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Relics of the Saints

Relics of the Saints are used to simply recall to mind the example of a particular saint and to remind us of their nearness to God and their power to intercede for us on earth.

Mk 5:27-29
She (the woman with a hemorrhage) had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, "If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured." Immediately her flow of blood dried up.
 
Acts 5:15
Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them.
 
Acts 19:11-12
So extraordinary were the mighty deeds God accomplished at the hands of Paul that when face cloths or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.

The word relics comes from the Latin reliquiae (the counterpart of the Greek leipsana) which already before the propagation of Christianity was used in its modern sense, viz., of some object, notably part of the body or clothes, remaining as a memorial of a departed saint.

The teaching of the Catholic Church with regard to the veneration of relics is summed up in a decree of the Council of Trent (Sess. XXV), which enjoins on bishops and other pastors to instruct their flocks that "the holy bodies of holy martyrs and of others now living with Christ—which bodies were the living members of Christ and 'the temple of the Holy Ghost' (I Cor., vi, 19) and which are by Him to be raised to eternal life and to be glorified are to be venerated by the faithful, for through these [bodies] many benefits are bestowed by God on men, so that they who affirm that veneration and honour are not due to the relics of the saints, or that these and other sacred monuments are uselessly honored by the faithful, and that the places dedicated to the memories of the saints are in vain visited with the view of obtaining their aid, are wholly to be condemned, as the Church has already long since condemned, and also now condemns them." Further, the council insists that "in the invocation of saints the veneration of relics and the sacred use of images, every superstition shall be removed and all filthy lucre abolished."
Catholic Encyclopedia

The Three Classes of Relics

1st Class Relics are the bodies of saintly persons or any of their integrant parts, such as limbs, ashes and bones.

2nd Class Relics are objects that have come in physical contact with living Saints and are thereby sanctified. These would include clothing, tools, and personal items.

3rd Class Relics are swatches of cloth, holy card or medals that have been touched to a 1st or 2nd class relic.

From: http://www.semperficatholic.com/ used with permission.

 

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