Why are the bones of saints on public display?


Sometimes the body parts of dead saints, such as the head of Saint John the Baptist, are put on display in reliquaries and in churches.

Why do we do this? Publicly displaying the bones of saints seems at odds with showing dignity to the dead.



The bodies of the saints have proven to be very powerful in achieving things such as healing. Consider the Israelite who was raised from the dead upon touching the bones of Elisha.


Tbh I’ve wondered this myself. I understand the devotion behind relics, but why are we allowed to keep a piece of a Saint’s body but not a beloved dead relative?

Anybody know?


Bones are first class relics. It is not a new practice. Read the story of the bones of Elisha. God’s work continues after the saint’s death. We do not question God but humbly accept any help we can get from Heaven.


It doesn’t strike either of you as even a little disrespectful to the dead saint to keep their remains in the open like this? It seems to me that bones belonging to saints is more of a reason to lay them to rest.


Nope. Relics remind us of the holiness of a saint and his cooperation in God’s work. At the same time, relics inspire us to ask for the prayers of that saint.


People in the olden day’s didn’t get as skeeved by death as we do today.

We’re quite the delicate flowers nowadays.


You should check out the Church made out of human bones. That’s the most extreme one I’ve seen.


To be fair, for the same reason that I’d want my organs donated for transplant after death, I’d want my bones, if I were so holy as to be a source of relics, to be a source of healing to others. Presumably, I’d be so generous, pious, and unattached to the world that my policy would be “I don’t care what you do so long as it doesn’t offend God.”


Despite our fervent desire, belief, hope, that relative may not be where we would like them to be. Keeping auntie Belle’s bones might just be selfish. What does she mean to someone across the globe? Let’s say that uncle Larry was a great guy, but plunged straight to hell - his choice. What good comes from keeping and venerating his bones?

Now, the bones of Saint Francis of Assisi - well, that is quite another thing.


Thanks. The organ donation analogy actually helps me make sense of it. Using the dead in a way that helps the living (e.g. transplanting a kidney from a dead man to save a sick man) is not only not disrespectful, but is a high form of praise.


The saints are already in Heaven, meaning that they know what God is accomplishing through their remains and couldn’t be more joyous about how much good they are still doing for the rest of us. Why would they find any disrespect?


IIRC, the scattering of ashes comes from Hindu tradition and is not compatible with Christianity. The bones or other relics of Saints are venerated, just as the bones of Elisha brought a man back to life, and aprons and kerchiefs touched to Paul brought healing (Acts 19:12).

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