By ZOE CANNON
GRATITUDE FOR THE GIFT OF FAITH
“God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out” (Acts 19:11-12).
A relic is defined as an object surviving an earlier time, especially one of historical or sentimental interest. Venerating relics in the history of the Church dates to the earliest years of Christianity. In the year 156, the Christians of Smyrna wrote about their care of the remains of St. Polycarp after he had been burned at the stake: “we took up his bones, which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place, where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy, and to celebrate the birth of his martyrdom.”
The early Church Fathers were unanimous in their sanction of the veneration of relics. They were very careful to remind people that venerating relics is not worship that is due only to God, but a lesser form of honor. The practice grew over time; in 787, the Second Council of Nicaea authorized that relics should be used to consecrate churches.
Relics are divided into three classes. A portion of the body from a saint is called a first-class relic. Articles of clothing or items such as rosaries used by the saint are second-class relics. Religious medals, rosaries or items touched to a first-class relic become third-class relics. St. Thomas Aquinas’ teaching in “Summa Theologiae” pointed out that the saints are part of the Mystical Body that may intercede for us in heaven. St. Thomas said honoring the bodies of saints, as temples and tools of the Holy Spirit when they were alive, and the worship we give to God alone are very different. What beautiful gifts relics are to the Church!
St. Louis de Montfort Church in Fishers, Indiana, recently hosted the Vatican International Exhibition of the Eucharistic miracles of the world. A first-class relic of Blessed Carlo Acutis, who was beautified in 2020 by Pope Francis at the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, accompanied the exhibit. Carlo was born in 1991 and died of Leukemia in 2006. He is called the Patron Saint of the Internet because he created websites to promote and document the Eucharistic miracles and the lives of saints. His path to sainthood began in 2013 with the healing of a 7-year-old Brazilian boy. The child suffered from a rare pancreatic disorder, and after coming in contact with a first-class relic from Carlo Acutis was cured.
The schedule for the exhibit at St. Louis de Montfort included a few hours for homeschooled families, so we took advantage of the teaching opportunity. We read a book about Carlo Acutis and studied Eucharistic miracles before we visited the exhibition. Our grandsons brought items to touch the first-class relic and were excited to know their First Holy Communion rosaries and medals were now third-class relics to be worn with reverence and care. The life story of this millennium saint is very relatable to young people.
I am grateful for the spiritual treasures that bless us. Our goal is heaven, and the witness of those who never feared sacrifice for the glory of God make this task a little easier. A discussion about the importance of holiness makes a difference in the lives of children. Please share the stories of Eucharistic miracles and the lives of saintly people with those around you! Some of the accounts are gruesome and a bit challenging to comprehend, but it is comforting to know God still performs extraordinary miracles by the hands of others. It could be you! Amen!