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A few weeks ago, I was in Rome on pilgrimage. I received from a Passionist priest at a monastery there a first-class relic of St. Gemma Galgani, a saint I dearly love. It came at no cost and with an official certificate from their postulator general.

But yesterday another priest informed me that there are directives from the Holy See and canon law discouraging the private ownership of first-class relics; he said that he and others received first-class relics from the same location, but they were taken by the ordinary bishop of a neighboring diocese once the bishop broke the news regarding private ownership of relics.

As I devout Catholic, I want to do right by God and Holy Mother Church. Your article says that today it is not possible to legally obtain first-class relics from Rome on a personal basis, so I am concerned with the idea that I very innocently but illegally obtained and now possess a first-class relic. Does it seem like this monastery has the legal right to distribute such relics of saints associated with their congregation, or is it an abuse? Why does it seem like few priests are aware of these directives? What should I do? –Phil

I’m interested in knowing if there is anything in canon law regarding other custodians of relics— not the Vatican, but, for example, the religious order to which a saint belonged. Are there any rules or laws governing how a religious order, for example, acts as custodian of the relics of a saint who belonged to their order?

In the parish where I work in [Europe], we have a number of relics…. Often we get email requests, always from other countries, for us to “send a relic” to a person by mail. Once an American woman even sent an email telling us when she’d appear in our city and asking where, exactly, she “should go to pick up my relic” of a certain saint. She expected just to appear and walk away with a first-class relic.

Even the clergy can be clueless about “what you have to do to get a first-class relic.” I could not imagine that a parish priest would not realize that an American vacationing in Europe cannot just walk into a local parish and “pick up a relic” like a souvenir t-shirt or coffee mug… –Cornelia Continue reading

Q: Could you please go over the laws and minimum requirements for the valid celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation. I fear that a lot of Catholics go to confession and hear all kinds of things in place of the standard prayer of absolution. Could you please tell us what the minimum requirements are? And whether it is valid if the priest says, “your sins are forgiven,” and nothing more, or “I absolve you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” and nothing more, or “Jesus absolves you of your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” or, mumbles his words or silently prays them so that the penitent does not even hear them?

Is the sacrament valid if it takes place in the church parking lot or another public place? For example, the priest is walking out to his car (you’re running late to confession) and you catch him in the parking lot before he leaves and ask him to hear your confession and he does, is it valid? Are you forgiven? If the priest hears your confession in his office? Or a penitent sees a Catholic priest in an airport and asks him? –Mike Continue reading