Relics


#1

I was visit a local church not too long ago and they had many relics displayed.

I mentioned it to a non-Catholic friend of mine and he thought it strange, odd, evil, and superstitious and to a certain point I kind of agreed with him.

Why do we venerate relics?

Why is it that it has been done for so many years?

Isn’t it disrespectful to the dead to chop their body and bones up for us to venerate them?

Is it pagantry to display and pray before relics of deceased saints?


#2

Hi, IThirstForYou,

Maybe the first thing is to get perspective. From the Catholic Catechism we see the place of relics in the life of the Church. That place is behind Sacraments and behind the primary Sacramentals under Popular Piety:

1670 Sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, … "For well-disposed members of the faithful, …sacramentals sanctifies almost every event of their lives with the divine grace which flows from…the Passionn, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. From this source all sacraments and sacramentals draw their power. There is scarcely any proper use of material things which cannot be thus directed toward the sanctification of men and the praise of God."176

Various forms of sacramentals

1671 Among sacramentals blessings (of persons, meals, objects, and places) come first…

Popular piety

1674 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,180 etc. (emphasis added)
My point is that relics are way down on the list of things important to the life of grace. Sacraments are numero uno; then those sacramentals which are blessings–then the rest, including relics.

Let me ask you a question: do you keep any physical reminder of a deceased loved one? Such as an apron that Grandma used to wear–something you keep not to wear or use, but because it belonged to somebody special?

I’ve got my dear deceased dad’s aviator glasses. I just keep them dusted off, I don’t wear them. Sometimes I touch them.

Do you do anything like that?

Having such relic is “in a sense” having the person who owned the item. By touching the aviator glasses I am connected in some way to Dad, who also touched them.

When it is a lock of hair of a deceased loved one, it is cherished, no?

What if it is a lock of hair of a deceased saint–very precious, no?

Did you see the movie Passion of the Christ, where Mary brings linens and wipes up Christ’s Blood from the paving stones after the scourging? Was she wrong to do this, instead of washing it away with buckets of water or just letting it go? Was she emotionally unbalanced and it was an act of insanity? Or is there a proper reason to get that blood onto the linen?


#3

Miracles have been associated with relics:

Contact with the bones of Elisha (first-class relics) resurrected a dead man. (2 Kings 13:21)

Contact with handkerchiefs or aprons touched by St. Paul (second-class relics) cured diseases and expelled demons. (Acts 19:12)


#4

I still am a bit confused on the practice. It just still seems a bit odd to me.

How is grace attributed from a bone from a dead person?


#5

Wasn’t Christ a dead person, albeit that He rose again as we all hope to do? Isn’t grace attributed, not just to Him in general, but in particular to physical aspects of Him? His Precious Blood which was shed for us? To His Sacred Heart pierced for us? Remember stories of the Holy Grail? It was revered purely because it was believed to be the cup in which was caught His Precious Blood on the Cross. Heck, don’t we even visit, in droves, the Holy Land upon which His sacred feet trod because in our hearts know that special graces can be obtained by doing so?

Now grace does not just flow through objects blessed by a holy person. Itflows through pretty much ANYTHING connected with that person. Prime example - St Peter’s very shadow, which in Acts healed people as it fell upon them. If his mere shadow could do so much how can we doubt that the body which cast that shadow, or part thereof, can do as much and more?


#6

Through the power of God, of course. Scripture already shows that God uses things to bestow His Grace. Two examples were already given above, another example is when the woman touched the cloak of Jesus and “power went out of Him”.

There certainly could be some Catholics who treat relics with superstition. However, God has set the precedent of using objects to manifest His power. Interestingly, the bronze serpent is an early example of this. The Isrealites maintained the bronze serpent for hundreds of years but began to worship it. Of course, that would not be tolerated by God and thus the bronze serpent was destoyed by Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:4) . However, this biblical story relays two important points-- 1) God doesn’t mind graven images (unless worshipped) and even commanded them to be made and 2) God can use whatever object He wants to in order to manifest His Grace.


#7

First let me preface my post by saying that as a lifelong Catholic, the custom of keeping first class relics is a little creepy to me too… So I can understand why it is disturbing to non-Catholics. I think second-class relics, such as a piece of clothing or something that has touched the saint, is less disturbing.

However, the Early Church Fathers spoke of the power of relics. So does the Bible, here’s a passage about the bones of the prophet Elisha:

2 Kings 13: 20-21
"And Elisha died, and they buried him. And the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year. And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet. "

In Catholicism you are going to see devotion to items connected with Our Lord’s passion and death, such as the Shroud of Turin, Veronica’s Veil, and the True Cross. The Stations of the Cross focus on Our Lord’s final hours. And in medieval art, most notably those of the saints, you will notice lots of skulls and crossbones, a reminder of man’s imminent and inescapable mortality.

  • Westy

#8

I too think this is creepy…Why not just save our toenails and venerate them they too are inanimate objects persed from our bodies…:blush:


#9

What is grace? It is God’s life animating our soul.

Does God have some conditions or prerequisites before He will dwell within us?

Yes.

What are those conditions?

We must freely choose that He enter us. We must be able to receive Him.

Are there ordinary channels of grace, given these conditions? The Sacraments.

When we are already living in grace, are there ways to reinforce our free choice for Him? To expand our capacity to embrace Him? The sacramentals.

What do the sacramentals do? they are reminders of the divine in everyday life. They snap our focus off of distractions and back to Him who is Reality. A saint’s relic is a reminder of God; it is a mental chance for connection to God; it is a way for the saint to be part of your life, for you to be part of the saint and his holiness.

We are given saints by the Church in order to become saints ourselves by their example. A saint’s relic is a way of inviting the saint along with you to help you live as he did.

It as a sacramental has no power of itself–the power is in it as an invitation and example of holiness. It is a call to God. And relics are blessed as such by some priestly hand. So they have been handled and blessed by holy hands; and they are holy themselves. What does “holy” mean? It means “belonging to, dedicated to, or consecrated to God.”

The bone of a saint belongs to God in a far more substantial way than does the bone of an unrepentant mortal sinner. When we cherish the bone of a saint we are saying to the saint,* help me belong to God too, just like you did. *

Perhaps to embrace relics one must more fully appreciate the Communion of the Saints?


#10

Well, when you’re a canonised saint maybe we can. Until then it’s a moot point.


#11

Just a few mentions of inanimate objects, in addition to those mentioned, used by God in His Holy Work, why should you feel bad using His gifts?

Acts 5, 15 Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that when Peter came, his shadow at the least, might overshadow any of them, and they might be delivered from their infirmities.
Matthew 9, 20 And behold a woman who was troubled with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment. 21 For she said within herself: If I shall touch only his garment, I shall be healed. 22 But Jesus turning and seeing her, said: Be of good heart, daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.
4 Kings 2, 8 And Elias took his mantle and folded it together, and struck the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, and they both passed over on dry ground.

4 Kings 2, 13 And he took up the mantle of Elias, that fell from him: and going back, he stood upon the bank of the Jordan, 14 And he struck the waters with the mantle of Elias, that had fallen from him, and they were not divided. And he said: Where is now the God of Elias? And he struck the waters, and they were divided, hither and thither, and Eliseus passed over.


#12

Being placed in the lambs book of life is a fundamentalists sainthood.
His,
-St Myfavoritmartin


#13

:rotfl:


#14

A great deal of superstition surrounded abuses of relics in the middle ages. Nevertheless, from the earliest ages of Christianity the bones of the martyrs were venerated.

And then there’s that thing about the bones of Elisha.


#15

I remember back in college (State/Public) that one building had a cabinet in the hallway containing human bones. So do many museums.

I recall a Lutheran Minister who taught religious studies at my college stating - as to this very question - that relics might be looked at as we do museum artificats today…they were the museums of their day.


#16

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.