For the next few weeks our parish will be blessed with relics of two great Polish saints: Pope John Paul II and Faustina Kowalska. Thank you to St. Stanislaus Shrine Parish in Cleveland, Ohio, for granting us such a wonderful opportunity to grow in our faith through the veneration of these two great 20th century saints.
So what is a relic? Why do we venerate them? How can the relics of saints strengthen our faith?
Fr. Charles Mangan discusses relics in-depth in his CERC article, Church Teachings On Relics. Here are some excerpts:
What is a relic?
The word relic comes from the Latin relinquo, literally meaning I leave, or I abandon. A relic is a piece of the body of a saint, an item owned or used by the saint, or an object which has been touched to the tomb of a saint. Traditionally, a piece of the body of a saint, especially that of a martyr, may be with the permission of the local ecclesiastical authority used in solemn processions recalling the specific holy person.
Why do we venerate relics?
It may seem strange that Christianity, which so adheres to the belief in the resurrected body after the final judgment, should attach veneration to body parts of the faithful departed. But as Dom Bernardo Cignitti, O.S.B., once wrote, In a religion as spiritually centered as Christianity, the remains of certain dead are surrounded with special care and veneration. This is because the mortal remains of the deceased are associated in some manner with the holiness of their souls which await reunion with their bodies in the resurrection.
Is venerating relics scriptural?
There are several scriptural passages that support the veneration of relics. For example, the Israelites took Josephs bones when they departed Egypt (Ex. 13:19). The bones of Elisha came in contact with a dead person who then was raised to life (2 Kings 13:21). The same Elisha took the mantle of Elijah and fashioned a miracle with it (2 Kings 2:13). The Christians of Ephesus, by using handkerchiefs and cloths touched to St. Pauls skin, effected the healing of the sick (Acts 19:12).
How does venerating relics strengthen our faith?
To venerate the relics of the saints is a profession of belief in several doctrines of the Catholic faith: (1) the belief in everlasting life for those who have obediently witnessed to Christ and His Holy Gospel here on earth; (2) the truth of the resurrection of the body for all persons on the last day; (3) the doctrine of the splendor of the human body and the respect which all should show toward the bodies of both the living and the deceased; (4) the belief in the special intercessory power which the saints enjoy in heaven because of their intimate relationship with Christ the King; and (5) the truth of our closeness to the saints because of our connection in the communion of saints we as members of the Church militant or pilgrim Church, they as members of the Church triumphant.
To read Fr. Mangan’s entire article, click here.