The Assumption: Why are there no relics of Mary?

The Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15. The Assumption is one of the four Marian dogmas, and the belief that when her earthly life was complete, the Blessed Mother was assumed body and soul into heaven.

Marge Fenelon, Catholic author and speaker, says she likes to have a simple answer to give people who ask her what this feast day means. “For the most part, I think a lot of us accept it, she was assumed into heaven, and then we just go on living. But what does that really mean? And what it means is that she was body and soul taken up into heaven because her body was unstained from original sin, she bore Christ, and that’s the Catholic belief—but there’s some proof of that,” says Fenelon.

“Mary died in the presence of the apostles, but when her tomb was later opened it was found empty. And so the apostles could only conclude that the body was taken up into heaven. There were no relics, she was gone from her tomb,” says Fenelon. “This was brought to light in 451—the Counsel of Chalcedon. And the emperor wanted to enshrine the relics of Mary in Constantinople, which was the capital. So he asked the patriarch of Jerusalem to bring the relics of Mary to this counsel. Well then of course the patriarch had to explain, ‘well emperor, there are no relics because the apostles found that the tomb was empty.’”

Well-known Catholic speaker and author, Steve Ray, explained the meaning of the Assumption from a Catholic convert’s point of view. “I was an Evangelical Protestant, and I have to admit, that’s what we thought—that the Pope just decided all of a sudden to make up a new doctrine, that the Catholic Church just invented these things out of nowhere.”

However, Ray explains that Catholic teaching is based on three things—scripture, tradition, and magisterium, because the Church is the teaching authority of God on earth. “The Catholic Church didn’t invent this, this was part of the deposit of faith that was given by Jesus and the apostles…over the centuries we unpack it, we peel back layers and we start to understand the tradition of Jesus and the apostles more and more.”