On the Veneration of Relics

In front of the relics of St. La Salle at the Sanctuary of St. La Salle in Rome (June 18, 2010), thanking God for the life and example of St. La Salle and the Lasallian spirituality of love and zeal rooted in faith in Christ.

Tomorrow, June 15, 2011, a relic of St. John Baptist de la Salle will be brought to DLSU for veneration. But what is a relic, and what is veneration?

First, what is a relic? A relic can be part of the body of a holy person (e.g., the bones of Elisha which, by the power of the Holy Spirit, brought a dead man back to life, as recorded in 2 Kings 13:21) or an object that is closely associated with a holy person (e.g., the staff of Aaron which, by the power of the Holy Spirit, budded and produced ripe almonds, as recorded in Numbers 17:8).

Second, what is veneration? Catholic and Orthodox Christians distinguish between veneration (dulia) and adoration (latria). Canonized saints can be venerated but never adored, for adoration belongs only to God. Therefore veneration and adoration, though treated as synonyms of worship by most dictionaries, are as vastly far apart in the theological sense as the Creator is infinitely superior to His creation. The veneration of saints extends to honoring their relics “in memory of them” (St. Aquinas, Summa Theologica III:25:6).

Most but not all Protestant Christian denominations do not distinguish between dulia and latria. Believing that all of Christ’s followers are saints (e.g., 1 Corinthians 1:2, KJV), they neither canonize nor venerate deceased Christians, though they do treat Christians of special sanctity or valor, whether living or deceased (e.g., C. S. Lewis, Martin Luther King), with honor and draw inspiration from them. (Lutheran and Anglican Christians, however, do accept the difference between dulia and latria and the veneration of saints.)

Tomorrow, FORMDEV facis will take part in honoring a relic (specifically, part of the radius bone) of St. John Baptist de la Salle. It will be a time of great celebration as we thank God for gifting us with St. La Salle and the Lasallian spirituality, in which love for fellow men and women, especially the poor and the youth, and zeal for their salvation, are rooted in faith in Christ. Together with St. La Salle, we shall shout in our hearts, “Live Jesus in our hearts, forever!

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3 thoughts on “On the Veneration of Relics

  1. Most enlightening! Thanks for this article! Hopefully one of these days I will get a chance too, to pray to God in front of a relic of St. John de La Salle, that during those instances when He calls me to evangelize through teaching, St. La Salle’s life would be my guide.

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