Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Relics , Relics, Relics

A couple of years ago, I visited Siena and viewed the head of St. Catherine which is on display there. In an email to some family and friends, I talked about that experience and mentioned that I would have to wait until I got to Rome to pray at the tomb of St. Catherine where the rest of her body is located in the beautiful basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. One of my sisters, whom I thought was very familiar with relics but apparently was not, emailed me somewhat shocked to basically say, "What is up with that???" Things are a bit different now regarding how relics (literally, the remains of saints) are handled but it still generates a lot of interest.

I am so often asked about how to get relics of Pier Giorgio. There seems to be a subset of Catholics who are fascinated by relics and can't get enough of them. Then there are those who abuse relics and buy and sell them on websites like ebay. Canon law, by the way, strictly forbids selling relics. One of the many discussions on the origin of relics and their place in the Church can be found in the online Catholic encyclopedia at:
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12734a.htm.

Two years ago, I was in a meeting in Rome with the postulator of Pier Giorgio's cause for canonization when the topic of issuing more relics came up. I remember him asking me, "How would you feel if someone were carrying a piece of your mother around in their pocket?!" It was a well-made point regarding first-class relics. However, I am a big proponent of second-class relics. Every day since my mother's death, I have worn one of her rings or something that belonged to her. When I look down and see her ring on my finger, it brings her a little closer, reminds me to pray for her, encourages me to live in a way that brings honor to her memory and comforts me to know that I can rely on her heavenly intercession. I feel the same about my second-class relic of Pier Giorgio. Based on the numerous requests I have had for relics, I guess a lot of you feel the same way.

Unfortunately, those who abuse relics make it harder for the rest of us to be able to obtain them. Sometimes I get requests from people who actually identify themselves as relic collectors! Relics of saints were never intended to be collected like baseball cards or used as good luck charms. The intention was for them to be venerated and honored as we would venerate and honor that person.

For now, relics of Pier Giorgio are fairly few and far between. No first-class relics were ever taken and there is no way to get one. Official second-class relics are handled by a Dominican Monastery (Monastero Claustrale Domenicano) in Rome. They issue a very tiny piece of wood from Pier Giorgio's coffin. You will also get a paper that verifies the relic is authentic. Back in the 1930s, when Pier Giorgio was raised to the level of Servant of God, small pieces of his bed linen were sewn to a prayer card and made into second-class relics. Several of these are still in circulation. That's pretty much it and I don't think it will change anytime soon. Blessed Pier Giorgio...pray for us!

1 comment:

Saint John the Forerunner said...

Howdy Chris! My name's Miguel. I am a relic custodian here in Georgia and I am a youth of the parish(going into my senior year of High School). I have been making the relics under my care(mostly 2nd class) available for the veneration of the youth group and Confirmation classes(that I help teach). I have been trying to obtain a second class relic of Bl. Pier, while trying to avoid the long process of receiving a letter from the Archbishop so that the youth can venerate it. His example, like that of St. Maria Goretti and Bl. Chiara Badanno is very powerful in my own life and certainly with the other youth. I understand your hesitancy, especially towards Catholics who seem to have an obsession with relics, but I really do mean well in my pursuit to bring life to the faith of my peers, who, more often than not, "graduate" from Church after Confirmation and refuse to come back. Bl. Pier is, in my opinion, the greatest modern example for the youth in living the lay vocation(with a Dominican twist). Would you please help me to obtain a relic of Bl. Pier? My e-mail is m.melendez336@gmail.com. Again, I completely understand if you would rather not, and, seeing how many relics end up in ill hands, I can't blame you.

God Bless,
- Miguel