Relic of St. Francis Xavier is Touring Canada
This headline led me to delve deeper into relics, and their meaning to us as Catholics. The following is an excerpt on relics from Gus Lloyd’s book, A Minute in the Church: Life in Christ, available at the Pastoral Centre:
“Catholics have always had a fascination with and for relics. What is a relic? A relic is a physical object having to do with a saint. Relics generally fall into three classes:
A first class relic is the body of a saint or part of the body of a saint. The bones of the saints and martyrs have been venerated since the earliest days of Christianity. Most Catholic altars contain a first class relic within or underneath. It may seem foreign to our sensibilities now, but the bones of the saints and martyrs have always been highly treasured.
Second class relics are articles of the saint’s clothing or something that the saint touched and used often. And third class relics are objects that have been touched to a first class relic, for instance a rosary or holy card that was laid on the tomb of a saint.
The vessel that holds the relic is called a reliquary. Reliquaries can be very small and simple or large and ornate. Many reliquaries have a piece of glass so that the relic can be clearly seen by the faithful.
Relics give us a physical reminder of the holy person. Much like paintings and pictures and statues, they draw our minds to remember the witness and example of the saint.
Finally, relics are not “lucky charms.” They contain no magical powers or anything of the sort. But there certainly have been cases in the Old Testament and the Christian era where God used relics to facilitate miracles. Much as the Church teaches respect for the body of the living, so we honor the bodies of those whose souls are in heaven.”
For further study: Acts 19: 11-12, 2 Kings 13:20-21, Matthew 9: 20-22