Because Christians believe God took on a human body to work spiritually through material means and because we believe in the resurrection of our bodies, we profoundly reverence the bodies of outstanding followers of Jesus, the saints and especially the martyrs.
Historically, bones or other remains of the saints would be carried to far-off places so others might honor the saints and seek their intercession. These are called relics.
There are three types of relics:
- first-class relics, a particle of the body of a saint
- second class, something belonging to or touched by the saint, and
- third class, something which has been touched to a first-class relic.
Of course, relics of the saints in no way substitute for the sacraments, which Jesus instituted to assure our personal contact with Him, bringing us His grace and mercy.
Rather, they make tangible the communion of saints, our union with the holy ones who have gone before us and whom we ask to pray for us.
Rather than museum pieces to be collected—much less magic amulets—relics actively engage us in prayer. A relic of St John Neumann is meant to do just that.