Lives of the Saints

Our Models and Protectors

November 5
  

Feast of the Holy Relics

Feast of the Holy Relics
Reliquary at the
Monastery of the Magnificat
containing numerous
relics of the Saints
Photo O.D.M.

By relics of the Saints we mean all that remains of them after their death — their bones, their ashes, their clothing and other objects used by them. Enemies of the Church have condemned the cult of the relics of the Saints as being borrowed from pagan customs and without apostolic origin. The decision of the Council of Trent suffices to show the falsehood and bad faith of their reasoning. That Council, in effect, decreed quite otherwise, that the bodies of the martyrs and other Saints, who were the living members of Jesus Christ and the temples of the Holy Spirit, must be honored by the faithful, and that through them God grants a great many benefits to the living. Its decision was based on the usage already established in the first century and which has remained constant in the Church, as well as on the teaching of the Fathers and Councils.

The cult of holy relics is therefore not only permitted, but commanded; it is not only a right, but a duty. Let us note well that the cult of holy relics diverges from pagan practices in that it is supernatural. We do not honor what remains of the Saints for any motive derived from nature, but from motives based on the Faith. If one honors the memory and remains of great men worthy of that appellation, it is regarded as justice; but when one honors the memory and remains of the Saints, it is more than justice, it is the virtue of religion. The final object of the cult of the holy relics is God who sanctifies the Saints; it is Jesus Christ, whose members the Saints are. This cult is so legitimate that God Himself sometimes glorifies the relics of His Saints by heavenly perfumes, by other marvelous privileges, by countless miracles. Let us add that the cult of holy relics also has its foundation in the glorious resurrection which is awaiting the bodies of the Saints. God Himself will reassemble these remains at the end of the world and will give them all the brilliance and beauty of which they are capable.

Let us then venerate, with respect, devotion and confidence, these precious relics which once were animated by such great souls, were the instruments of beautiful and holy works and of astonishing virtues, and which will some day be honored by a brilliant and immortal glory. Let us value pilgrimages made to the tombs of the Saints, and celebrate religiously the feast of the holy relics, which appropriately follows closely upon All Saints Day, the feast day of the splendid holy souls who are in heaven.

Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, by Abbé L. Jaud (Mame: Tours, 1950).