Recently, I referred to relics as “that ick Catholics lug around.” I apologize. That was irreverent of me. Last thing I want is to get a bunch of religious people upset.
Actually that’s mighty far from the last thing I want, and I have my moods when I actively pursue it. But it isn’t nice, and even I know that. Things people fervently believe in don’t affect me, except of course when they do.
Relics aren’t doing me any harm though. What you do with a relic is you venerate it as a vessel for God’s grace. Sometimes you can even coax a miracle out of it. Your basic relic first-class is usually a body part of some kind, or anything directly involved in the execution of an eligible martyr. (The aforementioned Ick.) A relic second-class would be something saint-adjacent, such as the saint’s dish towel or running shoes. And you can make new relics for yourself (third-class) by touching a first-class relic with something else and getting some grace smeared on it.
But I’d think you’re getting pretty tenuous with the grace by that point. Grace is God’s mercy on you and although it is not officially stated that relics have magic powers to compel God to grant you such mercy, it is thought that having a good relic around might get him in the mood.
A lot of your earlier sacred bodies were not available to plunder for relics because churches were built over their remains, for extra blessings, sort of like the house landing on the Wicked Witch of the East, only nicer. And of course it can be a long time before an apprentice saint makes journeyman, during which his or her mortal remains might have gone astray.
Joan of Arc, for instance, had to wait five hundred years, besides which her remains were supposed to have been thrown into the Seine. The English burned her for a witch three times before calling it a done deal. But some ashes from her pyre were supposedly discovered in a Paris apothecary in 1867. Tests on one bone found in the relics showed it was the leg of a cat. It was thus assumed someone had tossed a black cat on the fire to appease the devil, but it is also perfectly logical to conclude St. Joan was reincarnated as a cat, which would make her a Hindu. That doesn’t fit anyone’s narrative, though.
Some of the relics get a little morbid, in my opinion. It’s one thing to have a holy toe knuckle but they have St. Yves’ entire skull in a box now, just staring at you, in that vacant way skulls do. St. Yves died of natural causes and he was pretty popular so I guess they hung onto his head, just to keep him around, although in my book one of his old shirts would have done just as well.
Not much you can do about Jesus either inasmuch as he floated away, bones and all, although someone did cook up a burial shroud for him after a few centuries. Even the pope doesn’t think the Shroud of Turin is authentic but believes it should be venerated anyway because of how holy it makes people feel, and that gets them even closer to God’s mercy. And what else are you going to do with it? You don’t just take something like that and toss it in the Goodwill bag after the carbon-daters ruin all the fun.
Me, I just hope God has mercy on black cats.