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The Early Church Fathers on Relics of Saints.


  • Early Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



  1. Church of Antioch, (A.D. c.30-40)
    Church of Smyrna, (A.D. c.90-100)
    Martyrdom of St. Symphorosa, (martyred A.D. c.138)
    Sts. Epipodius and his companion Alexander, (martyred A.D. 178)
    Origen of Alexandria, (A.D. 184-253)
Church of Antioch, (A.D. c.30-40), one of the five major churches that composed the Christian Church before the East-West Schism, traces its origins to the Christian community founded in Antioch by the Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul.

"Thus was he (Ignatius) delivered to the wild beasts near the temple, that so the desire of the holy martyr Ignatius might be accomplished, as it is written: "the desire of the righteous is acceptable" (Proverbs 10:24); that he might not be burdensome to any of the brethren by the gathering of his relics, according as in his epistle he had before wished, that so his end might be. For only the more solid parts of his holy relics were left, which were carried to Antioch, and wrapped in linen — a priceless treasure, bequeathed to the holy Church through the grace which was in the martyr."

Martyr.. S. Ignatii, n. vii. The edition used is that given by Gallandius, t.i.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 248-249

Church of Smyrna, (A.D. c.90-100), one of the seven churches of Asia that St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote to, also known as the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse.

"But when the emulous, and envious, and wicked adversary of the race of the just, saw the greatness of his martyrdom, and considered how irreprehensible his conversation had been from the beginning, and how he was now crowned with the crown of immortality, having without all controversy received his reward, he took all possible care that not the least relic of his body should be taken away by us, although many desired to do it, and to have a share in his holy flesh. And to that end he suggested to Nicetas, the father of Herod, and brother of Alee, to go to the governor, and hinder him from giving the body to be buried: "Lest," says he, "forsaking him that was crucified, they should begin to worship this Polycarp." And this he said, at the suggestion and instance of the Jews, who also watched us when we were about to take him away out of the fire: not considering that neither is it possible for us ever to forsake Christ, who suffered for the salvation of all such as are saved throughout the whole world, the sinless for sinners, nor worship any other. For Him indeed, being the Son of God, we adore; but the martyrs, as disciples and imitators of the Lord, we worthily love them, on account of their exceeding great affection towards their master and their king: of which (martyrs) may we also be made companions and fellow-disciples. The centurion, therefore, seeing the contention excited by the Jews, put the body into the midst of the fire, and burned it. And thus we afterwards, taking up his bones more precious than the richest jewels, and tried above gold, deposited them where it was fitting. Where the Lord will grant unto us being gathered together, as we have opportunity, with exultation and gladness, to celebrate the anniversary day of his martyrdom; both in memory of those who have wrestled, and for the exercise and preparation of those who may have to wrestle."

Epist. Encyc. Ecd. Smyrn. de Martyr. 8. Polyccvrpi, n. 17-18.
The date usually assigned to this piece is the year 147. Gallandius edition is used.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 249-250

Martyrdom of St. Symphorosa, (martyred A.D. c.138), Italian; according to tradition, she was martyred with her seven sons at Tibur (Tivoli) towards the end of the reign of Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-138).

"After this the persecution ceased for a year and six months, during which time the holy bodies of all the martyrs were honored, and deposited, with all care, in tombs constructed for them."

Ruinart, Acta Sincera, p. 19.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 249

Sts. Epipodius and his companion Alexander, (martyred A.D. 178) are venerated as Christian saints. Close friends since childhood. Their feast day is 22 April. Epipodius was a native of Lyon; Alexander was said to be a native of Phrygia, and a physician by profession. They were both martyred during the reign of Marcus Aurelius

"Into that cavern their venerable bodies were, with religious forethought, cast, because the fury of the Gentiles, denying the last rites of burial, raged even against the bodies of the dead. Afterwards, however, the reverence of religious men preserved that place, and a reverence transmitted through their posterity discovered it, and many miracles, which manifested the power of the saints. For when, in the time that followed, the people of Lyons were falling rapidly under a disease that raged, a certain youth of noble birth, who was vehemently burnt up with the violence of the fever, was admonished in a vision to seek for a remedy from the woman who preserved the sandal of the martyr. But she replied that she knew nothing of medicine, but did not deny that, by the mercy of God, she had cured very many by means of the relic of the martyr. And Lucia immediately presented to him the blessing, and the chalice of beneficent salvation. When he had received the cup, the cure of thirst, he at once, the fire of the fever extinguished, recovered in such wise, that he was said to have been restored to life and health, not by human help, but by the wonderful aid of God: which power of faith and of the saints is spread throughout the whole city, and a countless multitude, while they received health of body, received also an increase of faith; and there was a present and everlasting medicine, both of souls and bodies. But also afterwards in those places these wonderful works are shown, the casting out of demons, the cure of infirmities, the restoration of health; which things are well nigh of every-day occurrence, and works greater than these, that a firm belief, even though it be not willingly granted, is exacted by the existing miracles. Wherefore, it is fitting that faith be given to these things said arid done, for that the friendly power of God, His force and dignity, as it loves the faithful and believing, so does it abandon the doubting. Therefore let us not doubt that these things are done which we have both learned by hearing, and do now see to be manifest."

The Acts of the Martyrdom of SS. Epipodius and Alexander, given by Ruinart, Pp. 66-7.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 250-251

Origen of Alexandria, (A.D. 184-253), Alexandrian; born in Egypt, philosopher, theologian, writer.

"And no wonder if a saint sanctify, by the word of God and prayer, the food of which we partake, when even the very garments with which he is clothed are holy. The handkerchiefs and aprons of Paul derived so much holiness from his purity, that, when applied to the bodies of the sick, they drove away diseases, and restored health: and of Peter what shall I say, the very shadow of whose body bore with it so much holiness, that whomsoever, not he, but his shadow only touched, was at once relieved from every ailment." [Acts 5:15]

T. iv. L. ix. Comm. in Ep. ad Rom. 666.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 251-252



God alone is the object of our worship and adoration; but Catholics show honor to the relics of saints; and they place images and pictures in their churches to reduce their wandering thoughts and to enliven their memories towards heavenly things. They show a respect to:

      • the representations of Christ
      • the mysteries of their blessed religion, and
      • of the holy saints of God

beyond what is due to every profane figure; not that they believe any virtue resides in the relic, they honor; but because the honor given to the relic is referred to the prototype, or the thing being represented.


The Church's Scriptures that support the Relics of Saints:


The mantle of Elias parts the water so Eliseus can pass over.

13 And he took up the mantle of Elias that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 Then he took the mantle of Elias that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, "Where is the LORD, the God of Elias?" And when he had struck the waters, the water was parted to the one side and to the other; and Eliseus went over.

2 Kings 2: 13-14

Contact with Elisha's bones restored life

20 So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. 21 And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Elisha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood on his feet.


2 Kings 13:20-21

The woman who was suffering a hemorrhage is made well after touching Jesus' garment

20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment; 21 for she said to herself,
"If I only touch his garment, I shall be made well." 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." And instantly the woman was made well.


Matthew 9:20-22

Cures performed through Peter's shadow

15 Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that when Peter came, his shadow at the least might overshadow any of them, and they might be delivered from their infirmities. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.


Acts 5:15-16

Cures through handkerchiefs or aprons that touched Paul

11 And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: 12 So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.


Acts 19:11-12

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