The Featured Image
A Liturgical Calendar of Saints from the Late 19th Century
A Collection of 365 Saints in One Reliquary
This reliquary, containing the relics of every saint honored on the liturgical calendar of the late 19th century for each day of the year, is quite possibly one of the most unique items in the Papal Artifacts’ Collection. It is in perfect condition with the actual relics fanning out of each side according to which month it is.
The relics are contained in an ornate wooden case. It is in perfect condition attesting to the care with which these saints have been venerated.
And Father Kunst’s Column:
I’ve a Unique Hobby–but It’s Not Simony
Everything to Do with Purchasing Relics
Fr. Richard Kunst
I readily admit that I have one of the more unique hobbies out there. I don’t go hunting as much as I used to, and I don’t play in any sports, as I did when I was younger. (I golf but am not any good at it.)
I don’t collect coins, stamps or baseball card.
I collect popes.
Well, not popes, per se, but anything that has to do with a pope, or saints for that matter—autographs, clothing items, sacred vessels used by popes or saints, and other unique items associated with these holy people.
My strange and different hobby has, at times, been questioned and criticized, in particular when it comes to simony.
Simony is defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as, “The buying or selling of spiritual things, which have God alone as their owner and master.”
The abuse and practice of simony is named after an obscure character in the Acts of the Apostles named Simon the Magician who wanted to buy spiritual powers from St. Peter. The Apostle responded to the request by saying, “Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could contain God’s gift with money!” (Acts 8:20).
The catechism (2121) says, “It is impossible to appropriate to oneself spiritual goods and behave towards them as their owner or master, for they have their source in God. One can receive them only from him, without payment.
Simony was a really big problem during much of the Catholic Church’s history, especially in the Middle Ages, when different offices and even dioceses in the church were sold to the highest bidder. People would actually pay to become a bishop or a priest, and more than one papal election is suspected of being decided by simony.
Although popes have tried to rid the church of the worst abuses of simony through the centuries, it wasn’t really until the Council of Trent in the 16th century that the selling of offices was rooted out.
Thank goodness that form of simony is no longer practiced, but lesser forms of the sin are still committed, for example the sale of relics.
I remember as a seminarian traveling to Rome and being able to visit a convent that was commissioned by the Vatican to be the executor and distributor of relics of hundreds of different saints. They literally had a thick notebook filled with the names of different saints whose relics they offered for distribution; you simply put in an order, and a week or so later you could pick up the relics.
This was done with three different price categories. The prices were not based on the relic but on the size of the reliquary.
Relics have to be free of charge.
You cannot sell them because they are a spiritual good. The cases the relics come in can be sold, but the relics cannot be.
This might seem to some to be a fine line, and it is. The good sisters in Rome no longer distribute relics like they used to because of online auctions and the true abuse that can come from such auctions on holy relics. Go on EBay sometime and do a search for Catholic relics and you may be surprised what is out there on the market.”
So let’s look at the basics of what simony really is and what it is not. Here is a quote from the New Catholic Encyclopedia that might surprise you: “There are numerous practices that are not simoniacal…Blessed objects, such as rosaries, chalices, and crucifixes, may be sold provided the price is not increased on that account” (vol. 13, p. 135).
In other words, it is perfectly valid to sell a blessed and holy item as long as you are not raising the price because it is blessed. It must equate with the material value of the item. We cannot have power and ownership of the spiritual power, which is God’s alone, but we can have ownership of the physical properties of the holy item.
The problem and sin of simony comes from the intention and desire to have spiritual powers and abilities for a price. The seriousness of the sin is in equating spiritual with temporal goods. If people think they can buy spiritual powers and intend to do so, then they are in heresy and serious sin.
Back to my collection—is it simony?
No more so than going to an antique shop and buying an old rosary that might have been blessed. The desire and intent is not to buy the blessing that comes with the rosary, but rather the physical rosary itself so as to pray with it.
And what about the online auctions and the selling of so many holy relics? Is it OK to buy them?
It is an unfortunate situation to have so many sacred items for sale, because we never know into whose hands they will fall. Who is buying them and for what purpose?
If it is your intention to purchase these items to get them off the market and to use them for your own spiritual well-being, then it is a good thing to be encouraged.