We are a group of parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes in Massapequa Park, New York, who are troubled that Our Lady of Fatima’s statue has been permanently removed from its customary place of honor in the sanctuary of our church.
Brought to our parish by parishioners returning from a Fatima pilgrimage, this beautiful statue has graced our altar for the past 25 years. Every Christmas and Easter it is lovingly surrounded by flowers and has been carried in joyful procession around our church at the First Saturday Mass every month for many years.
The official reasons for removing Our Lady’s statue are that the statue was making access to the altar difficult and that there should not be duplicate images of Mary in the church.
In an apparent response to the many complaints received about the statue's abrupt removal, it was taken from storage this week and is now in a recessed area on the right side of the church. Besides the fact that statues of Mary are traditionally placed on the left side of the church, this new location is a cause of great concern to many parishioners because it is so close to an exit door, making theft or breakage a real possibility.
In the July 27, 2008 bulletin, there is also an essay on the use (and abuse) of religious symbols. Sometimes, we are told, religious symbols like statues and rosaries are used "with too much reverence," causing people to ignore Jesus, and distracting us from the proper devotion owed to God.
As you can see from the picture above, the late Pope John Paul II had a large image of Mary above the main altar in his own chapel at Castel Gandolfo; there is obviously no canonical restriction upon the placement of Marian images in the sanctuary of a church. Many churches and basilicas have images of Mary and the saints in high places of honor above or adjacent to the altar, so there is no reason why Our Lady’s statue cannot remain in the sanctuary.
While we clearly understand that this is not a matter of faith or morals, we are very disturbed that the long-standing customs and devotions of our parish are being treated with apparent disregard and lack of sensitivity.
In addition, it is disheartening that faithful parishioners devoted to Our Lady are being warned not to give Mary undue honor (latria), the honor due to God alone. Catholics have always had a higher and deeper devotion (hyperdulia) to Mary than to other saints, but that does not mean that we offer her the worship and adoration we give to God. It is very troubling that we are considered intellectually and emotionally incapable of making such basic distinctions in our devotion to the Mother of God.
Please keep our wonderful parish in your daily prayers, particularly for the intentions that our beloved statue of Our Lady of Fatima is returned to her original place of honor in our church and that our parish will always remain loyal to the moral and doctrinal teachings of the Popes. A priest who loves Our Lady composed the prayer on the right especially for our parish, and we would like to ask you, if you share our concerns, to join us in praying it every day for these intentions.