Tuesday, January 23, 2024

A Relic Wonders About Relics

I consider myself a faithful Catholic. But there are many aspects of Church doctrine, traditions, and practices I really don't understand. For example: relics. And by “relics,” I don’t mean all the gray haired folks in the pews at Mass, especially since I’m now one of them. I totally understand why my fellow relics and I go to Mass a lot. After years of being worn down by this cold, cruel world, we know how important it is to have a relationship with the Almighty Lord who created us  especially as we’re drawing nearer and nearer to that inevitable face-to-face encounter with the Lord moments after our time here on earth is done.

Anyway, by “relics,” I mean the Church’s tradition of venerating pieces of the bodies of various holy saints. 
The website of the Catholic Education Resource Center says this: “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.”

The website also explains, “Some people think the Catholic Church abandoned her teaching on relics after Vatican II. However, a quick glance at the Code of Canon Law, published by authority of Pope John Paul II in 1983, reveals that the Church very much considers sacred relics to be important and significant in the life of the Church (cf. canons 1281-89).”

I’ve known for years, in a vague sort of way, that the Church had a lot of body parts of famous saints on display in various churches and cathedrals around the world. But I never gave it much thought. And when I did give it any thought, it struck me as a bit creepy and macabre. I mean, let the saint rest in peace, right? Don’t cut chunks off his or her corpse and send them to churches around the world. It just seems ghoulish, to be honest.
Then last fall, at the terrific Connecticut Catholic Men’s Conference, there was a large assortment of relics on display. I was impressed by the reverence shown by many of the men in attendance toward the relics. It was explained that the point of relics is to honor the faith and perseverance of the particular saint. 

As Catholics, we believe God created the natural, physical world, and then He declared it good. Yes, sin corrupted the world, but we do not believe that only the spiritual world is good while the physical world is all bad. The relics of saints are physical reminders of the holy lives they lived, and can inspire us to emulate them. 

As the SimplyCatholic.com website put it: “Relics are physical, tangible, concrete reminders that heaven is obtainable for us — so long as we recognize what made the saints holy and work to apply those qualities to our lives.”
When it comes to relics, I still don’t really get it. But there have been so many issues over the years where I first thought a particular Church doctrine or practice seemed foolish, and I made a big deal of saying so. Then, over time, I came to realize the wisdom in the Church’s point of view. So, with relics, even though I don’t yet feel comfortable with the overall concept, I’m going to hold my criticism. 

Maybe because I am one of those gray haired relics you see in church on Sunday mornings, I will start to understand the importance of holy relics one of these days. And if I don’t, when my inevitable face-to-face encounter with the Lord occurs moments after my time here on earth is done, I’ll just ask Him about. It will be number 64,398 on my list of things I don’t understand. 

1 comment:

  1. The world can be cold and cruel & that's what we are here for.....to change that for others....to be a source of comfort, help and joy to them. To warm their individual world.
    Ruth O'Keefe