What are relics? “Relics” comes from the Latin word reliquiae which means “remains,” and in Catholic teaching there are three types. First-class relics are instruments of Our Lord’s passion and the material remains of a Saint after his/her death. Second-class relics are objects that were used by a Saint (clothing, prayer book, manuscript written by him/her, etc.). Third-class relics are objects with some other, less direct, connection with a Saint.
Why are relics important to Catholics? Since the beginning of Christianity, individuals have seen relics as a way to come closer to the saints and thus form a closer bond with God. The pilgrims saw the purchasing of a relic as a means, in a small way, to bring the shrine back with him or her on returning home. Instead of having to travel hundreds of miles to become near to a venerated saint, one could venerate the relics of the saint within one’s own home.
Are relics something we worship? No. Saint Jerome declared, “We do not worship, we do not adore, for fear that we should bow down to the creature rather than to the creator, but we venerate the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore him whose martyrs they are.”
Why are we burying some relics underneath our altar? The Second Council of Nicea (the Seventh and last Ecumenical Council of the undivided Catholic Church which met in A.D. 787) declared that no church without first-class relics at the Altar should be consecrated. In the Middle Ages it became the custom in the West to bury relics of Saints under the Altar or to seal them in a “sepulchre” in the top of the stone Altar when it was consecrated by the Bishop.
Where did our relics come from? All of our relics at St. John of the Cross have been acquired as gifts over the years, with the most recent ones (St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Terese of Lisieux’s parents and Blessed Bartolo Longo) as gifts from the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompei, and all have papers of authenticity with the exception of the St. John of Vianney relic.
Which relics will be buried on June 10th?
1. St. John of the Cross, a discalced (without shoes) Carmelite, our patron saint
2. St. Teresa of Avila, also a Carmelite, St. John was St. Teresa’s Spiritual Director
3. St. Therese of Lisieux, also a Carmelite, popularly known and loved as ‘The Little Flower’
4. Blessed Ludovici Martin and M. Azeliae Guerin, parents of St. Therese of Liseux
5. Blessed Bartolo Longo, founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompei
All of the above are First Class Relics