The Diocese of Burlington’s archives is home to several relics, and as All Saints Day (Nov. 1) approaches, it is appropriate to learn about them.

What is a relic?

The word “relic” comes from the word for remains or something left behind from a holy person or event. The bones of a martyr, the clothing of a saint, a blood-stained corporal from a Eucharistic miracle — these are all relics.

The origin of venerating such mementos is not medieval but biblical. The tablets of the Ten Commandments, Elijah’s mantle, even the bones of Elisha (2 Kgs 13:21) were all relics imbued with God’s power and revered by God’s people. In the New Testament, God’s healing power was transmitted through the hem of the Lord’s garment (Lk 8:44) and handkerchiefs touched to St. Paul (Acts 19:12).

— Catholic News Service

Classifications of Relics

First-class relics are items directly associated with Christ’s life (like the cross or manger) or the remains of a saint (like bone or hair).

Second-class relics are items owned by or frequently used by a saint (like clothing).

A third-class relic is an item that touched a first- or second-class relic.

—Originally published in the Fall 2022 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.