imageRoberto Scalese of (Boston Globe) tries his hand at defining a relic while writing, Why is a Vial of Pope John Paul II’s Blood Coming to Boston this Weekend?

For the uninitiated, relics are a big deal in Catholicism. According to the Catholic Education Resource Center, there are three classes of relics. First class relics are from the actual body of a saint. Like this vial of John Paul II’s blood. Then there are second class relics, which are objects used by a saint. Picture a frock or scepter. Third class relics were touched by a saint. The Shroud of Turin is probably the most famous third class relic, even if its authenticity is in doubt.

Saint Jesus?  Which saint touched the shroud?  Joseph of Arimathea?  Or should it be what saint instead of which, implying many more?

According to Scalese, the John Paul II Shrine in Washington, D.C. puts it this way:

Here we need to pause for a moment. Perhaps in our technological age, the whole idea of relics may seem strange. Remember, all of us treasure things that have belonged to someone we love—a piece of clothing, another personal item, a lock of hair. Those “relics” remind us of the love we share with that person while he was still living and even after death. Our hearts are torn when we think about disposing of the very personal things of a deceased loved one. Even from an historical sense, at Ford’s Theater Museum for instance, we can see things that belonged to President Lincoln, including the blood-stained pillow on which he died. More importantly, we treasure the relics of saints, the holy instruments of God.

Didn’t we try our hand at this when the pope called the shroud an icon? To my way of thinking the shroud is a all-classes relic of Christ, plain and simple. So, too, the Sudarium of Oviedo is all-classes. So, too, a small cloth with the blood of Christ at the Basilica of the Holy Blood at Bruges in Belgium is such a relic. Of course, questions abound.