In the Catholic Church, the word "relic" refers to the physical remains or the personal effects of a saint. Relics are classified as first-class (parts of a saint's body, usually very small), second-class (something the saint owned or wore, sometimes soil from the saint's grave or, in the case of the Virgin Mary, water from a spring associated with a vision) and third-class (objects, often pieces of cloth, touched to a first-class relic). The veneration of relics is found in many religions, not simply Catholicism. It helps practitioners honor their holy dead and stay connected to the heroes of their faith.

Do a little research, then go straight to the source. Write to the head of the Capuchin order if you are trying to get a relic of a Capuchin friar. Write to the Church of St. Susanna in Rome if you're looking for a relic of St. Susanna. Ask the right people and you'll be more like to have success finding a relic.

Call your local Catholic bookstore. Often, bookstore owners know of religious orders and shrines willing to help people acquire certain relics.

Make a trip to a shrine. If the saint's body is interred on the grounds, you may be able acquire a third-class or even second-class relic.

Tip

  • Shrines often have free holy cards containing third-class relics. If no relics are available, simply ask: priests are usually eager to answer questions and foster devotion to saints.

Tip

  • Not everything called a relic is an actual relic. Relics are notoriously easy to fake. Real relics usually come with some form of authentication--a wax seal, for example, or a certificate from the shrine where the saint's body rests. Always ask for authentication.

    Beware of anyone offering to sell you a relic. Canon Law absolutely forbids the trafficking of relics, though you may be asked to reimburse someone for the cost of shipping and handling. Additionally, if the relic is set in an ornate frame--called a reliquary--you may be asked to purchase the reliquary, understanding that the relic comes with it.