Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Relic Escort

“Led by 18 sharply dressed Italian military police on horseback, hundreds of people who care for the sick escorted a relic of St. Bernadette Soubirous into St. Peter's Square.

The procession down the main street leading to the square opened festivities at the Vatican marking the Feb. 11 feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the World Day of the Sick.

The golden reliquary containing one of the French visionary's ribs was carried into St. Peter's Basilica, where midday prayers were led by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of the basilica.”

-Catholic News


Tiber Jumper said...

Father William Saunders has some enlightening thoughts to help us realize that relic veneration has always been a part of the historical Church Christ Jesus founded. I pray that you continue to pursue your interest in Catholicism and read history with an open mind and heart.

"The veneration of relics of the saints is found in the early history of the Church. A letter written by the faithful of the Church in Smyrna in the year 156 provides an account of the death of St. Polycarp, their bishop, who was burned at the stake. The letter reads, "We took up the bones, which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place, where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together as we are able, in gladness and joy, and celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom." Essentially, the relics—the bones and other remains of St. Polycarp—were buried and the tomb itself was the "reliquary." Other accounts attest that the faithful visited the burial places of the saints and miracles occurred. Moreover, at this time we see the development of "feast days" marking the death of the saint, the celebration of Mass at the burial place and a veneration of the remains.

After the legalization of the Church in 312, the tombs of saints were opened and the actual relics were venerated by the faithful. A bone or other bodily part was placed in a reliquary—a box, locket and later a glass case—for veneration. This practice especially grew in the Eastern Church, while the practice of touching cloth to the remains of the saint was more common in the west. By the time of the Merovingian and Carolingian periods of the Middle Ages, the use of reliquaries was common throughout the whole Church.

The Church strived to keep the use of relics in perspective. In his Letter to Riparius, St. Jerome (d. 420) wrote in defense of relics: "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 it is seen that as early as 156, the Christians were writing about the relics they were venerating(not worshiping)

Carrie said...

So it is seen that as early as 156, the Christians were writing about the relics they were venerating(not worshiping)

According to your quote, that sounds like a stretch. Burying a person, visiting their grave, and memorializing his death is fairly regular behavior - I don't see how that supports modern day veneration of relics.

But even if the practice dated back to 156 AD, that still wouldn't change my opinion. The churches written to in the epistles were already falling into errors which the apostles had to address. Written correction had to deal with human error from the start.

------- Theo ------- said...

Carrie, dear sister in Christ:

Given the general respect some Calvinists give to Augustine, I thought you might be edified to read some of his eyewitness reporting on early Church practices regarding relics and processions.

For example, regarding shrines and altars dedicated to “dead” saints, their active intercession, the use of their relics / images and the even sacrifice of the Eucharist at shrines, Augustine had these things to say in "The City of God" (See

"When the bishop Projectus was bringing the relics of the most glorious martyr Stephen to the waters of Tibilis, a great concourse of people came to meet him at the shrine. There a blind woman entreated that she might be led to the bishop who was carrying the relics. He gave her the flowers he was carrying. She took them, applied them to her eyes, and forthwith saw. Those who were present were astounded, while she, with every expression of joy, preceded them, pursuing her way without further need of a guide.

Lucillus bishop of Sinita, in the neighborhood of the colonial town of Hippo, was carrying in procession some relics of the same martyr, which had been deposited in the castle of Sinita. A fistula under which he had long labored, and which his private physician was watching an opportunity to cut, was suddenly cured by the mere carrying of that sacred fardel,—at least, afterwards there was no trace of it in his body."

On the related topic of veneration and prayer at the sites of the tombd of saintly men, he also wrote: our martyrs we build, not temples as if they were gods, but monuments as to dead men whose spirits live with God. Neither do we erect altars at these monuments that we may sacrifice to the martyrs, but to the one God of the martyrs and of ourselves; and in this sacrifice they are named in their own place and rank as men of God who conquered the world by confessing Him, but they are not invoked by the sacrificing priest. For it is to God, not to them, he sacrifices, though he sacrifices at their monument; for he is God's priest, not theirs. The sacrifice itself, too, is the body of Christ, which is not offered to them, because they themselves are this body."


"Here perhaps our adversaries will say that their gods also have done some wonderful things, if now they begin to compare their gods to our dead men. Or will they also say that they have gods taken from among dead men, such as Hercules, Romulus, and many others whom they fancy to have been received into the number of the gods? But our martyrs are not our gods; for we know that the martyrs and we have both but one God, and that the same. Nor yet are the miracles which they maintain to have been done by means of their temples at all comparable to those which are done by the tombs of our martyrs.

I do not wish to be tedious. Had I the time and believed it would benefit, I could produce literally thousands more lines of St. Augustine's and others writings that demonstrate he and other Church Fathers and every-day practitioners not only did not deem as sinful the asking of intercession from the saints, veneration of the saints, and the use of their images and relics in direct unity with the sacred worship of God Almighty, they utterly endorsed it.

By grace I remain your servant and brother in Christ,

L P Cruz said...

Simply because some Early Christians believed this, it proves nothing.

There were also Early Christian fishermen who both worshiped Jesus and paid homage to Neptune for a rich fishing expedition.

There were Early Christians who were wrong as it is today.

I think this reasoning is similar to saying 'let us do it this way because we saw it on TV'.


------- Theo ------- said...

"There were Early Christians who were wrong as it is today."

Yes, you are correct; the mere practice does not prove its correctness. Still, I’ll take the examples of the Early Church who had direct access to the apostles and their students over yours every time and any day.

Were there "Early Christians right as they are today?" Where are the 1st-century Reformed Baptists? I see Polycarp (St. John’s pupil) or Justin in the first century sounding very Catholic, even to the point of describing the order of the Mass and sacrifice, but I do not see a first-century Calvin. I see St. Paul reference prayer for the dead, but I do not see him say "sola fide." I see St. James say “sola fide” is dead and has no power to save, but I do not see him say belief that God takes our actions into account damns us.

We differ. You imagine a procession with a relic is at best silly, at worst, a grave sin.

I know it to be an act of reverence toward God and a celebrtion of his saving power in the life of his saints and an ancient and right Christian practice that demonstrates love of God's work without restraint, abhors that which is evil and clings to that which is good.

With prayer and hope for your blessing in Christ that we may together do as he commands us, I remain
Your bro,

L P Cruz said...


I do find the procession of relics of no account and no value because I have no example nor command from Scripture that I should do so.


------- Theo ------- said...

"I do find the procession of relics of no account and no value because I have no example nor command from Scripture that I should do so."

I fully understand and respect that. The nearest reference we have is to the cloths touched by apostles being passed about with manifestations of divine mercy coinciding. This single reference with no accompanying command is hardly a mandate for one who believes Sola Scriptura (This is not a knock at Sola Scriptura--just an observation).

By no means would I advocate you taking up any practice in vain.

May God bless you with his great love and continued growth in imitation of Him.

------- Theo ------- said...

"I do find the procession of relics of no account and no value because I have no example nor command from Scripture that I should do so."

On the flip side, LP, are there things that you do anyway, although they are to you of no account and no value because you have neither an example nor a command from scripture that you should do so? Do you only what you have explicit scriptural command to do--and nothing else? Can one who has no access to scriture ever do anything of value?

Please contemplate whether it is possible to do something of value without it being commanded--just a thought for you to consider.

I remain your brother in Christ,

L P Cruz said...


Yes, there are things not Scripturally mandated literally that are or may be useful.

For example, I have a cross at home, I do not pray to it but I associate with it the truth that Christ died for our sins, mine included. So I tell myself about this truth at times when I happen to glance at it.

I guess it depends on how those pietistic practices are used.

So for example, though I have that said cross, it is no substitute for my need to hear the Word and let the Sacraments serve me.


------- Theo ------- said...

"So for example, though I have that said cross, it is no substitute for my need to hear the Word and let the Sacraments serve me."

AMEN! Well said.