Growing up Catholic, I heard Saint names from time to time; one thing that we were never told about were how the Communion of Saints ‘works’ (why you shouldn’t just go to Jesus [like the Protestants always ask]). Even less were we ever told about relics. I think that it’s generally one of the aspects of the faith that appears “superstitious” from the outside, and non-catechized Catholics that have heard about them seem to tend to ignore them for the most part.
Recently, I sent a donation to the Fulton J. Sheen Foundation, because I’ve always liked listening to his talks. Along with the thank-you note which they sent, was included a 2nd Class relic of the late archbishop. Now, my point is this: What does one do to/with/for a relic?
I’ve called EWTN Open Line, Catholic Answers Live, etc., and they say “venerate them!,” “show them respect!,” “but make sure you don’t take it too far!” Very vague, very non-informative answers. I know that they have short windows to answer, and a radio call-in show isn’t the right place to get a run-down.
Now the CCC says:
" Besides sacramental liturgy and sacramentals, catechesis must take into account the forms of piety and popular devotions among the faithful. The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church’s sacramental life, such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals, etc." ~1674
It goes on to say to make sure that we shouldn’t view these items of popular piety as a replacement for the sacred liturgy or the Sacraments. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t explain how one should venerate relics with any clarity. So I pose a number of questions to all of you out there in the forum-sphere:
- What constitutes a relic in the Catholic Church?
- What are the different classes of relics, what are some examples of each class?
- Is it okay to personally possess relics? If so, does it matter what class the relic in question is?
- What are the differences (both obvious and not) between private and public veneration?
- How can/does one venerate a relic—PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE be specific?
- What are the benefits of venerating relics?
- If one has a “relic” from somebody who is not yet a Saint, but is on the road to beatification/canonization, is it beneficial to venerate the relic?
- Continuing from 7, if the individual (example Ven. Fulton Sheen, Ven. Margaret Bosco, etc.) later becomes a Saint, does the relic need to be verified before it is donated to a local Parish’s reliquary?
- What are some rules (written or otherwise) for storing/displaying a relic?
- While it expressly forbidden to buy/sell a relic, if one finds someone impiously selling a relic on eBay or at an estate sale, should/can a Catholic purchase the relic so that it may be venerated and respected properly?
Those are the basic ones, PAX!