Relics on Relics on Relics on . . .
I don’t know if other seminaries out there do something similar to mine, but at my seminary (Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology ran by the Benedictine Monks at Saint Meinrad Archabbey) we have this part of the year called “J-Term,” which covers most of January (hence “J”-Term), and it starts when we come back from Christmas break after Epiphany and acts as an interterm between fall and spring semesters. During J-Term we do not have regular academic classes and our regular schedule. The different class-levels (Pre-Theology I and II with the four Theology levels) all do different things, and depending on your level you might not do J-Term at the seminary at all before the real classes kick back in. But for most of the class-levels there are two weeks of classes dealing with spiritual topics and the third and last week is a week-long retreat off campus. One of the classes during the first week that my level (Pre-Theology II) took part in was a week-long course on church devotions, and one of those days had a course on relics.
For this day we went over to the archabbey church where they have their reliquary filled to the brim with all sorts of the Catholic goodies known as relics.
Most of us might know what relics are, but for those who need a refresher I have some brief info below without going too deep.
Relics are the physical remains of a saint or a person considered holy that is only the path to sainthood. They can even be connected to Jesus Himself like the piece of the True Cross Jesus died on in the cover photo! There are three classes of relics that most Catholics identify. First class relics are mortal remains of the physical body of a saint/holy person, such as hair, body parts, organs (like St. John Vianney’s incorrupt heart I got to see last year!), and skeletal remains. Second class relics are objects that the person touched and owned during their life such as clothing, book, or religious garment/vestment. Third class relics are things that have been touched to a first or second class relics (though I have also heard the view of that first class ones are those just touched to a first class relic). We use relics when we venerate them by kissing, praying before, looking at while contemplating the person’s life of virtue and faith and God’s action through them, and performing other acts of homage. We do this to show our love and appreciation to the person for their witness to Christ, His Gospel, and His Church and to ask for their intercession. Relics are typically put up on display in churches for the faithful. First class relics traditionally have been place in altar stones, which are sealed inside newly consecrated church altars, a continuation of the ancient practice of having Mass/Divine Liturgy in the catacombs and on top of the tombs of the martyrs during the very early Church times.
Though this link from Catholic Straight Answers only mentions two classes (while most sources I found mention all three) of relics, it does give a nice overview of both the biblical and traditional/historical basis for the ancient practice of using and venerating relics.
Now, what I saw was an absolute smorgasbord of relics, many of which appeared to be first class. We’re talking relics on relics on relics. Literal bags of relics bursting out. And they were from countless saints, even from the Apostles themselves! I made sure to get a bunch of good pics of them for you guys and here they are.
A lot of them came in small luna-like containers (lunas are the glass containers that the Eucharist goes in when played in a monstrance for exposition) which could be places in monstrances and exposed to the faithful for veneration in a similar way the Eucharist is exposed (BUT we do NOT adore the relics or the persons they came from – Divine adoration/worship is reserved ONLY for God alone – so don’t get it twisted out there).
But as you see above – Sts. Matthew John, Andrew, and Phillip! Pieces of the Apostles before your very eyes! (
I really like the little houses for the relics they had.
See! This is what I was talking about. Literal bags of relics. The monastery, which has been around since the 1850s, accumulated them over time.
Now, I cannot tell you what type every relic was, but some were easy to figure out like the one above – bone!
And there were other things as well such as these pectoral cross worn by bishops and abbots. Pectoral crosses traditionally contained relics. I am not sure if the practice is kept today.
And there you have it. Stay tuned tomorrow when I will post pictures of another fun thing we got to see during J-Term!
Question for you guys: Do you venerate relics in your spiritual life and/or have any relics yourselves? What great relics have you seen before?
Bonus: Check out Bishop Barron’s video on relics below: