Although similar to Sacraments, Sacramentals play a different roll in the spiritual life of Mother Church. Sacraments are the outward signs of the inward reality, which impart Sanctifying Grace (St. Augustine). The 7 Sacraments were instituted by Jesus Himself. The “Sacraments” page on this website has more information on them.
Sacramentals “[…] are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the Sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the Sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy (CCC1667).”
CCC1670: “Sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the Sacraments do, but by the Church's prayer, they prepare us to receive Grace and dispose us to cooperate with it. ‘For well-disposed members of the faithful, the liturgy of the Sacraments and Sacramentals sanctifies almost every event of their lives with the Divine Grace which flows from the Paschal Mystery of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. From this source all Sacraments and Sacramentals draw their power. There is scarcely any proper use of material things which cannot be thus directed toward the sanctification of men and the praise of God.’”
The Heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims His handiwork.
We even see Sacramentals used Biblically in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. For instance, in 2 Kings 13:21 Elisha’s bones are used by God for reviving a man. Jesus used his garment (Matthew 9:20-22), spittle (John 9:5, Mark 8:22-25), as well as water from the pool of Siloam (John 9:7) to convey His healing Grace. The first Priest Ordained were given the power to continue the ministry of Jesus in the Sacraments and Sacramentals, as is evident when St. Paul’s handkerchief (Acts 9:12) and Pope St. Peter’s shadow (Acts 5:15) are used by God as tools for His Grace.
Now if the definition or use of Sacramentals seems broad, that’s because the world of Sacramentals is equally broad. “There is hardly any proper use of material things which cannot be directed toward the sanctification of men and the praise of God (SC 61).” Sacramentals come in diverse shapes and sizes, materials and substances, gestures and acts of piety, which is why the Church correctly describes them as “signs.” A few examples of Sacramentals are listed below.
Further reading, with Scriptural notations can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 1667-1673.
From the earliest times Christians have made the sign of the cross. St. Basil the Great speaks about the Apostles themselves teaching the sign of the cross. This is shown by the fact that the earliest mentions of the sign of the cross speak of it as an already established custom and simply encourage the faithful to make it correctly.
The sign of the cross reflects Biblical reality. The cross of Christ is the crossroads of history and the central event of Scripture. Just as in the Church year Good Friday stands between Advent and Easter, so the Crucifixion stands between the Incarnation and the Resurrection.
Scripture teaches that the purpose of the birth of the Son of God was to die. He came to redeem, ransom, and restore the people; His Church.
The sign of the cross is closely tied to Baptism, our entrance into His Church. Jesus told the apostles, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, Baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that when Catholics are Baptized “the sign of the cross, on the threshold of the celebration, marks with the imprint of Christ the one who is going to belong to Him and signifies the grace of the Redemption Christ won for us by His cross (CCC 1235).” Thereafter, each time we make the sign of the cross we remember that we belong to Christ.
By giving us the sign of the cross, Jesus fulfills Ezekiel 9.
“And the Lord said to him, “Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.”” From Ezekiel 9 (Ez9:4)
Sacred Scripture, the collection of inspired books we call the Bible, is Sacramental in so far as we use Scripture to make God's Word present. The use of both Old and New Testament reveals God to us each time we read it. Since the Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12), each time it is opened, God speaks in new ways. Thus, St. Jerome would write, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ."
the Bible was compiled to include both the Old and New Testament by the Church in 382 at the Council of Rome under Pope Damasus. Prior to this, there was debate on what belonged to the inspired canon of God's Word. Since God chose to write to us through humanity, the Council had to discern carefully, with the Holy Spirit. Honoring the Old Testament, often quoted by Jesus and the Apostles (eg: Luke 4), the Church kept the Septuagint and added the New Testament.
There are 46 Books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New, making a total of 73 Books in the Bible. Since 382 (as soon as the Church could gather for this undertaking because of persecution) the Church has used the same Bible without ever presuming to add or subtract the Books of God.
By 397 chapter and verse were added to make referencing easier. In 431 a formal translation was issued to ensure the Church never invented her own Bible, but that of God's inspiration. The Church is careful to make sure all current translations in the various languages are proper to God's inspiration through the authors. Today we have a series of approved translations including: NAP, RNAB, RSV, NRSV, NJB, Douay-Rheims Bible, etc... It is wise to consolt the USCCB prior to purhasing other translations; making sure we remain loyal to the will of God.
It is very important to read Scripture. Our Blessed Mother was open to the Holy Spirit and the Angel Gabriel's greeting because she was versed in Scripture. Never neglect the Word given to us by God.
The Holy Rosary, a word derived from the Latin – meaning “Garland of Roses,” is a powerful devotion which puts the Devil to flight, increases Faith, spurs virtue, and bestows God’s Grace. Using the Rosary, one will pray with Mother Mary, following her right to her Son Jesus. Since she is the perfect Disciple, she is able to guide our meditation in such a way as to produce choice fruit. Given to us thorough St. Dominic in 1221, the Rosary helps us mediate upon 5 mysteries of Redemption in any of the 4 sets of mysteries. The mysteries of the Rosary are: Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious.
All of the Rosary’s prayers are steeped in Scripture and Tradition. They include: The Apostles Creed (215ad), The Lord’s Prayer as given by Jesus in Matthew 6, The Hail Mary from Luke 1, a doxology called The Glory Be (rf:1Tim.1:17; Rev.7:12), The Fatima Prayer, and the Hail Holy Queen.
To discover how to pray this epic devotion visit…
Holy Water is the great Sacramental harkening directly to our Baptism. In the Sacrament of Baptism, we are cleansed of original sin and made into a new creation; putting on Christ, and joining God’s family (Gal.3:27; Jn.3:3; Mt.28:19; Col.3:10). It is the power of God at work through His instrument, the Priest that bestows Grace upon the water. Just as the Spirit of God moved over the waters in Genesis 1:2, giving them the Grace of generation; it is the Spirit of God that grants regeneration to Holy Water (CCC1218).
We actually have a formula form God for the blessing of Holy water, found in Numbers 5:17. Then in Number 19:22-12 it is noted that the Holy Water is for purifications. Thus, today the Church continues the work of God by exorcising/blessing Holy Water for the continued work of cleansing once begin in Baptism. The Church still even follows this formula, by using Exorcised Salt in the Exorcism of water.
Practical moments to sign ourselves or sprinkle something with Holy Water include: when entering a Church, when sick, when facing temptation, when asking for a blessing upon a home, when asking for a blessing upon an item, when renewing our Baptismal Promises, when leaving or coming into the house, when praying for a particular Grace, etc…
Salt has long been used to add flavor and preserve from corruption. We see in Scripture, God using the salt He made as a vehicle for His Grace concerning preservation. For instance, in 2 Kings 2:19, Elisha adds salt to a well, making the water palatable. In Leviticus (2:13), the Jewish Law, God instructs the people to add salt to the cereal offering. Then, in the Gospel of Matthew 5:13 Jesus links salt with the imbuing of holy wisdom, adding that we are to be the salt for this earth. Those who wish to be salt are called to help preserve our family and community from the decay that is sin. Thus, the Sacramental of Exorcised Salt can be used to invoke such Grace. Exorcised Salt, like any Sacramental, should never be used out of superstition, but only with fervent prayer. This Sacramental helps the Christian be mindful of God’s protection (eg:Ps.91) and the command to help preserve those around us (Mt.5:13).
Practical applications include: mixing into one’s food, sprinkling on the home’s threshold, marking the four corners of one’s property, adding to water in the Exorcism of Water, sprinkling at a burial site, etc…
The Crucifix stands as the testament and school of love. Thus, St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians writes, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1Cor.1:22-24).” The Crucifix silently preaches the love God has for us, the cost of salvation, and the Divine mandate to, “…love one another as I [Jesus] have loved you (Jn.15:12).
Indeed, as we look to the Crucifix, we are reminded to take up the Cross and follow after Jesus -from Cross to Glory (Lk.14:27). The Crucifix does not negate the Resurrection, but invites us to peruse our share in the Resurrection, by our participation in the Crucifixion. It is ultimately a symbol of loving-hope found in Jesus willing to die for us (Rom.5:6). As we endure our own spiritual Crucifixion, we follow Jesus through Good Friday into Easter Sunday. If there is never a Good Friday, then there will never be an Easter Sunday. Yet, if there is a Good Friday, a Crucifixion, then there us undoubtably a share in Eater’s Glory.
“I have said this to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” -Jesus, Jn.16:33
Where there is smoke there is a fire….in some cases a holy fire! Why is incense a thing in the Church? Many people once thought, some still do, that incense use at Mass came about to cover up the smell of medieval churchgoers. Well, that is frankly very wrong. Yes, the masking of unpleasant smells is a nifty side affect of incense, but that is not its main purpose.
Incense comes straight from Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. 2 Chronicles 13:11 notes that incense should be burnt in honor of the Lord every morning and every evening. This is echoed in Exodus 30:7-9. Numbers 4:16 calls the burning of incense a continual offering to the Lord while Luke 1:9 notes that it is a Priest’s duty to burn incense as an offering for the people. Thus, our prayers “may rise like incense before the Lord,” as in Psalm 141:2.
Incense can make a prayer more tangible to the eye. This is why in Jewish Tradition and in the Church, it is often used for High Liturgies. Incense is crushed as part of its production process. So too is our old self crushed as we take on a new self in Jesus. Psalm 51 prays for a ‘broken spirit’ so that a new one washed in the Blood of the Lamb may rise. As incense ascends to the heavens so too does our prayer. The focus is rising to the Lord. These rising prayers are sweet in the eyes of Our Father. In Revelation 8:4 we hear that the sweet smell of the Saint’s prayers rose like incense to God. So too are the prayers of His earthy children (hopefully saints in the making). Lastly, we all are familiar with the Holy Spirit being represented by fire (Matthew 3:11-12; Isaiah 4:4; Acts 2:3-4), so the burning of incense is truly the bees knees! Our prayers rise like incense. Our prayers are spurred on by the Holy Spirit who animates them in Heaven (Romans 8:26), the One who is represented by fire sends our prayers to Our Father.
God is also a sanctifier. Fun fact, incense has long been used to purify the air and to this day has been proven (scientifically) to do just that. We just happen to be blessed that the smell of incense can cover un pleasant smells.
So as 1 Thessalonians 5:19 says, “Do not quench the Spirit!” Clerical pyros everywhere say “do not quench the coals of incense.” “Let our prayers rise like incense before you, O Lord.” Psalm 141.
Early record of bells being used in Church date back to the 200-300s. In the fifth century, when Saint Paulinus, the Bishop of Nola, introduced them as a means to summon monks to worship, he references the tradition of ringing bells before prayer as existing in 293. In the seventh century Pope Sabinianus referenced a date as early as 285 when he asked all the faithful to ring bells in their Churches to announce the beginning of Holy Mass and for the Consecration.
Of course, everything the Church does or espouses stems from Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition; as handed down from Jesus Himself along with the Apostles He ordained. So then, where in Scripture/Tradition can one find references to bells?
The use of bells is mentioned in various parts of the Old Testament of the Bible. Exodus 28:33-35, Exodus 39:25-26, and again in Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 45:9 we hear about the High Priest Aaron’s vestments containing bells. In Tradition, bells would fend off evil and announce the coming of someone or something very important.
Today the coming of Jesus on the Altar is super important. Thus, our announcing of the coming of someone important at the beginning of Mass. Following this, the bells are rung at the Epiclesis (the part of the Eucharistic prayer which calls down the Holy Spirit…an arrival of an awesome Person) then of course, we announce the arrival of Jesus’s Flesh and Blood at the Consecration.
The ringing of these bells relies on Scripture and Tradition to welcome us to prayer and to welcome our Savior to the Altar.
Bells have another added purpose. Psalm 98:4 commands us to make a joyful noise for the Lord. Making a joyful noise was and is a form of prayer to thank God for His blessings. Zechariah 14:20 notes that the ringing of bells was a form of thanking or adoring our Heavenly Father. The book of prayers for the early Church and for today’s Liturgy of Hours (a prayer that occurs 5 times a day and is prayed by Clergy, Religious, and some lay faithful) relies on the Psalms. In the Psalms, particularly in 150 we hear about cymbals being used to praise God. According to ancient Church scholars and Fathers like St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, the early cymbals looked like water pitchers with open necks and had a clapper….this sounds an awful lot like a bell, no? So even in the Psalms bells were used to praise God and call folks to prayer.
In 1545 at the start of the Council of Trent the Church mandated the use of bells in the Holy Mass.
Since then, Catholics have used bells in towers, liturgy, and in the home.
Simeon’s famous prophecy that Jesus would be a “Light of revelation to the Gentiles,” inspires us to see Altar candles, votive candles, and home candles as symbols of Jesus. Since we are to be molded in His image, they can represent who be are by Baptism too.
The theology of a candle is centered completely on Jesus Himself. Candles were also used in the Old Testament as we see in Exodus, yet find their fulfillment in the representation of Christ. Jesus Himself said “I am the light for the world,” in John 8:12. The flame of the candle illumines those around it, just as learning of the precepts of the Light of the World does. The early Church Fathers wrote: "The wax, being spotless, represents Christ's most spotless Body; the wick enclosed in it is an image of His Soul, while the glowing flame typifies the Divine Nature united with the human in one Divine Person (The Externals of the Catholic Church by Fr. J. F. Sullivan)." As the candle burns there is an offering of the body and soul (wax and wick), just as Jesus offered all (He was as fully human and God on the Cross). This was for the sake of opening the Kingdom of Light to us. The greatest candle we receive is at our Baptism. In the Baptism rite our personal candle is lit from the Paschal Candle. It represents our being formed in the Light of Jesus and burning with the Faith for Him alone.
Votive candles represent a sacrificial offering of who we are/what we have in the Name of Jesus. Thus, many Churches have votive candle stands.
A statue is a 3D figure, wrought in the image of a person, thing, or event. An icon is a flat painted (written) image of a person, thing, or event. Just as the secular world adorns cities with statues of civic heroes; homes with pictures of loved ones; billboards with sport idols; and trader cards with “important” images, Mother Church adorns the House of God with images of God and His Holy Family. To accuse one of violating God’s commands by having images designed to evoke religious fervor and piety, one would have to accuse the secular world of the worship of pagan gods. Sacred Images, instead, remind us of the ones we love or the ones we aspire to be like. Thus, images of the Holy Family, God, the Angels, and Saints can inspire the faithful to pursue a life of holiness. Still some object to this Sacramental (until it comes time for a Nativity Scene or family picture) citing Exodus 20:4. Yet, as we know, Scripture parsed out is sinful (Jn5:39). Scripture is to be taken as a whole. Continuing through Exodus to 25:18-20 we discover God commanding the creation of statues. Then in 1 Chronicles 28:18-19 we find the temple plan including Angelic statues. Similarly, Ezekiel 41:17–18 describes graven (carved) images in the idealized temple he was shown in a vision; he writes, “On the walls round about in the inner room and on the nave were carved likenesses of Cherubim.” In Numbers 21:8-9 God literally bestowed His healing Grace only once an image wrought as a serpent was created. As in Scripture, the Church refuses to adore or worship statues (this is mortally sinful [Ex.32]). We know there is One Triune God, who we adore/worship alone (Ex.20:3). Catholics use statues, paintings, and other art mediums to recall holy persons, events, or things. Just as it helps to remember one’s mom by looking at her photograph, so it helps to recall the example of the Saints and life of Christ by seeing at images of them.
The readings for Ash Wednesday are as follows: Joel 2:12-18; Psalm 51; 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2; Matthew 6:1-18.
Every Ash Wednesday Catholics gather to have Ashes marked on their foreheads or sprinkled on top of their head (depending on local custom) to inaugurate the Lenten Season. Ashes are imposed with the reminder, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” It recalls the need to live for Heaven, for Eternal Life, through a death to the lower of this life. In the Gospel, however, we hear that we are not to look gloomy, blow our trumpet to signal our charity, pray so as to be seen, and do good only if it wins us favor with others. So, there is a logical question that stems from that. As Christians receiving Ashes, are we violating what Jesus is asking of us? The answer lies in how one uses the Ashes received. Thus, St. Paul cautions, “Do not receive the Grace of God in vain.” The imposition of Ashes is not designed to blow any trumpet before the world, but within the faithful heart; that the heart might remember to tame personal pride through prayer and fasting - thus, making room for God. Death to this lower life, for the sake of a higher life. Ashes remind us that our sacrificial deaths will yield to new life. St. Clement of Rome was apt to note that the fictional Phoenix dies to itself, so that a new and more glorious self may rise. Ashes, often in the shape of a Cross, recall our sharing in His Passion, will lead to a share in Resurrection.
Although most prevalent on Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday, Palms may be kept at home all year long. They can also be blessed at anytime for use by the Faithful.
Palms themselves are not some trite symbol for Our Lord. In Revelations 7:9, we learn the victorious souls stand with the Lamb of God holding palms. The palm branches symbolize a holy conquest. Our Blessed Lord enters Jerusalem for the holiest of all conquests, the taking up of His Kingdom. To emphasize this Kingdom of victory, rather than a passing, worldly, political kingdom; Jesus rides on a donkey. The traditional piety says, it is the same donkey as Mary rode to give birth to the King who must now die. This donkey marks the Davidic Kingdom. This is the Kingdom Jesus is to bring about. So He enters the city with victorious palms hailing Him for the Salvation He will open to all who acclaim Him as King. Sadly though, in just a few days, those shouting ‘sing Hosana,’ will turn to scream, ‘crucify Him.’ Yet, for those who chose to see this victory march as one leading to a future glory, the word Hosana meant more then political salvation; it meant and means new life. We continue to gather at the Altar to live this very moment of the Passion of Jesus singing the same, ‘Hosana,’ Hosana in the highest!’ Meaning, ‘Lord, grant us Your Salvation, no and at the hour of death (Ref. Psalm 118).’ Palms are a great reminder to fight for the ultimate victory in Heaven, not some fleeting victor or comfort here.
The Scapular is a Sacramental rooted in the notion of shouldering the Cross and putting on Christ (Romans 13:14; Matthew 16:24). Jesus urges us in Matthew 11:29 to, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Thus, the Scapular (from the Latin for shoulder) is a piece of cloth worn over one’s shoulder, draping down in front and back of the person. Religious orders have defined ones, often worn over the habit; whereas Diocesan Priests, the lay faithful, and some consecrated faithful have a smaller version worn underneath their clothing. There is an ancient promise that those who die wearing the Scapular will not taste the flames of Hell. Does this mean that the Church believes one only needs to wear this cloth to attain Heaven? Absolutely NOT (Philippians 2:12-13; Isaiah 12:2)! The Scapular is not some magic charm, it is a Sacramental. As such it is an outward expression to remind us of the inward spiritual reality we are to live. The Scapular is to simply remind the one who wears it that we have been called to: put on Christ, shoulder the Cross, and carry the yoke of Jesus. If this is not lived then one can indeed die in the Scapular, as an outcast from Heaven. If one internalizes the practice of the Scapular, they will surly find Heaven’s Gate, for they chose to live the life of Jesus. Now, since as St. Paul teaches, we all have various vocations and equal rolls in the one Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27), there are various Scapulars which reflect aspects of the different, but co-equal, rolls. Examples include: The Red Scapular – Christ’s Passion; The White Scapular – The Trinity; The Black Scapular – The Seven Dolors; The Green Scapular – Healing; The Blue Scapular – The Immaculate Conception; The Five Fold Scapular – The Redemptorists, or redeeming life of Jesus.
For brief information concerning images, please see “Statues and Icons.”
Holy Medals (Devotional Medals or Religious Medals) are medallions, usually resembling a coin, created for devotional purposes. When used correctly, they are to inspire holy living. Typically, one-sided, variations include the image of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, a Saint, or other Christian iconography. Usually, they have an inscription. Many wear the medal around the neck, but it may also be attached to a Crucifix or a bracelet. These Sacramentals, like statues, recall the heroism of those followed after Jesus, or of Jesus Himself, or of moments in Salvation history. One of the most common medals is the St. Benedict Medal (pictured). It contains many holy images to inspire devotion to Jesus and victory over Satan. Its prayers are inscribed via Latin letters, however, the English translation is posted in the supporting picture.
The Stations of the Cross, or The Way of the Cross, are a series of images or symbols to mark 14 specific scenes in the Passion of Jesus. Often adorning the walls of a Church, the Stations can also be found in some prayer gardens, prayer books, along roads leading to Churches, or in long hallways of Christian schools, monasteries, or hospitals. The goal of praying with the Stations is to help the faithful make a spiritual pilgrimage through the chief moments of Our Blessed Lord’s Passion and Crucifixion, thus uniting our sufferings to His. This is carried out by reflecting with Scripture and meditations upon each Station. The 14 Stations are: I) Christ is condemned to death; (2) Christ carries His Cross; (3) Jesus falls for the first time; (4) Jesus meets His afflicted Mother; (5) Simon of Cyrene helps carry the Cross; (6) St. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus;(7) Jesus falls for the second time; (8) Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem; (9) Jesus falls for the third time; (10) Jesus is stripped of His garments; (11) The Crucifixion of Jesus; (12) Jesus dies upon the Cross; (13) Jesus is taken down from the Cross and given back to Mary; (14) Jesus is laid in the tomb.
The Office of the Priesthood was given to the Church by God. Flowing from the Office of Priesthood in the Old Testament, Jesus gives us the fulfilled Priesthood in the New Testament. Thus, all Priests simply share in the one true priesthood of Jesus, the High Priest (eg: Matthew 18:18-22; Matthew 9:9; Mark 3:13-14; Mark 6:7-13; 2 Corinthians 5:20; 1 Timothy 1:18-20; Luke 10:16; and the Last Supper Accounts). Although a Priest is a fellow sinner in need of God’s mercy, he has been Ordained to offer sacrifices to help sanctify the Church (Hebrews 4:14-5:10). He is thus, if following his commission, an instrument of Jesus in this world. As such, the Priest has the power to bless objects (make them holy or consecrate them for a sacred purpose). To bless something is the opposite of cursing something. The bless is to bring about the good. Of course, the power at work is not that of the Priest, but only that of God choosing to work through a tool of His. God has granted the Priest the right to call down certain Graces, by the Authority of God. Scripture is filled with various examples of blessings bestowed by God through His creation. One simply needs to present their items or persons to a Priest to receive a Priestly Blessing. Some objects or persons require a ritual blessing to be performed, as in Scripture (eg: Ordination, blessing of Sacred Vessels, Consecration of a Church, blessing of an automobile, etc….) These are recorded in “The Book of Blessings.” The goal is to continue to sanctify all in this world. The lay faithful also have power to bless in certain circumstances, by virtue of the Baptismal Priesthood (eg: the blessing of children, the blessing of food, the blessing of home gatherings, the blessing of an Advent Wreath, the Epiphany door blessing).
The term “Relic,” comes from the Latin, “reliquice,” meaning, “what is left.” Thus, a Relic is something that has been left behind from a person or era gone by. Secular relics exist all over. We tend to call them artifacts, antiques, seveners, or historical sites. Sacramental Relics are those that belonged to a normal person, whose pursuit of holiness has been investigated and vetted by the Church, granting them the title of “Saint.” A Saint’s Relics tend to include: objects they used; clothing worn; bodily bones, organs, or blood; and/or an uncorrupted body (bodies that, by God’s grace, and without the aid of embalming or preservation, have not decayed). The Relics are mounted in Reliquaries for veneration by the faithful. Adoration/worship of Relics would constitute a mortal sin. Veneration, however, is paying honor and respect to the workings of God through someone we have found to be in Heaven. The purpose in venerating Relics is to inspire holy living, inspire conversion, encourage repentance, encourage perseverance, ask for the Saint’s prayers, and recall that we are “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Heb.12:1).” Relics are not magical trinkets, nor do they have power on their own. Relics help us to recall that God works through His creation. It is God’s power that is at work. Scripture records many accounts of the value of Relics, including moments where miracles are connected with the Relic. For instance, people brought to Jesus those who were sick and begged Jesus to allow them to touch the tassel on His cloak. As many that touched it, were healed (Mt.14:35-36; Mk.6:56; Lk.8:43-44). After Pentecost, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, we witness Pope St. Peter’s shadow curing the sick (Acts5:15-16), while St. Paul’s “handkerchiefs” were carried away to the sick, granting them healing (Acts19:11-12). The Arc of the Covenant carried the Relics of the Ten Commandments (Ex.16:33-34; Num.17:10; 2Chron.5:10). In 2nd Kings 13:20-21 we encounter the bones of Elisha being used by God to restore life. Relics, when used properly in accord with Scripture and Tradition, will help open the soul to receive God’s Grace. Since some Relics are Saint’s bones, it is important to note that the use of such Relics is not in violation of the veneration owed to the human body (1Cor.6:19-20). Since the Church has put the Saint through the process of formal Canonization, we have confirmed the Saint to be in Heaven. Thus, the Relic testifies to the Resurrection. This is the reason they may be parted from their place of burial. The scattering of our loved one’s human bones or cremains is strictly forbidden (it’s a mortal sin), as this is desecration of the body. The scattering of body parts and cremation itself was done in pagan times to denote that there is no after life with a human body. It was revived in recent times by cults to claim the same. We know this to be heresy. In the Second Coming we will be reunited with our bodies (Job19:25-27; Rom.8:22-24; Phil.3:20-21; 1Cor.15:51-52; etc…). Anything that testifies against this, testifies against Christ. Unless our loved one undergoes the agonizing process of Canonization, we are to respect the body with a complete burial/interment. Even Relics, once parted from their burial ground, are to be housed with great dignity. They are treated with the same care one affords to carrying a casket, for indeed the body was made by God and belongs to Him.
Come and see what God has done: He is awesome in His deeds among men.