Sunday, 3 May 2015
Relics, 5th Sunday of Easter, Year B
We’re now in the fifth week of Eastertide. This season, in focusing on the Lord’s victory in the resurrection focuses also on His POWER.
I'd like to consider an example of this power in the effectiveness of His SAINTS in praying for us, and in obtaining for us the things we ask of them. In the Gospel text and second reading we heard that those who remain in Him may ask what they will, and they will get it (Jn 15:7). The experience of the Church down the centuries has shown us that the saints, those who “remained” in Him, and in “His word” have worked great wonders by their prayers, and so Christians down the centuries have called out to the saints to ask them to pray on our behalf. Their lives on earth manifested their closeness to the Lord; they are now already in heaven; and so we ask them to pray for us in our needs. And these prayers bear fruit.
This pattern shows two truths:
First, what is called “the communion of saints”, namely, that we are in union, in communion, with the saints who have died, because we are all united in Christ. Thus we can turn to them just as we would turn to a living friend and ask him or her to pray for us.
Second, the effectiveness of their prayers witnesses to the fact that God is still active today. It is not just that He once worked miracles, once rose from the dead, and then stopped doing anything. No. He is still at work. Still answering prayers, still working miracles. And He frequently chooses to work miracles through the intercession of His saints, thereby drawing us to these role models of how to live and love.
One common way that Christians turn to the saints is by going to pilgrimage to places associated with the saints, or to their graves. Our Catholic faith teaches us that we our BODILY creatures, and we contact God and the saints through bodily, physical things. I have a toolbox in my house, a toolbox that was once my grandpa’s, and keeping it keeps me close to him. Similarly, Catholics keep relics of the saints, things that the saints have touched, as a way of being close to the saints, and of asking the saints to be with us and help us. We see this same pattern in the Scriptures:
In Acts 19:12 we hear of how handkerchiefs that had been in contact with St. Paul's body were carried to other people and used to produce miracles. Similarly, St Peter’s shadow healed by its touch.
In the Old Testament we likewise hear of miracles associated with relics: in 2 Kgs 13 the body of a dead man was touched to the bones of Elisha and Elisha’s bones brought the man back to life.
So, miracles associated with the relics of the saints is something very Scriptural, and it is also very Scriptural that the good people of God should SEEK out the relics of the saints in order to have a miracle.
That brings me to a special opportunity that you'll have in a couple weeks in visits relics in Dorchester. Many of you will remember the national media sensation that was caused by the flocks of pilgrims who came to venerate the relics of St Therese of Lisieux when they toured English shrines in 2009. Similarly, in less than two weeks the relics, I.e. A special casket holding their bones, will be coming to Dorchester. These parents, Louis and Zelie Martin, are currently beatified and will be canonised as saints this October. They are great figures for you to pray to for help: for parents, for marriages, for families. For the bereaved: because Louis lost his wife while he was still young. For the mentally ill: because Louis suffered from this in his later years.
Or for any other particular need you might have: going to Dorchester, venerating the relics,and praying to these new saints, parents of the powerful intercessor St Therese, would be a great way to make intercession.
As a part of this our Bishop will be leading a Mass with renewal of wedding vows on the Monday evening.
To return to where I began: The Lord told us that He hears the prayers of those who “remain” in Him and remain in “His word”. This means, and the Church’s experience shows, that He hears the prayers of the saints with particular power, and so we ask the saints to pray for us in our needs.
Our newsletter insert tells you about these two new saints. Turn to them with YOUR needs, and please consider coming to venerate their relics in Dorchester. The times of events there are included in the newsletter. I'd particularly encourage you to go the Monday evening –there is sign up sheet in the porch to share car lifts and transport. Please make use of this great opportunity of grace.
My sermon before the visit of the relics of St Therese in September 2009 can be read HERE
Catholic classification and prohibitions
Saint Jerome declared, "We do not worship, we do not adore, 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).
Items directly associated with the events of Christ's life (manger, cross, etc.), or the physical remains of a saint (a bone, a hair, a limb, etc.).
An item that the saint wore (a shirt, a glove, etc.), owned or frequently used, for example, a crucifix, book etc.
Any object that is touched to a first- or second-class relic. Most third-class relics are small pieces of cloth.
The sale of relics is strictly forbidden by the Church.