Relic Veneration Questions

My family and I were talking today about relics and the more I talked about it, the more I got confused.

I know that the Catholic Church does not allow for the dispersion of a cremated person’s ashes, and in any case of death requires a burial. Yet why do we not do this with a Saint’s body? There are multiple pieces of, for instance, Saint Therese, around the world.

For an example, let’s say I was canonized a saint (highly unlikely, but for the purposes of an example :wink: ) What if I had died,oh, 75 years ago. Would my body be exhumed and the remains dispersed as relics?

For clarification purposes, I am in now way “bashing” the Catholic practice of relic veneration. Just trying to make sure I have a pretty good understanding of the practice in the case of having to defend it in the questioning of a non-Catholic.

God bless and have a wonderful weekend,

Chloe M.

At the moment, there is an article on the CA main page that addresses almost exactly this question:

The Living Dead

A blessed weekend to you, too. :slight_smile:

I wrote a blog post on first class relics (the remains of the saints) last week. If interested you can check it out here:


To your specific question about dismemberment, no they wouldn’t exhume your body and cut it up to make relics. I can’t think of any modern saints that that has been done to.

Actually, when John Henry Newman was raised to the altars in 2010, his remains were exhumed for this purpose (to some controversy in that case, since no remains were actually found).

As I understand it, the reason the Church does not allow the dispersion of ashes is because this symbolically is a rejection of faith in the resurrection–as a gesture, it essentially says “I’m being scattered into nothingness”, or perhaps, “I disperse and join back into the impersonal universe from whence I came”. As an incarnational religion, we venerate the body, and affirm that it matters (PietroPaolo’s blog article is spot on in explaining this).

Relics do distribute the body, potentially around the world. But they don’t dispose of it, to the contrary, they hold it up to be venerated, right down to each individual metatarsal. Besides, the individual relics are all reverently enshrined where they are, just as a body is reverently placed in a grave. This, I think, is the difference: it’s not dividing the body that is rejected by the church, it is failing to show reverence to the body itself, and being seen to dispose of it.

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