Relics in Catholicism: Objects of Devotion or Superstition?


Hey there! So, you’ve heard about relics in the Catholic Church, right? Those are things like pieces of cloth, bones, or even dust from holy places. Some folks wonder if keeping these things around is a good idea. They ask, is it devotion or just plain superstition? Let’s get to the bottom of this from a Catholic viewpoint.

What Are Relics?

First off, let’s define what relics are. In the Catholic Church, a relic is usually a physical object that has some sort of connection to a saint, or to Jesus. There are three types:

  1. First-class relics: Actual pieces of a saint’s body or the instruments of Christ’s Passion.
  2. Second-class relics: Items that a saint owned or used.
  3. Third-class relics: Items touched to a first-class relic.

Why Do Catholics Have Relics?

So, why do we keep these things? In the Bible, in the Old Testament, we hear about a dead man coming back to life after touching the bones of the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 13:21). Even in the New Testament, we read about how handkerchiefs that touched Saint Paul could heal the sick (Acts 19:11-12). So, the idea is that these relics are a link to the holy people and even to God Himself.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) says: “The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church’s sacramental life, such as the veneration of relics” (CCC 1674). So, the Church thinks it’s okay to have and venerate relics.

Relics Are Not Magic

Now, let’s clear something up: relics aren’t magic. Nope, not at all. The Church doesn’t teach that they have some kind of power on their own. Instead, any goodness or healing that comes from a relic is from God’s grace. Remember, the Catechism says, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, […] think about these things” (CCC 1674, Philippians 4:8). So, it’s about focusing on God, not the object itself.

Not Superstition, but Devotion

Here’s where we answer the big question. Are relics objects of devotion or superstition? According to the Church, they are tools for devotion, not charms or magic items. In fact, the Catechism warns against superstition, saying, “Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes” (CCC 2111). If someone thinks that the relic itself has magical powers, well, that’s getting it wrong according to Catholic teaching.

How To Properly Venerate Relics

Venerating is just a fancy way of saying “showing deep respect.” If you’re wondering how to do that, it’s pretty straightforward. You can pray in front of a relic, asking for the saint’s intercession. It’s not worshipping the relic, but asking the saint to pray to God on your behalf. The CCC tells us, “By inviting us to venerate the mortal remains of the martyrs and saints, the Church approves ‘asking for the prayers of the saints'” (CCC 1674).

The Role of Faith

Let’s not forget the role of faith in all this. Faith is believing in God and His goodness. Venerating relics is a way to grow that faith, to feel closer to God and His saints. The Bible says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Relics serve as physical reminders of the lives of those who lived out the word of Christ.


To wrap it all up, relics in the Catholic Church are meant to be aids in our spiritual journey, helping us connect with the saints and, ultimately, with God. They’re not about superstition, and the Church makes that very clear. So the next time you see a relic, think of it as a bridge, a connection to something greater. It’s like a family heirloom that helps you remember and feel close to someone you love, but in this case, it’s about feeling close to God and His saints. Pretty cool, right?

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Note: While content aims to align with Catholic teachings, any inconsistencies or errors are unintended. For precise understanding, always refer to authoritative sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Always double-check any quotes for word-for-word accuracy with the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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