What are relics and its significance to young people’s life?
We visit the dead every year, because we love them. We keep some material things and even pictures that they owned to be a constant reminder for us of their eternal presence in our lives, same with those who are living whom we love. The Church, because of her unending mission to sanctify the people of every age, gives us the Saints and Blesseds to remind us of our end – to be with God with his angels and his Saints, and where there is eternal happiness. The Saints are those faithful departed whose lives and memories are still alive and active in the world. Their body is at peace, yet their legacy is much more alive.
The relics of the Saints and Blesseds are visible signs of the presence of Holy Men and Women who touched our lives, may it be personal or communal.
Relics are remains of holy men and women, recognized by the Church through Canonization or Beatification.
Each relic is classified, not to level them on what is more holy and important, to help us understand that our body is sacred, and what we use materially is for God’s greater glory and for our sanctification. Traditionally, the Church gave 3 classes:
First class relics, which are remains of the saint or blessed, came directly from his or her body such as: bone, flesh, hair, blood, etc. is reserved for public veneration and in-kept within a Church.
Isn’t our body sacred? Does it lessen the dignity or desecrate the Temple of the Holy Spirit? Early Christians before do venerate relics, even in the Scriptures. First class relics show that Saints are human beings like us, sinners yet strived to follow Christ in the best way they can. The Church gives respect to the bodies of the Saints, and lays them in peace in Shrines and Churches. But because not all of us can go abroad to visit them, when the Church grew widely, she allowed that the relics of saints be given a place in every Christian Community – our parish Church or Sacred Places of Worship, and place them in what we called “Theca.” Theca is the container where the small particle of relic is placed and adorned to show the sanctity and dignity of the Saint who is enshrined within it. It is a “mini-shrine of the Saint.” The Church sometimes labels it with “Ex Ossibus” (bone), “Ex Corpore” (flesh), “Ex Capillis” (Hair), etc.
Second class relics are things that were used by the holy men and women while they were still alive. Examples are: vestments or habit (for priests and religious), clothing, writing, and even their pen, furniture, etc.
A second class relic may also be placed in a theca, and this happens especially when the Church declares a Saint or Blessed incorrupt or not to touch nor disturb the body of the holy man or woman, due to the antiquity of their relics, great relevance in the Church, or whose body cannot be found due to martyrdom. Sometimes, second class relics that are placed in a theca or even in a prayer card are clothing with the term “Ex Indumentis.” This class of relics can be distributed to lay people for devotion to the Saint or Blessed.
Lastly, third class relics are any personal objects we owned and are touched to a first or second class relic. We cannot say as if we “contaminate” sanctity by touching and making it a relic, it is because of God’s love and power allowing us to deepen our intimate relationship with him by imitating Christ through the life and holiness of the Holy Men and Women we are devoted with the help of the Holy Spirit. If you have a handkerchief, rosary, or any religious objects that are touched in a first or second class relic becomes a relic and has the same influence in our faith and life as we venerate a primary or secondary relic.
Venerating or honoring the relics of the Saints or Blesseds is a direct way to give veneration and honor to the holy men and women before us. We do not only read them in Book of Saints, but we are very blessed to be in their presence, and they are with us physically and spiritually! We do not adore nor desire to have one, but to remind us that all of us are called to be Saints, for this is our prime-vocation since our baptism until the end.
As we venerate the relics let us know the lives of which we venerate, imitate them and be our patron, patroness or patrons so that we have an inspiration to say: “I can be a saint!”
As the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines declared the National Year of the Youth from 2010-2011, it is time for us to look at the mission and end of every young people in our country, young and old: We are called to be Saints.
How about the relic of Our Lord or Blessed Mother?
Personally, I cannot put them into any class. The Lord’s cross, thorns, nails, and other passion relics and even relics of Our Lady are still kept and treasured by the Church. They are very special and must be given the higher honor among any relics of the Saints.
The Passion Relics of Jesus are enshrined in different parts of the world, but majority and the biggest of it are in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome, under the custody of the Cistercian Monks. The part of the Cross, a nail, thorns, the titulum “INRI”, and a tip of the flagella are still in kept in a chapel at the side of the basilica. The shroud of Turin and other shrouds of burial of Our Lord are enshrined in Turin and in Spain.
The relics of Our Blessed Mother like her veil, cincture (most of the part are kept by the Orthodox Monks in Mt. Athos), the house of Loreto (where the annunciation took place) are kept and treasured by the Church particularly in Loreto, Italy.
The Jubilee Cross, which is a visible reminder of our great joy which Christ brought us with his paschal mystery, has a relic of the True Cross. We venerate the whole cross for through it Christ “set us free” and we declare, “He is the Savior of the world!” As we carry it in every parishes and schools, the first time that we need to remember is that the relic of the True Cross is a visible sign that Christ truly died on the cross for us, and the bigger cross, that serves as its reliquary, is our own cross that we need to carry so that we may become true disciples faithful to the word’s of Our Lord: “Carry your cross and follow me.”
With the young Saints and Blessed in our midst, we will be more inspired to take part on this salvific mission of Christ, though young we are, the Cross will be our cause of Joy, inspiration, and source of courage and strength to finish our race to holiness.