Not assuming that all readers would know what a relic is, it is a piece of an object that was either owned by or a part of someone who was deeply connected to God. For example, there are relics of Saints which hold threads that come from a part of their clothing. Other relics might include strands of hair, or a cloth that simply touched the person. We do not worship relics, only hold them sacred because they connect us to someone who was so connected to God, therefore bringing us the feeling that we ourselves are a bit closer to Him through the good example of their lives and their faith. Even in Jesus's day people didn't have to touch His person to be healed, as we recall from the story of the woman with the hemorrhage. All she did was touch His cloak and her ailments of twelve years disappeared forever (Mk 5:25-34).
On my way to the Shrine, I didn't really think much about what I might find there. I hardly knew the number of relics they had, assuming it was merely in the hundreds. The first half of the small Chapel held the Stations of the Cross, reminding visitors of God-made-man who came to be with us and eventually died for us. The second half of the Chapel was full of the relics, but even as I walked in I didn't fully understand what I had just become a part of.
The tour guide was a young Seminarian studying to become a Priest. He spoke about the history of the place and the man who started it all, Father Suitbert Godfrey Mollinger of Germany. He went on to talk about the relics in the Chapel -- how they got there, how many there were, their authenticity, etc. -- and then began to tell us about the specific ones we might be interested in. Even when I heard him say there were almost 5,000 relics in the Chapel, it never really occurred to me as to what sort of relics I would encounter. He led us to a case which was neatly displayed and had small images inside. "As you might know," he began, "today is the Feast of St. Joseph. Inside here, we have a relic which is a piece of his cloak." My eyes widened, "St. Joseph?!" I thought to myself, "The man who raised Jesus?!" But the tour guide continued, "And up here, where you see the image of Our Lady, is a relic which holds a piece of her veil." I almost fell to my knees! And yet, I was not done being overwhelmed, because then he said, "And in the middle here is a piece of the cross on which Jesus was crucified." I had to sit down. I went away to a pew in the first part of the Chapel and just put my face in my hands. My mind was so full I could hardly think!
"Calm down," I finally scolded myself, "Be quiet and breathe a little already!" I let my heart pound it out for a few more minutes and then was reminded of a book I had recently finished. The book had placed Jesus in our times, forming words and actions He might produce based on the words and actions of His life from Scripture. In this book, the figure who represented Jesus was explaining to His friends that "heaven is where God is, and God is everywhere, so heaven is everywhere, all around you. [It] is in a world... just on the other side of a thin veil of time. If you could close your eyes and walk through that veil, you could be there. It is that close." I realized then, that I had come up to the edge of that veil. I was now standing before pieces of the life of our Savior, in the midst of the holy prayers and sacrifices of others who had come before me: and they were not dead. They are alive and fully experiencing God on the other side of that veil, and here I was, being drawn into that life! A life where God's love is unmasked and without end. Yes, I was overwhelmed.
I think some people in our lives can sometimes be like living relics, bringing us closer to God through their kindness and good examples of faith, hope and love. Entering into this Holy Week, Jesus shared a bit of His cross with me and I began to feel its weight pressing down upon me. As I reached out to new friends and seasoned role models, I received a wealth of wisdom. More than being comforting, the words these saints had to offer were words that spoke of God's commitment to me and mine to Him. "JUMP, Sister! Jump in with both feet!" said one of these great women, reminding me that commitment involves wholehearted sacrifice. Another said to me, "If God is asking this of you, then He must trust you can handle it." In the midst of everything, I received much affirmation, but I also received insights as to how I could grow through this in order to become more of the woman God is calling me to be.
|"A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; He who finds one finds a treasure."|