One thing that has been an interesting facet of my conversion to Catholicism has been the veneration of the saints. That's one of those aspects of Catholicism that always caused me to scratch my head, and say, "what's the point of that? We've got a direct line to the Creator of the universe, so why should we bother with intermediaries?" I never viewed it, however, as worship of saints--I had been to too many midnight Masses not to understand that veneration of the saints meant asking them to pray for us, but it still didn't make much sense. I knew that, as crazy as Catholics might seem to my Protestant views, no one espoused worship of anyone but God, so it was an oddity that didn't make much sense to me.
Now, naturally, as a Catholic, I see it as an extension of the "Communion of the Saints," and more like a conversation with a Godly man or woman who's gone before us. I ask my brother to pray for me, and what I like about Catholics is that if I've got a problem, let's say, with making up a recipe in the kitchen for a baking competition, I can now appeal to the Patron Saint of Bakers, who happens to be Saint Honore, and plead with him to pray that I get some insight into why my cake keeps flopping. And I don't say that in jest--I view the saints now as my brothers and sisters, and since I believe in eternal life, I believe that they are the literal "holy host" around us, and I believe that the saints honestly still have the capacity to care for us, just as we care for those who are alive and present with us today. The next time I enter a baking competition, I'll appeal to Saint Honore to help pray for some special graces, which I just happen to think is very, very cool. And theologically sound.
The relics and bones of saints are another rather Catholic thing which seemed a bit macabre to me. If my understanding is correct, most every Catholic parish named after a particular saint, has, if at all possible, a relic of their patron saint. This, at times, has stretched credulity for me, but my young Catholic mind is starting to wrap my head around it.
One naturally wonders as well, when all of this came about. Tonight, I was doing some readings of the Church Fathers, (my favorite authors, EVER, mind you), and I was looking at how they talked about some passage in Romans. And I stumbled upon a rather interesting little piece from Gregory the Great that blew my nascent reconciled Catholic mind, and I share it below. It is an excerpt from a letter of Gregory, Bishop of Rome, to Augustine, newly appointed Bishop of the "Angli," which of course now Britain.
I request that the relics of Saint Sixtus the martyr may be sent to us.
The grant of Gregory.
We have done what thou hast requested, to the end that the people who formerly said that they venerated in a certain place the body of Saint Sixtus the martyr, which seems to thy Fraternity to be neither the true body nor truly holy, may receive certain benefits from the most holy and approved martyr, and not reverence what is uncertain. Yet it seems to me that, if the body which is believed by the people to be that of some martyr is distinguished among them by no miracles, and if further there are none of the more aged who declare that they had heard the order of his passion from progenitors, the relics which thou hast asked for should be so deposited apart that the place in which the aforesaid body lies, be entirely blocked up, and that the people be not allowed to desert what is certain, and venerate what is uncertain.Apparently this stuff has been going on in the Church for centuries. Whoa, Nelly!