Danes see saints as role models, not intercessors

  • Non-Danes in the congregation pray after communion to the statue of Madonna and Child, a disproportionately popular form of devotion.
  • This heart, located in the parish bulletin board of Sakramentskirken, reads “The Danish Model”.
  • Danish-language Mass, Sacraments Church, Copenhagen.

Saints are not absent from Denmark's dominant Lutheran culture. One sees biblical saints’ names on Danish streets and at Lutheran churches, and one of the major Lutheran churches in Copenhagen is Our Lady's church. Still, Marian devotion is somewhat more emphasized among Catholics in Denmark, though Marian devotion is not as strong or central among Danish Catholics as it is in many southern European and Latin cultures. Masses often include a hymn to Mary. Immigrant Catholics are more devoted to Mary than Danish Catholics are. Interviewees in Denmark were more likely than in many parts of the world to describe Mary as a strong woman rather than to emphasize qualities of passivity and submission. 

Broadly speaking, Danish Catholics’ attitudes toward prayer are much more rationalized than miracle-oriented. Interviewees said that they were much more likely to pray to feel a closeness to God in times of struggle than to expect that God, Mary or a saint would intervene in any miraculous way.

Almost all interviewees indicated that the saints play a very minor role in their lives, and that where they do come into play is as role models for a good life, not as intercessors or patrons. Francis of Assisi is the saint most frequently discussed, and Lutherans have become enamored of St. Francis as well.