We are blessed to have a relic of Blessed Carlo Acutis in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
This young soon-to-be saint is visiting schools in Queens and Brooklyn for veneration by the faithful, which will hopefully lead to inspiration in the life of Catholics in our diocese to imitate the virtues of the saint or blessed.
This past week, relics of St. Bernadette were on display at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Harlem (see pages 10-11), and relics of Saint Padre Pio visited the United States at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in our nation’s capital.
To some, it may sound odd to save and venerate the bodies of God’s holy ones, the Saints. There are cases in which two cities wanted the saint for veneration, like in the case of Saint Catherine of Siena, with Rome getting the body of the Saint and the head remaining in Siena, or Saint Charles Borromeo, with his body remaining in Milan, and his heart going to Rome.
As odd as it may sound, it is actually no different than an average person saving the hair of their children from his or her first haircut.
It is a way to especially remind you of them, to feel close to them, and to be inspired by your love for them.
In the early days of Christianity, this was especially true for the martyrs. The first Christians were inspired by the ultimate witness given by these heroic men and women who lay down their lives for faith in Christ Jesus. This act of proving the credibility of Divine Revelation, believing in Christ, even unto death, urged the early followers of the Way of the Lord Jesus to continue in their own daily struggles. They would gather in the catacombs and celebrate Holy Mass over their tombs.
They would venerate the bodies of the Saints, those who gave witness that Jesus Christ is Lord. Saint Jerome, a Church Father and Doctor of the Church, stated: “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.”
The same is true today.
When we encounter the relics of the saints, we are placed into the presence of holiness and, by being in the presence of the saint, that friend of God, we are drawn even more into the Presence of Jesus Christ the Lord and his Mystical Body, the Church.
We don’t worship the relic of the saint in a superstitious manner; no, we give what is referred to as dulia — respect and veneration.
Relics are not to be in the private collections of priests or people. They are meant to be publicly venerated and certainly are never to be sold.
The relics of the saints are a gift of God and a unique way of getting closer to God by getting closer to the saints — God’s friends.