On Tuesday, May 29, Nativity of Mary will be hosting over 150 relics of the Saints of our Church. It will be a wonderful time for us to encounter the Saints. So, what are relics?
A relic is a piece of the body of a saint (1st class relic), an item owned or used by the saint (2nd class relic), or an object which has been touched to the tomb of a saint (3rd class relic). Because the remains of a Saint are still connected with who they are, the relics become a way of connecting with the holiness of that individual.
In the Bible, we find several accounts where individuals would come into
contact with holy people and they would receive a special grace:
· When the corpse of a man was touched to the bones of the prophet Elisha, the man came back to life and rose to his feet (2 Kings 13:20-21).
· The signs and wonders worked by the Apostles were so great that people would line the streets with the sick so that when Peter walked by at least his shadow might ‘touch’ them (Acts 5:12-15).
· When handkerchiefs or aprons that had been touched to Paul were applied to the sick, the people were healed and evil spirits were driven out of them (Acts 19:11-12).
We are celebrating Memorial Day this Monday, and many people have the tradition of going to the graves of relatives or friends who have passed away. They go to the grave to connect with that person. Even though they know that the person has passed on, the mortal remains still carry with them a connection for the individuals. In a similar way, the remains of Saints connect us with the ones who have been canonized and are in heaven.
The veneration of relics has a long history in our faith. At the martyrdom of St. Polycarp in 156 AD, the people knew that he was holy, and so they had great respect for his remains, “We adore Christ, because He is the Son of God, but the martyrs we love as disciples and imitators of the Lord. So we buried in a becoming place Polycarp’s remains, which are more precious to us than the costliest diamonds, and which we esteem more highly than gold” (Acts of St. Polycarp).
One key distinction is that we do not worship the Saints. They are humans, just like you and I. They are not the ones who can save us from our sins. However, they are great examples of our faith and God continues to give his grace to us through the Saints. St. Jerome explained our veneration of the Saints well when he said, “We do not worship relics, we do not adore them, for fear that we should bow down to the creature rather than to the creator. But we venerate the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore him whose martyrs they are” (Ad Riparium, i, P.L., XXII, 907).
We venerate relics only for the sake of worshiping God. So, I invite you all to come to this great event at our parish on Tuesday, May 29 at 7 PM, beginning in the Sanctuary. Bring your family and friends. It will be a time filled with great grace for all those who attend and Nativity of Mary Catholic Church.
Fr. Nels Gjengdahl