a couple points about this advertisement and its meaning.  First, notice the following announcement:


Join us for this Exclusive Visit* and

Opportunity to Pray to St. John Bosco! 


In the tradition of pilgrimage, the relics of St. John Bosco are being carried into the towns and villages, neighborhoods and centers where the Gospel is announced among the young and the poor today. This pilgrim journey through 130 nations began on January 31, 2009, the 150th Anniversary of the founding of the Salesian Congregation. It prepares us for the 2015 celebration of the 200th Anniversary of Don Bosco’s birth near Turin, Italy on August 16, 1815.   The relics of Don Bosco have been recomposed from the urn that contained his remains since 1929 when the body was exhumed for his beatification and his eventual canonization on Easter Sunday 1934 by Pope Pius XI, who knew Don Bosco personally. The relics have been placed within a wax replica of St. John Bosco’s body, which in turn is enclosed in a large glass urn or casket.


(donboscodc.org; donboscodc.

Let’s notice the announcement more carefully.  It states: “Join us for this Exclusive Visit* and Opportunity to Pray to St. John Bosco!”  You may say, “I can’t believe my eyes!  Is that what it really says?”  Indeed it does, but what is the problem with this?


This is the problem.  Prayer is only to be directed to God.  Jesus said, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only” (Matthew 4:10).  The psalmist wrote, “Heed the sound of my cry for help, My King and my God, for to You I pray” (Psalm 5:2).  Our prayers are offered to God alone and not to any human being, however worthy we may deem the person to be.  Jesus instructed us in prayer when He said, “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew 6:9).  He said nothing about praying to a dead man or woman; only God is the object of our prayers, in the name of Christ Jesus (John 15:16) and in the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 6:18).  Only God is able to hear prayer.  “To You who hear prayer, to You all men come” (Psalm 65:2).


Not only are our prayers to be offered to God alone, but we are not to pray to any human being.  The Bible calls this “spiritism,” or talking to the dead.  God speaks of the “detestable things” of the “nations” that were in Canaan before Israel occupied the land (Deuteronomy 18:9).  He then lists a number of these detestable things and warns that there must not be a “spiritist” among His people nor “one who calls up the dead” (v. 11).  Finally, Yahweh God plainly says, “Whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD” (v. 12).


Why would the Lord give such strong prohibitions for His people?  God gives us no indication that dead people can hear our prayers or know what is happening in our life on earth.   At the time that Yahweh God gave these commands, the righteous dead must have been in “Abraham’s bosom” which was a place of bliss and rest (Luke 16:19-31).  Whether the righteous dead continue to be in this place as they await the resurrection or whether they are in heaven with the Lord Jesus (cf. Philippians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 5:8), the outcome is the same: they are dead and there is no indication that they know what is happening on earth (but see Revelation 6:9-11). The bottom line would be that saved Christians beyond death are in no position to know about the earth.


Since believers who have died are still human beings and ever will be, they wouldn’t have the capacity to do God-like things, such as hear and answer prayer.  As pointed out, only God is to receive our worship and prayer (generally prayer is a form of worship, and worship is a form of prayer), not any man, regardless of how holy and righteous.  Further, even if a righteous dead person could hear a prayer, why would we think that he would have the power to aid the one who prays?  Again, we must carefully guard against giving attributes to dead people that only God has.  Any tendency to think of a human being (even if they are righteous dead) as having the ability to hear and answer prayer is an abomination to God. 


In spite of this, Don Bosco said, “Let us therefore be devoted to the saints whose name we bear and have recourse to them in our spiritual and temporal needs.  They will always be ready to help us!”   This cannot be, since we are not to be “devoted” to dead saints and must not pray to them or have “recourse to them” for our “spiritual and temporal needs.”  The Lord said, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me” (Psalm 50:15).  God is the One who will meet our needs and rescue us from trouble when we pray to Him.


A further thought is this.  You will notice that the announcement referred to Don Bosco as “Saint” John Bosco, since this Catholic personality was sainted by the so-called Pope Pius XI in 1934.  Without a thorough discussion of the Catholic doctrine of canonization and sainthood, we simply point out that every single Christian is a saint, according to God.  It is not a privilege of a few chosen people who were particularly holy and performed miracles.  Paul writes to the believers at Rome and says “to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints” (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 9:13, 32, 41).  So to even think of this departed Catholic as a saint to the exclusion of others indicates a serious error in theology and practice.


Now notice another aspect of this matter:


The Pilgrimage of the Don Bosco Relic

WELCOME to the exclusive visit of the Relic of St. John Bosco to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The Relic of St. John Bosco is being carried into towns and villages throughout the world, where the Gospel is announced among the young and poor today, and to all people with devotion to this great saint of our time.

The Relic is on pilgrimage throughout the world in preparation of the Bi-centennial of the birth of St. John Bosco in 2015. We welcome Don Bosco and ask for his intercession as he mirrored the life of Jesus the Good Shepherd and had special care for the young and abandoned. We are all called to renew our baptismal promises and seek our own path to holiness.

In great honor of this pilgrimage, Pope Benedict XVI has agreed, at the request of Father Pascual Chavez Villanueva SDB, the Rector Major of the Salesians, to grant plenary indulgences to those who make the pilgrimage to see and pray before the relic around the world.

We see other errors expressed here.  When the remains of Don Bosco’s body were exhumed, they gathered his bones and then what did they do?  They made a wax figure that looked like Bosco and placed his remains inside the look-alike figure, and this is what is being taken around the world.  Why would one want to be around the bones of a dead man?  The Catholic Church places special significance in these remains and calls them “relics.”  They are thought to have special powers to effect miracles.  Although believers treated the body of the saints with respect, they didn’t revere it in any way.  Therefore, this is far removed from early Christianity, yet it has a prominent place in this religion. 

You will notice that those who go on a pilgrimage to see the wax figure of Bosco and be near his bones will be given an indulgence, which is “a partial remission of the temporal punishment that is still due for sin after absolution.”  This too is totally foreign to New Testament Christianity for it is nothing that Jesus or His apostles believed or taught.  When sins are forgiven, all of God’s punishment for that sin is removed (1 John 1:9).

What have we seen as we notice this current special worldwide tour of Don Bosco’s remains and his wax figure?  First, prayer is only to be offered to God, not to Bosco, Mary, Joseph, or any other dead person.  Second, God severely warns against trying to talk to a dead person, and He calls this an “detestable” or an “abomination.”  Third, there is no indication that the dead even know what is happening on earth.  Fourth, even if dead people could hear prayers, they wouldn’t have the power to receive the prayers of thousands and answer them.  Fifth, sainthood is not something for a few particularly religious people, for God says that all of His people are saints.  Sixth, relics are unreasonable and unscriptural.  Seventh, the doctrine of indulgences is unscriptural.  These are matters that should cause every sincere Catholic to question his beliefs.  Remember, it does take more than religious devotion.  It takes truth.





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