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Living Our Faith: The veneration of relics

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Relics of the saints continue in the 21st century to attract vast numbers of believers.

Worshippers venerate the relics of St. Anthony of Padua (a rib and piece of facial skin) at St. John Bosco Parish in Chicago June 16, 2013. The word "relic" comes from the word for remains or something left behind from a holy person. (CNS photo, Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Worshippers venerate the relics of St. Anthony of Padua (a rib and piece of facial skin) at St. John Bosco Parish in Chicago June 16, 2013. The word “relic” comes from the word for remains or something left behind from a holy person. (CNS photo, Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

Visits to the tombs of saints call to mind the strengths and virtues that stood out forcefully in their earthly lives. But these visits may also highlight similar, but hidden, strengths of our own.

The origin of venerating such mementos is not medieval, but biblical. The tablets of the Ten Commandments, Elijah’s mantle, even the bones of Elisha (2 Kings 13:21), all these were relics imbued with God’s power and revered by God’s people.