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Why we venerate relics

We humans like to maintain some physical connection to loved ones who have died. We visit their graves or keep a lock of hair or a favourite book of theirs.  This physical connection helps us, who are embodied beings, to recall and remain close to the person we love. 

So, too, with relics of those members of our faith family, the Church who are saints.  Relics are remains of their bodies, or some object closely associated with them, that offer a tangible and visible connection to them.

In honouring their relics, our focus is not meant to be on the relic as an isolated object in itself, as though it were a magical talisman.  Rather, it is a physical closeness to the person whose relic it is, connecting us with them so that we can more readily seek their intercession, know their companionship with us, and be inspired to follow their example.  In honouring the relic, we honour the person; and in honouring the person, most importantly we honour Christ whose life, death and resurrection enabled them to live the Christian life in the transparent and heroic way they did, and who unites us in the one Body.  

At heart, this devotion is an expression of the value Catholics put on our bodily lives, made in the image and likeness of God.  The physical closeness to a saint reminds us that these holy people were not angels, but flesh and blood human beings like ourselves, immersed in human history, and living out their imitation of Christ in the real world.