Faithful blessed to see Saint relics up close

St. Katherine Drexel Parish was filled with the Faithful looking to view a traveling exhibit of Saint relics.

Being in the presence of 165 relics was a powerful experience for many. Notable pieces in the recent exhibition include a portion of the True Cross and a piece of the veil of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A relic is a piece of the body of the saint, usually a bone, or an item used or owned by the Saint or an object that has touched the tomb of the Saint.

Even with several hundred people in the Parish Hall, everyone spoke in hushed tones and were in full reverence when they encountered relics of St. Joseph, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Maria Goretti, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Faustina Kowalska, Pope John Paul II and many more.

Some kneeled before certain relics, while other touched them with religious articles, such as medals or rosaries, and still others picked them up to place them close to their heart or kiss the item.

Sofia Thompson of St. Katharine Drexel was brought to tears by being in the presence of the relic of St. Catherine of Siena, a Doctor of the Church, known for her holiness, spiritual visions and writings who had great influence in the Church of the 14th century.

“She was such a strong remarkable woman that my whole family has adored forever,” Thompson said. “My late mother had a strong devotion to Catherine. She had several books about her and a large statue, which now sits in my bedroom.”

Hosted by Father Carlos Martins, C.C. (Companions of the Cross), the “Treasures of the Church” exhibit travels around the world to spread the experience of the living God, through an encounter with the relics in the form of an exposition. Father Martins explained what a relic is and isn’t, the history of why Catholics have relics from the Saints, and then the process of getting relics and verifying their authenticity.

The veneration of these sacred relics is a long tradition in the Church dating to the earliest days when the first Christians would gather near the tombs of the early martyrs. Miracles were connected with these sacred places and relics, which do not have some magical power in them, their power comes from God, Father Martins explained. “The fact that God uses the relics for healing miracles tells us that the Lord wants us to draw our attention to the Saints as models and intercessors.

In fact, every Catholic Church in the world possesses a relic on its altar, a tradition that dates back to the 4th century. The most recent example in the Diocese of Venice occurred in 2021 at the dedication of the new St. Paul Parish Church in Arcadia. At that time, Bishop Frank J. Dewane presided over the placing of the relic of St. Juan Diego in the altar.

While this major exhibition travels throughout the world by invitation, four stops were made in the Diocese from May 9-12, 2022, including St. Katharine Drexel, Incarnation Parish in Sarasota, St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples and Ave Maria Parish in Ave Maria. Students from Incarnation Catholic School, St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School and Donahue Catholic Academy of Ave Maria Parish, were each given private time with the relics before evening Parish presentations.

The relics were placed on tables, with information cards adjacent, scattered throughout the hall, with six special pieces on tables where people lined up to wait to see them.

Each exposition began with a multi-media presentation on the Church’s use of relics that is scriptural, catechetical, and devotional, leading to a renewal of the Catholic Faith for many people.  After the teaching those in attendance had an opportunity to venerate the relics of some of their favorite saints.

Father Martins said each person has a different experience when in the presence of relics. He said that it was important that people leave behind the sins that hold them back from growing closer to the Lord. He used the example of St. Maria Goretti, an 11-year-old from Italy who was brutally murdered, but completely forgave her attacker before dying.

“Your job today is for you to find your Saint,” Father Martins said at the conclusion of his presentation. “No Saint will force themselves upon you. If you perceive within yourself a commitment to get your life right with the Lord, a Saint will accompany you on that journey.”

Father Ricky Varner, Pastor at St. Katherine Drexel, was impressed by the presentation and exhibition noting that it could have been held over many days with huge crowds. “This was wonderful to have so many people come together and celebrate the Faith in this unique way. The saints have an important role for all of us as they speak to us and connect with us.”