7 Weird and Wonderful Catholic Relics – EpicPew

7 Weird and Wonderful Catholic Relics

Relics may be one of the weirdest parts of being Catholic. In everyday life we often save momentos from loved ones who have passed away: jewelery, sweaters, a blanket they made. Rarely do we save someon’e arm, heart, or toe–unless they were a saint.

St. Jude’s Arm

via thecompassnews.org

The arm bone of St. Jude is currently making its way around the US. The Apostle’s bone is housed in a reliquary shaped like a forearm with the hand posed to give a blessing. St. Jude is, of course, the patron of impossible causes. Visiting his relic can be a sort of pilgrimage to seek his intercession.

St. Januarius’ Blood

via aleteia.org

Perhaps one of the odder relics is that belonging to St. Januarius. A clump of his dry blood is kept in Naples. On three days during the year the dry blood (usually) liquifies inlcuding the saint’s feast day on September 19th and the anniversary of the erruption of Mt. Vesuvius which Naples was spared from through his intercession. If the blood does not liquify people associate this with some kind of travesty. For example, the blood did not liquify in December of 2020. The bishop shed his blood as a martyr in the fourth century and we Catholics continue to revere it today.

Mary Magdalene’s Foot

via flickr

The foot bones of St. Mary Magdalene are held in a reliquary in Rome in the Church of St. John the Baptist of the Florentines. It is particularly fitting that we revere her foot which walked to the tomb of the Risen Christ. After meeting Jesus in the garden, Mary Magdalene walked on those foot bones back to share the good news with the Eleven. This is why she is called the Apostle to the Apostles in the eastern churches.

St. Phillip Neri’s Heart

via wikipedia public domain

This relic was miraculous before the saint even passed away. St. Philip Neri had a vision of a ball of fire enetering his mouth and resting on his heart which afterwards felt larger. It was confirmed after his death, that his heart, in fact, was enlarged. Known for his joyfullness and love, St. Philip Neri’s heart is venerable in a special way.

Relics of the Crucifixion

via passionofchrist.us

In a church in Rome, a bit removed from St. Peter’s and the main bustle around Vatican City, are displayed reliquaries containing two thorns from the crown placed on Christ’s head, one of the nails driven into him, and fragments of wood from the Cross He died on. While it may seem strange to kneel before the instruments of someone’s death, we do not venerate these objects because of the pain they caused but because through that suffering, and Jesus’s eventual death, our salvation was won.

St. Catherine’s Head

via wikimedia commons © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro used with permission

Sometimes the reason a devotion develops to a certain part of a person’s body is spiritual in nature. Other times it is purely practical. In the case of St. Catherine of Sienna’s head it is mostly the latter. Someone thought Sienna ought to have some of their own saint but did not think they could smuggle a whole body out of Rome. Instead, the saint’s head was removed from her decomposing body and sent out of the city. When guards inspected the bag it was in all they saw were flower petals.

St. Anthony of Padua’s Tongue

via Richard Martel on Flickr used with permission

Though he is known for finding lost car keys, St. Anthony of Padua was also a great preacher. When his body was exhumed more than 300 years after his death, it had sufferred the usual decay with the notable exception of his tongue which has been kept and revered since.

Though relics may be weird they also serve a purpose. They are a way we can show our veneration and admiration to the work God has done in His saints.

Featured Image: by Michal Mrozek on Unsplash