A Recognition of Relics

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The femur bone of Catherine of St. Augustine. | Photo by TZ

TZ | ET Student

When I was in Bayeaux, I paid a visit to Notre Dame Cathedral. While walking around the Cathedral, I stumbled upon the last phalanx of St. Therese’s ear-finger and the femur bone of Catherine of Saint Augustine. These curious, if slightly morbid, items are known as relics. Personally, I have known what relics are for a long time, but seeing two of them for the first time prompted me to research them further.

The veneration of relics began in the early Middle Ages, when people believed that the miraculous power of saints could be found in the bodies and possessions of those saints, even after they had died. The ancient biblical scholar Jerome summed up the Church’s overall view of relics perfectly when he wrote, “We do not worship, we do not adore, for fear that we should bow down to the creature rather than to the creator, but we venerate the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore him whose martyrs they are.” So, the presence of relics in the Church provides an opportunity to appreciate the men and women who spent their lives living and dying for God.

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The last phalanx of St. Therese’s ear-finger. | Photo by TZ

While researching relics, I learned that there are different classes of relics. First-class relics are the body parts of saints. Second-class relics are pieces of clothing or other objects that were owned by a saint. Third-class relics are objects that have been touched to a first-class relic. The relics of St. Therese and Catherine of St. Augustine in Notre Dame would be considered first-class relics.

The concept of a relic was not developed by the Church out of thin air. There are stories in The Bible that help support and justify the existence of all three classes of relics. An example of a first-class relic can be found in 2 Kings 13:20-21, when the bones of Elisha resurrected a man. There are also biblical accounts of second-class relics that, through the power of God, worked miracles. An example of such can be found in Matthew 9: 20-22 when a sick woman touched Jesus’ cloak and was healed. Finally, Acts 9: 11-12 tells of cloth pieces that healed the sick after coming into contact with the Apostle Paul.

After having done this research, I understand better what relics are and what their purpose is. While I may not be ready to commit to the veneration of these relics, I can understand why they are so highly valued by the Church.




Categories: Faith

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