Page 11, 26th January 2007

26th January 2007
Page 11
Page 11, 26th January 2007 — On a recent visit to a shrine I was presented

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On a recent visit to a shrine I was presented

with a relic. I am a convert to the Catholic faith and have never been taught how to venerate relics, so I passed the object on to my neighbour as quickly as possible. What should I have done?

There are various kinds of relics that Catholics venerate. The most important are those associated with the life of Christ (for example, a relic of the true cross) or relics of the bodies of the saints, (for example a piece of bone or a cloth clipped in the blood of a martyr). Other less exalted but still cherished relics would be an article of clothing worn by a saint or some book or sacred article that they had used.

These relics would normally be kept in a Church or shrine and might be venerated on particular feast days. The Church is very concerned to ensure that only relics whose authenticity is established are exposed for public veneration. This veneration can take various forms. People may simply come to bow their heads, they may kiss the relic or its container, or a priest might hold up the relic in its container and give a blessing to the people.

If you have such a relic legitimately in your possession, you will obviously want to treat it with reverence. You might consider obtaining a suitable container (reliquary) so that the relic is seen to be something sacred.

In addition to these more important relics, it is common for lesser relics to be made available more widely for example, prayer cards with a small piece of cloth that has touched the body of a saint or has been placed in or upon a shrine or holy object associated with Our Lord or one of the saints. These should be treated as any other sacred object, that is, with reverence and respect, and used only as an aid to our sincere and devoted prayer.

Relics do not have "magical" powers, of course. They are effective according to the devotion of the person who uses them rightly. For a relic whose veneration is approved by the Church, we draw in addition upon the prayers of the whole Church, including the saints in heaven. Relics are cherished reminders of Our Lord and the saints, giving a tangible focus to our devotion.

What's your view? And do you have a dilemma of your own? Write to us at the address on this page or e-mail [email protected]

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