"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" ...St. Jerome (420AD)
Relic means "remains." Relics were venerated by early Christians on the premise of "beneficent contagion" in which the supernatural graces received by a Saint do not die with him but remain in the body after death and can be received by those who come into close proximity with the "eyes of faith." GOD’s work was done through the lives of the Saint's and so His work will continue after their deaths, if GOD wills it!
Venerate is not the same as Worship:
Catholic's worship and adore one GOD (GOD the Father, GOD the Son - Jesus Christ, GOD the Holy Spirit) the Greek term is "Latria". Catholic's venerate (regard with respect and honor) the Mother of GOD (Virgin Mary) and the Saint's. The Greek term is "Hyperdulia" and "Dulia" respectively.
1st Class - Typically remains from the body of a Saint or something that "Jesus touched".
2nd Class - Any item or possession of a Saint (i.e. Prayer Book, Rosary Beads, Vestments...)
3rd Class - Typically a piece of white linen cloth enclosed in wax on a medal or prayer card that comes in contact with a 1st class relic.
1st and 2nd class relics must be accompanied by a document called an "Authentic" which states the "Authenticity of a Relic" and this document is typically signed by a Bishop, Abbot or Abbotess and two other witnesses. 3rd class relics do not have Authentics, they are merely venerated via the Gift of Faith.
Why are Saint's important?
Many misunderstand the Catholic devotion to Saints. Saints are holy men and women who have lived exemplary Christian lives. As Catholics, we believe that our life does not end with death, so our relationships continue with the Saints who are fellow members of the Mystical Body of Christ. This Communion of Saints is mentioned in the Apostles' Creed and each member contributes to the good of all and shares in the welfare of all through the grace, love and mercy of our Saviour Jesus Christ!
Relics in the Bible:
Elisha died and was buried. At the time, bands of Moabites used to raid the land each year. Once some people were burying a man, when suddenly they spied such a raiding band. So they cast the dead man into the grave of Elisha, and everyone went off. But when the man came in contact with the bones of Elisha, he came back to life and rose to his feet.
Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed." Jesus turned and saw her. "Take heart, daughter," he said, "your faith has healed you." And the woman was healed from that moment.
So extraordinary were the mighty deeds GOD accomplished at the hands of Paul that when face cloths or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.
FAQ - Relics?