Relics of saints venerated at St. Peter in Hackberry - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Relics of saints venerated at St. Peter in Hackberry

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HACKBERRY, LA (KPLC) -

Today is All Saints Day and at Saint Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in Hackberry, they are hosting the relics of more than 30 Catholic Saints, including all of Jesus' Apostles, St. Paul (the Apostle to the Gentiles), St. Joseph, St. John the Baptist, St. Mary Magdalene and a host of other Virgins, Martyrs, Religious and Confessors. 

In addition, officials with the Diocese of Lake Charles say there will be some relics of Our Lord (the Crib of the Baby Jesus, the Table of the Last Supper and the Title of the Cross) and Our Lady (the Veil of the Blessed Virgin Mary). The church will be open all day on All Saints' Day, Nov. 1, for the public veneration of the relics. 

Mass was celebrated at 8:30 a.m. and will be celebrated again at 6 p.m. A spokesman for the diocese said, "Don't miss this wonderful opportunity not only to honor the saints on the very day the Church dedicates to them, but also to be honored by their holy and venerable presence." 

We'll have more on this story on later editions of KPLC7News and at www.kplctv.com

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Below are questions and answers about the relics from Father Rommel Tolentino, pastor at St. Peter:

Veneration of Relics

Q:        Dear Fr. Tolentino, I have always wondered why exactly Catholics feel the need to dismember and sliver up Saints then place tiny pieces of their body (bones) in the altars.  This is hard to understand as an adult.  Could you please explain this to us adults and in a way that can be explained to children.                                                                                              

A:        Your question is basically about the Catholic practice of venerating (honoring with great affection) the relics of the Saints.  The word "relics" came from the Latin reliquiae, meaning "remains." There are actually three kinds of relics.  Parts of a Saint's body (bone, hair, etc.) and instruments of Christ's passion (e.g. the true cross) are called 1St Class relics.  Things owned by a Saint and instruments of torture used against a Martyr are called 2nd Class relics.  Things that have been touched to 1st or 2nd Class relics are called 3rd Class relics.

The Christian practice of venerating relics and belief in their miraculous power has strong Biblical foundation.  Here are a few examples:  And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him; for Joseph had solemnly sworn the people of Israel, saying, "God will visit you; then you must carry my bones with you from here" (Exodus 13:19).  So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now the bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Elisha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood on his feet (2 Kings 13:20-21).  And behold, a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment; for she said to herself, "If I only touch his garment, I shall be made well." Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." And instantly the woman was made well (Matthew 9:20-22).  And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them (Acts 19:11-12).  In Acts 5:14-16, the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits were healed when Peter's shadow passed over them.   

The early Christian Church venerated Saints' relics.  A letter written in 156 A.D. by the Smyrnaeans recounting the martyrdom of St. Polycarp reads:  "We took up his bones, which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place, where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy and to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom."  St. Jerome (ca. 340-420 A.D.), in his work Ad Riparium, 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."  St. John Damascene (ca. 676-754 A.D.) explains in his Exposition of the Orthodox Faith:  "These [the bodies of the Saints] are made treasuries and pure habitations of God: For I will dwell in them, said God, and walk in them, and I will be their God. The divine Scripture likewise said that the souls of the just are in God's hand and death cannot lay hold of them….  [T]he Apostle tells us…Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit dwelling in you? ....  The Master Christ made the remains of the saints to be fountains of salvation to us, pouring forth manifold blessings and abounding in oil of sweet fragrance: and let no one disbelieve this."  Many Fathers and Doctors of the Church wrote about the veneration of relics, including St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory Nazianzen, and St. Cyril of Alexandria.  

As you can see, the present-day Catholic practice of venerating Saints' relics is perfectly congruent with the Biblical and ancient Church practices.  The placing of martyrs' relics in churches' altars is taken from the Book of Revelation (See Rev. 6:9-11 and Rev. 16:5-7) and practiced by the Church throughout the centuries (The early Christians often celebrated Mass over the tombs of the martyrs).  Furthermore, the Saints' remains (bone, hair, clothes, etc.) are divided into small pieces so that the many Christian communities scattered all over the world can have the chance to venerate the relics and enjoy God's grace working through them.  We do not believe that the relics contain magical powers, but that God chooses to work miracles through them in as much as it is in accord with His most holy and gracious Will.   

The Catholic practice of venerating relics is often criticized as superstitious and even absurd.  From a more practical viewpoint, however, Catholics venerate the relics of Saints just as humans in general treasure the remains (both bodily and material remains) of loved ones who have passed away.  I would like to end by quoting from a website (www.fisheaters.com/relics.html) dedicated to relics:  "It's funny to me how a culture that is filled with autograph hounds and those who clamor to be around those glittered with "star dust" can consider the Catholic veneration of relics as a joke. A lovely dish is just a lovely dish, but one owned by your great-grandmother is a treasure. Some stranger's pocket watch is just a timepiece, but one given to you by your grandfather is something you'd literally mourn losing. We pay $20,000 for a $200 jacket worn by Jacqueline Kennedy, faint at Beatles concerts, engage in riotous behavior to get our hands on one of Elvis's scarves, but when a relic of St. Catherine is mentioned, people snicker".  A very astute observation indeed!

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