Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Elvis, Eric and Relics

(Photo on the left) The heart of St. John Vianney

American society has a high regard for the memorabilia of pop stars, movie actors and famous politicians. Whether it's the teeth of George Washington, the scarves that touched Elvis' sweaty brow ($3000 on ebay) or the baseballs pitched by famous athletes, we have no problem with placing high monetary and cultural value on these inanimate objects sometimes referred to as relics.

I own a guitar string that was once on Eric Clapton's guitar. A pharmaceutical rep came to my office when I was still in private practice and held out a rusty guitar string and said "Guess whose guitar this was on?" I without hesitation said 'Eric Clapton', and he was dumbfounded. It was a lucky guess and the first guitarist that came to my mind. He explained that his neighbor worked at Martin Guitar Company in Nazareth, PA and had Eric Clapton over his house to discuss the new Eric Clapton Signature model guitar. They were jamming and Eric broke a string and the host kept it and gave it to his neighbor who gave it to me. It's probably not worth too much now, but when Eric goes to his reward it might be . Why? Because it touched Eric's body.
(His sweaty fingers to be exact.) So we humans know that there is a value in touching something and honoring something that was a part of or touched a famous person or someone greatly admired. Shortly after my wife died, I would sometimes go in the closet just to smell her shirt or scarf to remember her, to honor her. But I didn't worship the shirt . It just helped me to connect to her memory in a very real physical way and to honor her.

Well, that's what Catholics believe about the relics of saints. They are either a part of the body(1st class) of a godly person gone to glory recognized as a saint, or something they owned or a personal effect (2nd class) or an item touched to any first or 2nd class relic (3rd class relic).
Where is this in the Bible? The veneration or honoring of relics is a concept borne from the Scriptures as well as defended and supported by the early Church Fathers.

Exodus 13:19 "And Moses took Joseph's bones with him: because he had adjured the children of Israel, saying: God shall visit you, carry out my bones from hence with you."4 Kings 13:20-21 "And Elisha died, and they buried him. And the rovers from Moab came into the land the same year. And some that were burying a man, saw the rovers, and cast the body into the sepulchre of Elisha. And when it had touched the bones of Elisha, the man came to life and stood upon his feet."

Matthew 9:20-22 "And behold a woman who was troubled with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment. For she said within herself: If I shall touch only his garment, I shall be healed. But Jesus turning and seeing her, said: Be of good heart, daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour."
Acts 19:11-12 "And God wrought by the hand of Paul more than common miracles. So that even there were brought from his body to the sick, handkerchiefs and aprons: and the diseases departed from them: and the wicked spirits went out of them."
St Jerome: (340-430 AD)
We do not adore, I will not say the relics of the martyrs, but either the sun or the moon or even the angels -- that is to say, with the worship of "latria"...But we honor the martyrs' relics, so that thereby we give honor to Him Whose [witness] they are: we honor the servants, that the honor shown to them may reflect on their Master... Consequently, by honoring the martyrs' relics we do not fall into the error of the Gentiles, who gave the worship of "latria" to dead men.

The Idiot's Quick and Dirty Guide to Relics
God is a God of matter. He created matter and works through it. Blood, bread, wine, oil, mud, spittle, old prophet's bones, hems of garments, hankies, shadows etc . The Incarnation Himself shows us God works through the things of the earth.

1) Catholics don't worship relics! We venerate (honor) the memory of the person they pertain and that saint draws our hearts towards Christ, the source of all power and grace.
2) Relics have no Magic Power, or any power unto themselves.
3) Relics are never to be bought or sold! (Let's here it for the Council of Trent!) It was never an official position/teaching of the Church to allow relic sales.
4) They may be the occasion of miracles wrought by God (as in Elisha's bones) and many other documented healings in the history of the Church.
5) The use of relics can lead people to receive or respond to grace. They do not actually provide grace because they are just matter, only God can provide grace. This is the key message here.
6) There is strong historical evidence of the early church's veneration of bones, ashes of the martyrs and their tombs were often the site of prayer. After Polycarp, a disciple of John was burned at the stake: "We took up his bones, which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place, where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy and to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom." Not worshipping the dead guy, but "the honor shown them may reflect on their Master, Jesus!"
7) Does anyone want to offer me some cash for Eric Clapton's guitar string? (just kidding)


Blogger Chris Stauro said...

Enlightening post. Thanks. I recently participated in an early church history course at Fuller. I was amazed at how distorted my view was (and to some extent, probably is) of Catholic traditions.

November 08, 2006 9:51 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Thanks Chris for the kind post. Yes I too had a very distorted view of Catholic traditions because I dismissed them out of hand. Once I was able to read some of the early church history , things started making sense to me. Mark Twain said:
“I have been educated to enmity toward everything that is Catholic, and sometimes, in consequence of this, I find it much easier to discover Catholic faults than Catholic virtues. ...
Boy, that quote sure described me as well.
Thanks for visiting.

November 08, 2006 2:52 PM  

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