Today, we start a two part series on relics... What are they? Are there different kinds? Why do Catholics hang on to pieces of dead people?
It might surprise you to find out that the practice of keeping relics is not something that started with the early martyrs, or even with Christ. No! The first example of relics we found in scripture is in the second book of Kings (13:20-21). Some men were burying a dead man when they were attacked by Moabites. They threw the body into the tomb to flee and the body landed on the bones of Elisha, a prophet. Immediately, the man came back to life and stood up.
A dead man came in contact with the bones of a holy prophet and came back to life! How cool is that?
In the New Testament, we have the story of the hemorrhaging woman touching the hem of Christ's garment and being healed (Matt. 9:20-22), Peter's shadow having healing power (Acts 5 14-16), and the clothes and handkerchiefs of Paul bringing healing as well (Acts 19:11-12). Even the way in which Christ's body was treated after the crucifixion points to the importance and sanctity of the body.
There are three 'classes' of relics. First class are actual pieces of the person's body (bone, hair, etc.). Second class relics are things the person owned or used (piece of clothing, their rosary, etc.). Third class relics are things that have been touched to a first or second class relic.
Have you ever encountered a relic? Maybe you had a relic come 'on tour' to your parish? Did you know that there probably is at least one relic in your own parish permanently? Most altars have a relic inside them and many parishes have some relics in the sacristy. Just ask your priest if you can see them!
We'll be back next week with some more awesome relic stories!
Your sisters in the small things,
Nancy and Katie
Bishop Robert Barron speaking on relics and Gnosticism