It was reported on bbc.com that “[t]housands of Canadians across Canada have attended public veneration for the right forearm of St Francis Xavier”. Veneration of relics has been a practice of the Catholic Church for centuries. The relics venerated include heads, hair, fingers, fingernails, arms, tongue, dried blood, skin.
Catholics are told that it is proper to venerate the relics of martyrs and saints. In his letter to Riparius, a presbyter of Aquitaine who preached against the worship of relics, St. Jerome wrote, “We do not worship relics, we do not adore them, 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.” (Letter 109)
The Catholic Church and St. Jerome are both wrong.
First of all, we should worship only God. Veneration of relics is actually a violation of God’s First Commandment, which states:
I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.
Secondly, relics are body parts of the dead, and dead bodies remain dead.
They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased; they shall not rise …. (Isaiah 26:14)
There is a story in the Old Testament about a miracle being performed when a dead body touched the bones of a holy person:
Elisha died and was buried. Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet. (2 Kings 13 20–22)
However, there is much about the story that we do not know. Who was the man? How did he die? Is it possible that he wasn’t really dead when he was being buried?
Catholics have been given many reasons for venerating relics. What they do not know is that the tradition of venerating relics leads them away from God, Whom alone they should adore and worship.