One of the aspects of our faith that must seem shockingly strange to outsiders is the concept of relics. Are you familiar? Relics are holy items from the lives of Jesus and canonized saints - and sometimes from the saints themselves. No, it's not as weird as it sounds.
In the Catholic Church, there are three degrees of relics. A First Degree Relic is either an item directly related to the life of Christ (i.e. a piece of His cross or the manger in which He was born) or the physical remains of a Saint (i.e. a bone fragment, a bit of hair, an intact arm, etc.). This admittedly seems a bit odd and macabre when we first hear of it. Old body parts being preserved and venerated? Yuck!
We believe these relics to be holy, as the soul connected to them has since attained the joy of Heaven. Sometimes, the relics of Saints are even miraculously preserved without decay! A Second Degree Relic is an item (or piece of an item) that the Saint touched or frequently used, such as a shirt or a crucifix. These relics are also often split into smaller pieces so that they can be venerated in more places!
Finally, a Third Degree relic is any object that has been in contact with a First or Second Degree Relic. One of the most common types of Third Degree Relics is a small piece of cloth that has been touched to the tomb of a Saint. This is also by far the most common and accessible form of relic.
Relics are not to be worshipped, as that is reserved for the Lord Himself. Rather, we venerate these sacred items and view them as powerful vehicles for the Saints' intercession for us in Heaven. Praised be to God for the Saints and their witnesses of faith! May we all one day attain the joy of Heaven with them.