Last night after our vigil Mass for All Saints I kissed one of the old ladies on the cheek and said, “Just venerating one of the old relics my dear…”
We had fifteen first class relics at stations around the perimeter of the church. The honor roll: Pope Gregory the Great, Pope St Pius X, Bishop Neumann, Bl. Francis Xavier Seelos, Padre Pio, Francis deSales, Jane Francis de Chantal, Therese of Lisieux, Teresa of Avila, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Catherine Labore, Theresa of the Andes, Elizabeth of the Trinity, Maria Gorretti, Margaret Mary Alacoque.
It was beautiful again this year to see the faithful circulate to venerate the relics as Holy Deacon sang the Litany of the Saints. This morning was the school Mass and the children were excited and intrigued to see and venerate the saints all around the church.
I explained how the Mass pictures the worship in heaven. We had white flowers with palms for greenery–symbolizing the saints in white bearing palm branches of martyrdom. The incense, the altar which is the throne of the lamb, and the when I said the altar servers represented the angels of heaven there was laughter all around. So often Catholics take the Mass for granted and don’t know why we do what we do.
In the homily I explained about the veneration of relics and yes, it is a bit strange and gross to have tiny bits of their bodies in those tiny cases, but this reminds us that they were real people. They were not make believe characters from fairy stories. They were not super heroes from comic books. They were real people with real families at real places in history, and this is the glory of the Christian faith, that we have our head in the clouds, but we also have our feet firmly on the ground.
Catholicism is real. It’s historical. It’s physical. It involves people and places and bodies, and relics remind us of these truths. Catholicism is just as real as a dead man rising on a Spring morning, as real as a newborn squawking in the cold in a drafty stable, as real as a young French girl coughing up her lungs from tuberculosis and saying that it was all for love. It is as real as a priest in a concentration camp taking the death sentence for another man, and dying of starvation before he is given the lethal injection. It is as real as all of this and as real as kissing an old woman in church and chuckling at the hilarious joke of it all.
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