One of the great critics of the validity of the cult of relics was Vigilantius, a priest in Gaul (c. 406). 'Why do you adore and kiss a bit of powder wrapped up in cloth?' he asked, insinuating that this kind of veneration reeked of pagan idolatry. Jerome rebuked him in no uncertain terms: 'If apostles and martyrs while they are still in the body can pray for others, when they should to be concerned for themselves, how much more [can they do this] when they have achieved their crowns [of victory], victories and triumphs?'52 Jerome here points to the power of intercessory prayer as the distinctive feature of future martyrs and living holy men, a power that was multiplied after their death. To Jerome and many others after him, the cult of the saints really was an extension of their interaction with 'the very special living'.


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