On Altar Stones, Patient Priests, and Inquisitive Kids

At your parish, do you know which saint’s relics are contained in the main altar of your church?

Fr. A with my son, Thomas, attempting to remove the altar stone from the altar at our church

Fr. A with my son, Thomas, attempting to remove the altar stone from the altar at our church

Neither we nor our pastor knew the answer to this question until a recent weekday when my wife and our oldest son went to daily mass. After serving, our son (age 11) asked Fr. A about the altar stone in our church and whose relics were housed inside it.

Frequently, the church will be named after the saint whose relics are housed there. But, for example, in the case of St. Mary’s or Our Divine Savior or Immaculate Conception Parish, another saint’s relics will be needed, for obvious reasons. Our parish falls into this category.

Fr. A, a rather curious guy, long-suffering and patient priest that he is, never shirking from an opportunity to discover something new or walk the extra mile, obliged our son by uncovering the altar and removing the stone installed in it.

Fr. A and Thomas, examining the altar stone upon removal

Fr. A and Thomas, examining the altar stone upon removal

They discovered an inscription on the back on the altar stone, which reads, “This altar stone contains the relics of SS. Beatus and Lucidus, Martyrs.”

14782129915_d70967ed9f_o-2Nearly every Catholic church, as part of its consecration, contains the first-degree relic of at least one saint, which is placed within a “reliquary”, sometimes separate from or integrated with a literal stone that covers and protects the relic, and which is placed into the main altar.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Relics available at NewAdvent.org, a decree of the Council of Trent instructs that “the holy bodies of holy martyrs and of others now living with Christ — which bodies were the living members of Christ and ‘the temple of the Holy Ghost’ (1 Corinthians 6:19) and which are by Him to be raised to eternal life and to be glorified are to be venerated by the faithful…”

14781778512_aa20d1138c_o-2The veneration of relics is an ancient practice of the Church. For example, centuries of tradition brought many far-flung pilgrims to where the bones of St. Peter were buried near the place of his death, on Vatican hill, steps from the circus where he was martyred. After nearly two millennia of this tradition, in the last century archaelogical excavation confirmed the actual presence of the bones of St. Peter, precisely below the main altar of the Basilica.

Plan of Old St. Peter's Basilica (A) in relation to the Circus of Nero (C)

Plan of Old St. Peter’s Basilica (A) in relation to the Circus of Nero (C); The obelisk is

[SIDEBAR: do you know why there is an Egyptian obelisk in the center of the square in front of St. Peter's Basilica? Contrary to absurd "history" advanced by Dan Brown and his ilk, the obelisk decorated the center of Nero's Circus (also on Vatican hill), where so many Christians were martyred, and it was likely one of the last things that St. Peter laid his eyes upon (upside-down) before his gruesome death by crucifixion. Early Christians and true historians would have understood the significance of moving the obelisk a few meters and making it the centerpiece of the square in front of the Basilica. With Rome as the center of Christendom in the West, it became a sign of the Church's triumph over persecution.]

To venerate the relic of a saint is most certainly not a form of idolatry. For example, St. Jerome says: “We do not worship, we do not adore [non colimus, non adoramus], for fear that we should bow down to the creature rather than to the Creator, but we venerate [honoramus] the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore Him whose martyrs they are.” (“Ad Riparium”, i, P.L., XXII, 907).

A relic is worthy of veneration because God makes the saint. A saint bears living witness here on earth to communion with God. A saint is so caught in the gaze of God that their holiness provides a glimpse of the Kingdom of God and the Resurrection of the Body: both body and soul become instruments of holiness.

There is also something foundational about venerating relics and placing them in our church’s altars. The relic becomes another tangible example of the faith being built upon the faith of those already in Heaven. Relics are not talismans or objects of superstition. Rather, they are proofs that God glorifies our bodies even while we live, at least in some part. On the altar, we place our Gifts upon these foundations, because these “foundations” have been blessed by Our Lord.

20140908_234445_Android[SIDEBAR: I recently shared that we are in the process of creating a chapel in our home that we use for prayer. In connection with our "home altar", we acquired a relic of St. Benedict, now encased in a reliquary atop our altar.] 20140908_234404_Android

So perhaps, if you have an inquisitive son or daughter and the kind of priest who (like ours) will patiently answer questions (or better yet, put on his Indiana Jones hat), it might be worthwhile and interesting to learn a bit more about the relics present in your church!

 

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Election Day Approaches: Help for the Pro-Life Voter

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 2.33.55 PMLast night, I received a call from someone taking a poll for the upcoming election. I couldn’t answer who I was going to vote for, even though I know a few of the candidates who won’t be receiving my vote.

I vote my conscience, which means that I don’t vote for candidates who are not fully pro-life, no matter the other “good things” about the candidate, and if a race is composed of two pro-choice candidates, I frequently abstain (or write in) from voting in that contest.

Here in California, a voter interested in learning which candidates are pro-life can visit the California Pro-Life Council’s 2014 General Election Voter Guide (the state chapter of National Right to Life; you can look for your state’s chapter by going here). The guide indicates the respective candidate’s position on elective abortion, parental notification, and euthanasia. It doesn’t answer every question, but it’s a good start.

“Help me Obi-Wan, you’re my only hope.”

Source: Wikimedia Commons; Author: The Conmunity - Pop Culture Geek

Source: Wikimedia Commons; Author: The Conmunity – Pop Culture Geek

While the only anticipation I have for the pending “Singularity” (actual date TBD) is really more in the nature of dread, that doesn’t mean that I won’t be excited when this nifty technology finally gives us freestanding three-dimensional holographic images. On such date I shall finally paint a metal garbage can in hues of blue and silver a la R2-D2, and take all phone calls via droid (not the lame kind). Viva the Rebel Alliance!

City officials to Christian Pastors: Perform Same-Sex “Wedding” Ceremonies, or Go to Jail

In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho: a married couple of 47 years, both Christian ministers who since 1989 have operated the 95-year-old “Hitching Post Wedding Chapel”, are told by city officials “that their refusal to perform a same-sex ceremony at their chapel violates the city’s anti-discrimination policy. For each day they refuse to perform the ceremony, they face up to 180 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.

Because pro-SSM isn’t about tolerance or promoting equality; it’s about crushing dissent.

See what prayer and steady breathing can accomplish?!?

The Bishops are making their voices heard at the Synod on the Family. That midway Relatio is going to need to be substantially rewritten, they say. And, the English version apparently suffers from some “problems in translation.”

Keep breathing and keep praying.

Equal Time

As I wrote this rant yesterday, which (at least according to today’s news) brought about fairly sharp rebukes from those who actually cherish religious freedom and their First Amendment rights, it occurred to me that it’s fairly surprising that this story could come from Texas.

I imagine that these days most urban centers lean to the left, but I guess I naively believed that even cities in Texas bleed red, with the exception of Austin. One would have thought that rather than Houston, issuing subpoenas to pastors would have come from (oh, I don’t know) San Francisco, or Washington, D.C. 

The Heartland is fading, I suppose.

Anyway, in the spirit of “equal time”, and to help some Texans and Houstonians who may be feeling a little bit embarrassed right now, I give you this disturbing little nugget:

Gov. Jerry Brown just signed a law requiring that California health care providers be trained to better understand the specific health needs of the LGBT community.

The law is meant to target inequities in medical treatment for LGBT patients who, according to the San Francisco Examiner, suffer from a lack of provider understanding of gay and transgendered health issues.

Laws like this have nothing whatever to do with delivering quality health care. These laws are ideological. In places like California, it is getting more and more difficult for Pro-Life and Traditional Marriage supporters to enter professions.

Houston’s Mayor and Her So-Called “Bathroom Bill”…..

…..Must be marinating in the stench of bovine feces, for trying to flush out and publicly shame Christian pastors. Suggest anyone who wishes to address the Mayor and City Council stand at the back wall of the chamber to avoid the noxious odors. Or better yet, wear a gas mask.

14801535173_f06e3cb5e0_oHouston’s new “non-discrimination” law provides, inter alia, that it’s discriminatory for men to be required to use the men’s restroom and for women to be required to use the women’s restroom at public places.

Opponents of the law filed a lawsuit against the city. The city, ostensibly at the direction of its mayor, issued subpoenas to a few of the pastors of the 400 area churches involved in a coalition opposed to the law (but who are not parties to the litigation), demanding copies of “any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor.”

Because only Christian haters are guilty of bullying and intolerance.