Category Archives: Relics

7 Things to Know That Will Change Your Next Mass Experience by Matt Nelson

“Take, eat; this IS my body.” Mt 26:26

I believe that we live in an age where fallen-away Catholics don’t really know what they’ve left, non-Catholics don’t really know what they’re missing, and many Catholics don’t really know what they’ve got. They don’t really know the Mass.
The Mass is the climactic form of Christian worship and within it is contained the greatest miracle on earth. It is a mystery in the fullest sense, and yet, it is comprehensible. As Christians we possess faith, but do we possess understanding? Do we even seek it? I know personally that my understanding of the Mass and what happens during it is inexcusably deficient, mostly from neglect. But I (and you) can change this — and it begins here.
I want to help change your next Mass experience, by the grace of God. So I’ve compiled a list of 7 interesting facts about the Mass, each with a brief explanation. I hope you learn something new!

1. The Mark of the Christian
The Sign of the Cross that marks the beginning and end of the Holy Mass, and which signifies the sealing of the Word of God “in our minds, on our lips and in our hearts” at the reading of the Gospel, has its origin in the first centuries of Christianity.
Tertullian wrote in the mid-3rd century:
“In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross” (De corona, 30).
The sign of the cross, done by faith, has immense power. St. Benedict once did the sign of the cross over a poisoned drink meant to kill him, and as his hand moved reverently through the four directions of the cross, the glass shattered. What would have happened if he had been insincere, or worse, not blessed his food and drink at all with the sacred sign? God only knows.
Each sign of the cross is also a sign —a renewal even — of one’s personal decision to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. How many times have we gone through the “motion of the cross” instead of the “sign of the cross”?

2. “And With Your Spirit”
When the Christian people respond “and with your spirit” to the priest’s greeting (“The Lord be with you”) in the Holy Mass, it is not just a polite (and somewhat odd) response. It is a profession of faith in the power of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. It recognizes the unique action of the Holy Spirit in the ordained priest, particularly in the Sacraments. Remember, for example, it is not the priest who changes the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ — it is Jesus Christ. Thus, the priest receives the power to serve as a special instrument of the Holy Spirit at his ordination; that is, when he receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders through the “laying on of hands” (see 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6).
Here’s what the 4th century bishop, St. John Crysostom,wrote about these words and their meaning:
“If the Holy Spirit were not in this your common father and teacher, you would not, just now, when he ascended this holy chair and wished you all peace, have cried out with one accord, ‘And with your spirit.’
Thus you cry out to him, not only when he ascends his throne and when he speaks to you and prays for you, but also when he stands at this holy altar to offer the sacrifice. He does not touch that which lies on the altar before wishing you the grace of our Lord, and before you have replied to him, ‘And with your spirit.’
By this cry, you are reminded that he who stands at the altar does nothing, and that the gifts that repose there are not the merits of a man; but that the grace of the Holy Spirit is present and, descending on all, accomplishes this mysterious sacrifice. We indeed see a man, but it is God who acts through him. Nothing human takes place at this holy altar.”

3. Kiss of the Priest
The priest kisses the altar in veneration, recognizing it as the sacred place where Christ’s once and for all sacrifice will be made present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Jesus’s death is re-presented in the Holy Mass as a celebration of the New Covenant Passover, just as the Old Covenant Passover was made present each year it was celebrated (see Ex 12:27). St. Paul contrasts the Eucharistic sacrifice to the pagan sacrifice in 1 Cor 11. Jesus is therefore not re-sacrificed at each Mass but rather, His one sacrifice becomes present to us as He is eternally presenting Himself to God as the sacrificial Lamb of God (Heb 7:25; 1 Cor 5:7; 1 Cor 11:26; Rev 5:6).
Around 70 A.D. Church leaders wrote this about the Eucharistic sacrifice (the Mass):
“Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice [Matt. 5:23–24]. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations’ [Mal. 1:11, 14]” (Didache 14 [A.D. 70]).

4. What’s Inside the Altar?
Did you know that many Catholic altars have a relic placed inside?
Father Carlos Martins, CC, of Treasures of the Church describes relics in this way:
Relics are physical objects that have a direct association with the saints or with Our Lord. They are usually broken down into three classes. First class relics are the body or fragments of the body of a saint, such as pieces of bone or flesh. Second class relics are something that a saint personally owned, such as a shirt or book (or fragments of those items). Third class relics are those items that a saint touched or that have been touched to a first, second, or another third class relic of a saint.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 302, contains the following statement:
“The practice of placing relics of Saints, even those not Martyrs, under the altar to be dedicated is fittingly retained. Care should be taken, however, to ensure the authenticity of such relics.”

The bones of St. Polycarp of Smyrna (a disciple of John the beloved apostle) were venerated in the early Church, for example:
“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” (The Martyrdom of Polycarp [A.D 156])
For more, I also discuss relics in this recent article.

5. Cross or Crucifix?
A cross with a figure of Christ crucified must be present on or near the altar. This is mandated by the Church. A bare cross or a cross with Jesus depicted in a non-crucified way (like the modern “resurrected” Christ portrayal which has become more common) does not meet this requirement. Like St. Paul in his first letter to the Church in Corinth, we preach Christ crucified as an ultimate sign of God’s love for us and the salvation won for us through His crucifixion:
“we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor 1:23; see also 2:2)
The crucifix, properly understood, is not an image of a mere gory execution; rather, it is a sign of the once for all sacrifice of the Lamb of God (1 Cor 5:7).
The General Instruction for the Roman Missal states:
There is also to be a cross, with the figure of Christ crucified upon it, either on the altar or near it, where it is clearly visible to the assembled congregation. It is appropriate that such a cross, which calls to mind for the faithful the saving Passion of the Lord, remain near the altar even outside of liturgical celebrations (GIRM 308).

6. Sit, Stand, Kneel and Bow
A genuflection before the Jesus in the tabernacle is not meant to be a purely physical action. It requires a simultaneous “bow of the heart.”
The venerable practice of genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament, whether enclosed in the tabernacle or publicly exposed, as a sign of adoration, is to be maintained. This act requires that it be performed in a recollected way. In order that the heart may bow before God in profound reverence, the genuflection must be neither hurried nor careless (Inaestimabile Donum 26).
Some people may wonder what’s up with Catholics and all the bowing, standing, sitting, kneeling that they do in the Mass. It’s a good and honest question. Catholics assume these gestures because of who and what they are encountering in the Mass — the King of Kings and His Word. In the case of veneration with the body, the body leads the heart.
Consider these words from C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters:
“At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls” (Letter IV).
Our postures matter, especially in the Mass — the climax of Christian Worship. As King David writes in this beautiful Psalm:
“O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God…” (Psalm 95)

7. The Fraction Rite
After the consecration (when the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Jesus) but before Communion, the priest breaks off a piece of his “big” host and adds it to the precious blood (which still maintains the physical properties of wine). This breaking and commingling of the broken piece of the Body with the Blood is rich in significance:
First, it is not a separating of Christ, as though a “part” of Christ is here and a “part” of Christ is there. In each molecule of the consecrated host, the resurrected Christ is totally and perfectly present in His infinite divine substance.
Second, this “breaking”, called the “Fraction Rite”, follows Christ’s breaking of bread at the Last Supper and is rich in biblical significance (Luke 22:19; Acts 2:42, 46; 1 Cor 10:16).
Third, the commingling of the broken fraction with the blood in the chalice symbolizes the reunification of Christ’s body and blood in his glorious resurrection.
Now here’s an interesting tidbit to end off this post:
Originally, this Fraction rite and commingling had another important significance. At each Mass, the priest would break off a piece of the host (as he does now) but then, that consecrated fraction would be sent to another celebration of the Eucharist at another location. There, the fraction sent from the parish “down the road” would be commingled with the blood of Christ. The fraction of the host from that Mass would then be sent off to another Mass, and so on. This ritual created a great sense of unity among the faithful in the Mass, and signified the continuity of the eucharistic sacrifice in the Church (Mal 1:11; 1 Cor 10:17). This practice was known as fermentum, but has fallen out of practice in modern times.
If you would like to read more about the specifics of the Mass I highly recommend Mass Revision by Jimmy Akin to get you started.
See you in the Eucharist!

Visit Matt Nelson at Reasonable Catholic

One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church – Interesting Facts About Our Uninterrupted History – by Deacon Marty McIndoe

Looking in to the Tomb of St. Peter underneath the main Altar at St. Peter’s in Rome.

 

A friend of mine posted this on Face Book.  There is no author noted.  I found it interesting enough to share with you on my blog site.  I have actually visited several of the places mentioned here and have found the visits to be a very moving experience.  Our Church is so filled with an uninterrupted history, right back to the time of Jesus and the apostles.  We are truly One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  God is good!

Historical Evidences of the True Church

The Catholic Church gave us the Gregorian calendar which we all use today.
The Catholic Church gave us the date for Easter.
The Catholic Church gave us the date for Christmas which means Christ-Mass.
The Catholic Church compiled the Bible.

The remains of all of the Apostles are in Catholic Churches, and so are all of the Gospel writers. Note! Some relics are divided between Catholic Churches.

St. Peter is in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
St. Paul is in St. Paul’s Church in Rome.
St. Matthew is in the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Messina, Sicily.
St. James the Greater is in St. James Church in Compostela Spain.
St. James the Less (the Just) is in the Basilica of the Holy Apostles in Rome.
St. Bartholomew is in St. Bartholomew-in-the-island Church in Rome.
St. Andrew is in the Cathedral of Amalfi in Italy.
St. Philip is in the Church of the Dodici Apostoli in Rome, Basilica of the Holy Apostles.
St. Simon is in the Vatican, under the Altar of the Crucifixion.
St. Jude is in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
St. Thomas is in the Cathedral of Saint Thomas in Mylapore, India.
St. Matthias is in St. Matthews Abbey in Trier Germany, and in St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome.
St. John is in the ruins of the Basilica of St. John in Ephesus Turkey.


“You are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets with Jesus Christ Himself as the Chief Corner Stone.”
Ephesians 2:20.


Even though he was not an Apostle, he did write the Gospel of Mark.
St. Mark is in St. Mark’s Church in Venice, Italy.


Even though he was not an Apostle, he did write the Gospel of Luke.
St. Luke is in the Basilica of Santa Giustina in Padua, Italy.
The first Christian Martyr. Acts 7:60


St. Stephen is in Rome in the Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls.


The first person to arrive at the tomb of the Risen Christ. John 20:1
St. Mary Magdalene is in the Basilica of St. Maximin in Villalata, France.


He produced the first Bible containing both the Old and New Testaments, the Latin Vulgate. St. Jerome is in St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome.

We know from the many authentic Relics that the Catholic Church has in its possession. Among them are:

The Relic of the True Cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. John 19:17-18
The “INRI” inscription from the True Cross, called “Titulus Crucis”. John 19-19
The Nails which held Jesus to the cross. John 20:25
The Lance Point of Saint Longinus which pierced the side of Jesus. John 19:34
The Crown of Thorns and the individual thorns from it. John 19:2
The Table used at the Last Supper is in St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome. Matthew 26:20
The Scala Santa, the steps which Jesus Christ ascended on His way to meet Pontius Pilate.
The Chains of Saint Peter, in the Church of St. Peter in Chains in Rome.

..thanks to the one who did the research

 

Advent Saints – St. Lucy by Deacon Marty McIndoe

lucy

Advent Saints – St. Lucy by Deacon Marty McIndoe

               During this Advent season we see that each day gets shorter until we reach the Winter Solstice.  There is more darkness and less light.  During Advent we celebrate light, by lighting the Advent candles and awaiting Jesus, the Light of the World.  December 13th we celebrate the Advent Saint of Light, St. Lucy.  She was born in the late 200’s and died in 304 as a Martyr.  There are many legends about her and it is difficult to know exactly how true they all are, but at the very least, she was a young Sicilian girl who gave herself to Jesus as a Virgin.  She was killed for her decision to follow Jesus.

               It appears that St. Lucy had a mother who arranged a marriage for her to a pagan man, but St. Lucy said that she wanted to remain a Virgin and give herself completely to Jesus.  Since her mother was very stubborn about this and pushed Lucy towards marriage, Lucy turned in prayer to St. Agatha for assistance.   St. Agatha appeared to Lucy and told her that she could persuade her mother by showing her the power of Jesus.  St. Agatha said that Lucy’s mother would be healed from a serious illness that plagued her.  Lucy’s mother was healed and she committed her life to Jesus.  She stopped forcing the marriage and allowed St. Lucy to give her marriage dowry to the poor.

               The man that Lucy was to marry was upset by this and told the governor, Paschalis, that Lucy was a Christian (illegal at that time).  The governor then wanted to defile Lucy and sent troops to her home to carry her off to a brothel.  Lucy refused to go and the troops were unable to move her.  They even hitched a team of oxen to her, but she could not be moved.  At that point they piled wood around her to burn her, but the wood refused to burn.  They finally resorted to using their swords and initially gouged out her eyes and then killed her.  Later, when her body was being prepared for burial, they noticed that her eyes had been restored.

               Lucy was venerated from the very early days of the Church.  Her body remained in Sicily for about 400 years before being transferred to Abruzzi, Italy.  In 972 her body was moved to St. Vincent’s Church in Metz and divided up and several pieces of her body can be found in Rome, Naples, Verona, Lisbon, Milan, Germany, France and Sweden.  Her name is mentioned in Eucharistic Prayer I, the oldest of our Eucharistic prayers.  St. Lucy is the Patron Saint of the Blind and all eye diseases.

               I have found only one quote that is attributed to Lucy.  It is, “No one’s body is polluted so as to endanger the soul if it has not pleased the mind. If you were to lift my hand to your idol and so make me offer against my will, I would still be guiltless in the sight of the true God, who judges according to the will and knows all things. If now, against my will, you cause me to be polluted, a twofold purity will be gloriously imputed to me. You cannot bend my will to your purpose; whatever you do to my body, that cannot happen to me.”
Saint Lucy of Syracuse

 

Advent Saints – St. Nicholas by Deacon Marty McIndoe

stnicholastomb

The altar above the tomb of St. Nicholas in Bari, Italy

Saint Nicholas is one of our very popular Saints.  There are many churches named in his honor and he is the Patron Saint of more causes than any other Saint.  He is the Patron Saint of mariners, merchants, bakers, travelers, brides, prisoners, archers, students and especially of children.   He is the Patron Saint of many countries and towns and cities, including New York City.   His popularity goes from east to west around the world.  So who was this man, Saint Nicholas?  He certainly was a lot more than the popular Santa Claus.

Saint Nicholas was the bishop of Myra which is in modern day Turkey.  He lived in the early 300’s and was known to be a very Holy, devout, loving man.  It is difficult to think of Saint Nicholas without thinking of all the legends that surrounded him.  However, most of these legends just emphasize the great person that he truly was.  We do know that he was the son of wealthy parents who raised him as a devout Christian.  His uncle was the local bishop.   Nicholas’s parents died when he was quite young.  They left him a significant estate.  Throughout his life Nicholas used that estate to help the poor.  After his parents died, Nicholas was raised by his uncle, the Bishop of Patara.  During the Roman Diocletian persecution, St. Nicholas was seized, tortured, and imprisoned.  After his release, he continued his many works of charity and served the people of Myra as their bishop.

Nicholas was known for fighting the heresy of Arius.  Nicholas attended the Council of Nicea in 325 where Arius tried to push his heresy.  Nicholas became so angered at Arius that he slapped him in the face.  The other bishops censored Nicholas for this, but later he regained his good status.  The love of Jesus and the love of the Church and the love of the poor consumed Nicholas.   Bishop Nicholas died on December 6, 343 in Myra and he was buried in his Cathedral of Myra.  In later centuries, the area fell in to the hands of non Christians and in the year 1087 a group of Italians took his body and moved it to Bari, Italy where it is today.

There are only a few quotes from St. Nicholas in existence today so I will share two of those, as well as a few quotes from others about him.  The last quote is from Anne Frank during the Nazi holocaust.

“The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic Gods giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.”  St. Nicholas of Myra

“Children, I beseech you to correct your hearts and thoughts, so that you may be pleasing to God. Consider that although we may reckon ourselves to be righteous and frequently succeed in deceiving men, we can conceal nothing from God. Let us therefore strive to preserve the holiness of our souls and to guard the purity of our bodies with all fervor. Ye are the temple of God, says the divine Apostle Paul; If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy.”    St. Nicholas of Myra

“Everybody loves St Nicholas, because St. Nicholas loves everybody.”   Fr Andrew Phillips

“Alas! How dreary would be the world if there was no Santa Claus! There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.”   Francis P. Church

“Once again St. Nicholas Day Has even come to our hideaway; It won’t be quite as fun, I fear, As the happy day we had last year. Then we were hopeful, no reason to doubt That optimism would win the bout, And by the time this year came round, We’d all be free, and safe and sound. Still, let’s not forget it’s St. Nicholas Day, Though we’ve nothing left to give away. We’ll have to find something else to do: So everyone please look in their shoe!” – Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

 

Why We Venerate Relics by Matt Nelson

relics

The veneration of the mortal remains of loved ones is nothing new. Nor can it be said to be distinctly Catholic; for it is a distinctly human practice that spans all ages, cultures, and religious inclinations.

Veneration simply means “to give great respect.” Thus, at its most basic understanding, to venerate the relics of loved ones is to give great respect to those things that one’s loved ones have left behind; including their bodies.

Every time an agnostic visits the grave (and thus the bones) of his deceased relative, for example, or an Evangelical Christian clings to the shirt of her dearly beloved grandmother, the veneration of relics—though not necessarily as an act of religious piety—takes place. The veneration of the material remains of loved ones seems to be a universal impulse of the human person; and the Catholic Church takes this natural human impulse and—as she does so often—elevates the custom to a supernatural level and dignity.

Christian relics are the material remains—and not always the bodily remains—of the saints or even Christ himself. They are typically organized into three classes. Third class relics are material items that have been touched to the saints, or to their bodies or personal possessions. Second class relics were personal possessions of the saints. First class relics are the actual body or fragments of the body of the holy ones.

The seven sacraments of the Church are visible signs that reveal and effect invisible realities. They are also the seven primary ways through which God communicates grace; that is, the free gift of his life and the power to be holy. But of course God is not bound by the sacraments for he is the omnipotent creator and curator of them. He can give grace in other ways if he so wishes. Relics are sacramentals (as are, for example, crucifixes and statues of the saints). By virtue of them being sacramentals, they are not sacraments. Rather they exist to prepare us to receive the sacraments (see CCC 1677). Thus sacramentals are not be looked at; they are to be looked along.

At the fullness of time God did the unthinkable and took on flesh; and he sanctified matter by becoming man. Ancient testimonies, both Christian and non-Christian, tell us that the carpenter from Nazareth was a walking wonder worker; and it was often through matter—whether through mud, loaves, fish, water, or human touch—that the Maker of all matter worked those supernatural deeds. The Christ had a soft spot for matter; and apparently he still does.

Now just as God works directly through his sons and daughters on earth, he also works through other things that have been made.

As I have said, the veneration of relics is not a distinctly religious thing; nor is it a distinctly Catholic thing; nor is it a distinctly Christian thing. Neither are the working of miracles through relics a distinctly Christian thing. In the Old Testament the coat of Elijah (after he had ascended to heaven) is tossed into a raging river only to part the waters and allow safe crossing (see 2 Kings 2). A few chapters later the bones of the prophet Elisha contact another man’s mortal remains at the bottom of a pit—and the man returns to life (2 Kings 13:20-21).

In the New Testament the examples of God working miracles through lowly material things are multiplied. St. Peter’s shadow (a privation rather than a positive thing, and yet still a fitting vessel of grace) in Luke’s Acts Of The Apostles serves as a blanket of healing—and the hopeful and faith-filled sick line the streets that they might touch God’s grace through the shadow of Peter (see Ch. 5:12-15).

When the handkerchiefs and aprons of St. Paul are touched to the sick and demon-stricken, healing flows from the hand of God through these (presumably used) handkerchiefs of the apostle (Acts 19:11-12). And of course, there is the example of our Lord’s cloak—that even at the touch of the hem (and not directly his body) a woman is cured of her hemorrhage by the power of God (Matt 9:20-22). ““If I only touch his garment, I shall be made well,” believed the woman; and she was right.

Religious relics are not magic items that hold power in and of themselves; they are vessels. The power of God is not contained in the saints’ relics—be they bones, books, or badly damaged running shoes—but rather, the power of God works along the relics, just as our veneration (and adoration) runs along them in the other direction. Relics are vehicles empowered by the grace of God.

For the Protestant and skeptic, the greatest difficulty in this matter of relics lies in the use of human remains for religious rites. Although the beautifully tear-jerking Martyrdom of Polycarp of the mid-second century does, in fact, mention the prayerful possession of the deceased St. Polycarp’s bones for the purpose of Christian veneration, it is true that the New Testament does not mention the veneration of bones, hair, and the like.

But the key to understanding this ancient aspect of Christian practice—and the way to make something so disagreeable agreeable—is to look to the center of the Gospel. At the center of the Gospel lies the resurrection of Christ; and the resurrection of Christ is only the beginning of a great rising that will take center stage at the end of time when all men and women are reunited with their long-corrupted bodies. Although our resurrected bodies will be radiantly beautiful, incorruptible, and unrestricted by the laws of physics, as St. Thomas suggested after prayerfully drawing from the Scriptures, our bodies will still be our bodies. Our resurrected bodies will be new; but they will not be different. They will not be different in the sense that they will still be our own, but more fully alive; fully alive, in fact.

The resurrection is the key to understanding the Christian practice of venerating relics; for we have the promise of a new heaven and a new earth when God will finally reconcile all things—material and immaterial—to Himself. And because the resurrection of the body is our real and promised destiny there remains an interminable, though mysterious, link between our corruptible bodies in this life and the souls that, only for a time, are separated from our body at death.

Relics are, in the end, perhaps just one more way for God to remind us that He is not finished with us; we are a work in progress even after death. One’s bodily death is final in the sense that what dies no longer lives; but it is not the Grande Finale where all humans will be reunited with their bodies once for all.

Yes, God raised Adam from the dust; and like Adam, to dust we will also return. But that’s not where our story ends. If our bodies are really and truly to be “temples of the Holy Spirit”, as St. Paul tells us, how fitting is it that God would make our bodies incorruptible; and work through bodily relics to remind us of that final state of bodily reality.

We believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting; we just all-too-often forget that we believe it. After all that has been said, it might be imagined that God’s willingness to work through the relics of the saints is one more way for God to remind those of us who forget the dignity and destiny of our now-imperfect and corrupting bodies: “I’m not finished with you yet.”

 

For more on relics visit my friend Fr. Carlos Martins’ website, TreasuresOfTheChurch.com.

 visit Matt Nelson at his website:  reasonablecatholic.com