Welcome to the CHNetwork Online Community Forums Worship Veneration of dead bodies


8 replies, 6 voices Last updated by  jsdebeer 11 months, 2 weeks ago
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    Im coming up on my 5th Anniversary of  being accepted into the Catholic Church, and one of the strangest things I see in Catholicism is about to come to PA. One of my favorite Saints, St Pio, is about to visit Philadelphia so we can go see his body for veneration this coming weekend. I find this very odd, a little disturbing and will certainly have a hard time explaining it to any of my non-RC friends. Can anyone explain why we Catholics do this? As this is a favored Saint that I pray to most days, I will probably go see his body………..but what is one supposed to do when you venerate the body of relics of a Saint???



    David W. Emery
    @David W. Emery

    Felix, here are some links which explain the veneration of relics.

    From EWTN

    From Catholic Answers

    From the Catholic Encyclopedia

    From an Eastern Orthodox Source

    Protestants in particular tend to be leery of anything physical in their worship. This inclination borders on a rejection of physical creation, including the human body, as something “evil” or at least “dirty.” But God made all of material creation and, in particular, the human body. Therefore, these things are good, and the Bible speaks well of them. Moreover, in 1 Corinthians 6:19, St. Paul speaks of the human body as sanctified by God’s very presence: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?” Note particularly the grammatical construction of the verse: Paul uses the relative pronoun “which,” referring to the body as received from God; if he had meant the Holy Spirit, he would have said “whom.” This is why we honor even the relics of the saints: in them we see the temple of the Holy Spirit.




    Thanks David!



    Very interesting reading, David. I never understood it but was always fascinated with the controversy over the Shroud of Turin.

    I tend to believe that if the veneration is ultimately pointing to and encouraging the worship of Jesus, then I am OK with it. If those who believe that a relic, etc is in itself a miracle producing cure, then I question who or what one is putting their faith in.

    I remember seeing church service shows on tv where the big name pastor will send you some object he has prayed over for a substantial contribution. That is something I questioned as it put the focus on that person and not God.


    dave armstrong
    @Dave Armstrong

    From one of my papers on the topic:

    Examples of second-class relics (objects that came into contact with holy people) are also clearly found in passages about the prophet Elijah’s mantle, which parted the Jordan River (2 Kings 2:11-14), and Peter’s shadow (Acts 5:15-16) and Paul’s handkerchief (Acts 19:11-12), used by God to heal sick people and to cast out demons. If all of this is “magic,” then it is a sort of “magic” directly sanctioned by God Himself.
    Protestant objectors will agree with some of this. But they claim that what cannot be found in the Bible is the excessive veneration of relics. They think that goes too far, and is idolatry. They remember the deeds of great heroes of the faith (Acts 7; Hebrews 11) and thank God for them, but contend that we shouldn’t get into worshiping bones or pieces of hair and so forth, or go on pilgrimages to “holy places.” That’s too much like paganism or heathenism and adds nothing to our spiritual life, so they say, because all places are equally “holy.”

    We reply that if matter can indeed convey grace and blessing, according to the Bible, then we can give glory to God for what He has done with lowly matter by venerating (not worshiping) even now-inanimate objects.

    And from another related paper:

    Veneration is essentially different from worship or adoration (reserved for God alone); it is a high honor given to something or someone because of the grace revealed or demonstrated in them from God. The relic (and the saint from whom it is derived) reflects the greatness of God just as a masterpiece of art or music reflects the greatness of the artist or composer.

    Therefore, in venerating it, God is being honored. The saint is being venerated only insofar as he or she is reflecting God’s grace and holiness. If such an item is worshiped, the person doing it is not following Catholic teaching, which fully agrees with Protestantism with regard to the evil of idolatry, or putting something besides God in the unique place of God.

    Here are two more somewhat related papers of mine:

    Sacred / Immaculate Heart Devotions & the Bible

    Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart: Biblical Reflections



    Thanks again to both of you



    St Jerome (a Doctor of the Church who lived at the beginning of the fifth century) wrote a fiery letter on the subject.  He confirms:

    We, it is true, refuse to worship or adore, I say not the relics of the martyrs, but even the sun and moon, the angels and archangels, the Cherubim and Seraphim and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come.  For we may not serve the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever.


    and then he proceeds passionately to defend the veneration of relics.



    I wonder if the problem lies in that we don’t understand the differences between worship/adoration and veneration in a practical sense. Does it feel different within ourselves to worship than it does to adore? Have we brought adoration/worship down to the level of veneration only without realizing it, and so it has begun to cause us problems? With our cultures emphasis on equality rather than authority, have we lost something in the shuffle?  I know that in theory I know the difference, but I am not sure how that works out practically speaking in my life.




    Have we brought adoration/worship down to the level of veneration only without realizing it, and so it has begun to cause us problems?

    Some have suggested exactly that.  Someone (I’ve forgotten who) has argued that some Protestants have reduced Christ (to whom adoration is due) to Mary’s place (a place of mere veneration).  (Whence the shock when they see Catholics venerating the Blessed Virgin!)  I don’t know if that is true, but I do know that my experience of the Lord Jesus in the Catholic Church is much wider, greater and complete than ever it could be in the Protestant communities that I had been a part of.  To a Protestant, Marian veneration resembles the erection of idols in the Temple in Jerusalem; in fact, it is more like smelling the flowers in the great garden that is Christian worship.

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