Wednesday, 07 February 2018 00:00


The cult of relics was born as a memorial and veneration of the tomb of a martyr. In the century following, veneration of the bones of holy monks also began as an affectionate gesture toward the fathers. Through veneration of what remained of their sojourn on earth, veneration of their life, their example, and of a mysterious communion with them was manifested. In a “rationalistic” worldview, veneration of relics is an archaic behavior that leads to absurdities. Pilgrimage sites have fought to obtain relics, have created them, have marketed them, etc. Man, smothered by his condition, by fear of suffering and death, takes refuge in magical behavior that protects him and permits him to survive. Today, science sheds light on all these attitudes. Many “extraordinary” events of the past have been explained by science, and those which have not, will be in the future. The contrary position is magical, devoid of all critical spirit: relics are a type of “talisman” that protects; the supernatural is seen as a radioactive force which, without being seen, acts. It is necessary to carry out a certain number of actions and the result will follow. Medals, reliquaries, and prayers are the required conditions. Truth be told, the concrete history of our “saints” is very far from all that. It is clear that one must avoid misunderstandings and exaggerations and have a proper devotion, but according to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, devotional acts are similar to magical or superstitious practices because, while the person who practices the latter believes that the acts are efficacious in themselves, in the case of relics, the contrary is true: it is not the act itself which is efficacious, but rather the prayer that accompanies it, and then only when the grace requested is granted by the free choice of God. We invoke the saints so that they, in turn, intercede before the Lord, always, to the very last prayer. To venerate a relic is to venerate the mercy of God that has been effected in the saint. Praying before the body of a saint is giving thanks to God who has sustained him along the path of sanctity.

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