How to obtain relics; original Bible manuscripts

| Father Kenneth Doyle | November 19, 2014 | 0 Comments

Q. Why is it so hard to obtain first-class relics? (Also, do I need permission from my bishop to obtain them?)

A. First, a primer on the three classes of relics. As explained by Catholic News Service: “A first-class relic is the physical bodily remains of a saint or blessed like bones, blood and hair; a second-class relic is a personal possession, such as clothing, devotional objects, handwritten letters or even furniture; and a third-class relic is an object that has touched a first-class relic. These — usually small snips of cloth that have touched a blessed or saint’s tomb — often end up in public distribution fixed onto prayer cards.”

Relics have been venerated in the Church since the earliest centuries of the Christian era because they evoke the memory of the person honored and are thought to put one in closer contact with the virtues of that saint.

The largest collection of relics belongs to the Vatican and is kept at a convent adjacent to the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome. The practice of making relics generally available to the public, particularly first-class relics, ended about 20 years ago at the insistence of the Vatican.

Today, you can apply to the Vatican for a specific relic only with a letter of permission from your bishop and only if the relic will be used for a church altar or other public purpose. The private ownership, especially of first-class relics, is highly discouraged since it is seen as limiting the evangelizing effect of the saint’s memory.

Occasionally, second- or third-class relics can be obtained by contacting the religious order or shrine of a particular saint. If these shrines are unable to provide you with relics, they can at least offer you devotional material on the saints and information about their lives.

The Church’s Code of Canon Law says specifically and strongly (in No. 1190) that, “It is absolutely forbidden to sell sacred relics.” When relics are obtained, there is often a charge for the metal container encasing the relic and for mailing costs, but not for the relic itself.

Q. Where are the original writings of the disciples that were used to put together the Catholic Bible?

A. The Bible is an anthology of more than 70 books composed over a period of some 1,400 years. The oldest known manuscripts of the Christian Bible, substantially in its entirety, are the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus. The Codex Sinaiticus is said to have been penned around the middle of the fourth century and contains all of the New Testament and most of the Old Testament. It was discovered at a monastery in Mount Sinai, Egypt, in the 1800s. The Codex Sinaiticus is named after the Monastery of St. Catherine, Sinai, Egypt. A substantial portion is at the British Library in London, while smaller parts are at institutions in Germany, Russia and at its old home in Egypt.

The Codex Vaticanus is a Greek copy that has the Old Testament and much of the New Testament and also is a fourth century manuscript. It has been at the Vatican Library since at least 1481.

Father Doyle writes for Catholic News Service. A priest of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y., he previously served as director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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