A Banquet of Relics

News: Video Reports
by Kristine Christlieb  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  March 23, 2023   

Full display of one parish's collection

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A Detroit parish is displaying its rich collection of relics and resurrecting a Catholic tradition.

In tonight's In-Depth Report, Church Militant's Kristine Christlieb takes us to the only church in the world named Sweetest Heart of Mary.

Patricia Stephanoff, relic curator, Sweetest Heart of Mary: "There were so many relics. In fact, we kept finding more and more relics in boxes, even cigar boxes — first-class relics."

When relic curator Patricia Stephanoff accepted the job of organizing the parish's relics, she found an embarrassment of riches: more than 100 authenticated first-class relics.

Stephanoff: "You really can't display these relics without an authentic paper. And they're actually called 'authentics.' So they bear a seal; they're signed by a bishop or a cardinal. They have information on the authentic of who the saint is and what body part the relic came from."

There are three classes of relics: first class, second class and third class.

Stephanoff: "A first-class relic is always a body part of the saint. It has to be from their body. So we've classified all these relics, we've cataloged them, including what makes them a first-class relic. It's usually bone but it's also ashes; it's hair, flesh and just a few other categories like that."

Stephanoff went on to explain that any relic related to Jesus or Mary is also considered a first-class relic.

One of the parish's most valuable relics in the display is the flagellation pillar.

Stephanoff: "The holy manger, the Cross, the flagellation pillar that we have up there — those were all brought from Jerusalem by St. Helen, the mother of Constantine, back to Rome."

Touching any devotional item, such as a Rosary or a medal, to a first-class or second-class relic creates a third-class relic.

According to Fr. Paul Kalchik: "As many men and women have found solace and consolation from visiting the graves of much-loved deceased family members, many Christians have found inspiration and spiritual aid from visiting deceased saints and venerating their remains or other relics."

Stephanoff reminds people that we are not worshipping the saints or their relics. "We don't worship them; we don't adore them, but we venerate them. And that's what we're doing today. And who knows? We hope that, through the will of God, we have a lot of miracles happen."

The biblical woman with the issue of blood believed that merely touching the fringe of Jesus' garment could heal her. And she was right!

If you're interested in venerating the crown of thorns, visit it at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on the first Friday of every month and every Friday during Lent.

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