Thursday, November 6, 2008

Relics - V - and Abuses Thereof

Having just said Vespers of the feria in our (still intact) chapel, I suddenly realized that atop the empty tabernacle we keep both two third-class relics (of St Pio of Pietrelcina and St Rita of Cascia) and a first class relic, a tiny fragment of the body (of the bones, I suppose) of St Paul of the Cross, Founder of the Passionists.  This I kissed and venerated in particular, calling to mind how earthly and low I am in all truth, compared to such a saint, glorified unspeakably by God in heaven.  How far it is from earth to heaven!  Only by the Ladder of the Man-God, Christ, can we hope to ascend so high.

Having returned to my room, I have just toted up my own very minor collection of third-class relics:

  • a cloth touched to the relics of St Dominic;
  • ditto, of St Pio of Pietrelcina;
  • ditto, of St Faustina;
  • ditto, of St Thérèse (and rose petals blessed in her honour, a sort of quasi-relic given her dying words);
  • ditto, of Bl Maria Sagrario of St Aloysius Gonzaga, Carmelite nun, virgin and martyr of the Spanish Civil War;
  • a piece of the religious habit of Bl Columba Marmion.

Unfortunately, while I used to have a third-class relic of St Martin de Porres, I left it in my pocket once and it got lost in the washing machine, mea maxima culpa...

(Which reminds me of a certain priest, zealously orthodox, who had amassed quite a collection of relics, including those of all the apostles; which he kept in a shoebox under his bed.

(Other friends of mine, both seminarians at one time, had during their time in Rome obtained far too many relics from, in their own words, "a corrupt nun at the Relics Office", who ran a roaring trade until her overgenerosity was detected and she was exiled to Iran - as happened to a certain reputed freemason...

(And of course there was the former student at the North American College within the past decade, who funded his Roman idyll by purveying for a due consideration "relics" to gullible fellow-countrymen, "relics" which it transpired he forged by grinding up animal bones!

(Indeed, along similar lines, for a lark, one of those ex-seminarian mates of mine and I invited a lecturer of ours at the John Paul II Institute to attend a Dry Mass that my friend would pretend to offer up, with elevation of such a relic - an abomination, as Fortescue averred! - but of course  this was only a joke.

(So, in answer to the unspoken question, Are the well-known abuses of the veneration of relics still about, Yes, of course, men are still fallen and sinners, but abusus non tollit usus.)

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