Relics exposition offers opportunity to seek intercession of saints

| Susan Klemond | May 22, 2018 | 0 Comments

Visitors view sacred relics of saints at St. John the Baptist in New Brighton May 21. Jim Bovin/For The Catholic Spirit

With a look of awe, Julie Gunness, 51, stood outside the social hall May 19 at St. Therese in Deephaven, where 166 saints’ relics were displayed on long tables.

After venerating a relic of St. Joseph that a religious community brought to the parish, the parishioner of the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul felt a special connection to Jesus’ foster father, although she wasn’t sure why.

“One relic would be overwhelming,” Gunness said, “but a whole room full of relics — I need to go home and come back again at a different venue, because this is really overwhelming.”

Following the parish’s Pentecost vigil Mass, about 150 parishioners and visitors venerated the relics during a tour this month that includes other parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Wood from Jesus’ cross is one of 166 relics touring local parishes. According to tradition, the cross was brought from the Holy Land to Rome by St. Helena in the fourth century. Jim Bovin/For The Catholic Spirit

The exposition of mostly first-class relics of saints including St. Francis of Assisi, the Apostles and St. Therese of Lisieux, as well as a piece of the true cross and of a veil that belonged to Mary, was an opportunity to seek intercession and healing.

Through the ancient Church practice of relic veneration, exposition organizers hope the faithful experience the living God. Catholics also can gain a plenary indulgence for attending.

The tour, called Treasures of the Church, travels throughout North America by invitation and is run by Father Carlos Martins, who gave a talk about relics before the veneration. Father Martins belongs to Companions of the Cross, a society of apostolic life with ministries in the United States and Canada. He is an ecclesiastically appointed curate of relics with the authority to issue relics.

Besides first-class relics consisting of fragments of saints’ bone, hair or other body tissue, the exposition features six second-class relics, which are items or fragments of saints’ possessions. Third-class relics are items that a saint touched or that have been touched to a first, second or another third-class relic.

“Relics are the touchstone of eternity,” Father Martins said. “They are the proof and the guarantee that these saints are now in heaven, and the miracles are evidence and give testimony to the fact that these saints now are experiencing the beatific vision.”

The Church’s practice of venerating relics is a continuation of the Jewish veneration of the dead, Father Martins said. Records show Christians venerated relics before the Apostles’ deaths, he said. The Old and New Testaments offer examples of how God healed using material objects. The early Christians frequently celebrated Mass on the Apostles’ and martyrs’ graves, the reason Catholic altars traditionally contain relics, he said.

But Father Martins emphasized that healing comes from God, not a relic.

“The relics do not contain a power that is not their own,” he said. “The good is God’s doing, but the fact that he chooses to use the relics of saints toward healing miracles tells us that he wants to draw our attention to saints as models and intercessors.”

St. Therese parishioner Kathy Burns, 62, said she found the veneration moving, while her husband, Thomas, 65, said it helped him feel part of the communion of saints.

Father Martins said that the exposition can help people grow in holiness.

“The role of these expositions for me is not only that you encounter the saints,” he said. [But] “I [also] want you to return home as a saint.”

Noting that withholding forgiveness is a common obstacle to holiness, Father Martins told how 11-year-old St. Maria Goretti forgave her murderer before she died. The man eventually repented and converted to the faith.

Treasures of the Church will be on display at St. Timothy, Maple Lake May 24; Nativity of Mary, Bloomington May 29; St. John the Baptist, Excelsior, May 30; and Holy Family, St. Louis Park, May 31. For more information, contact host parishes or visit

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