Thursday, April 28, 2005

# 24 SAINTS AND RELICS

Now, let me make one thing very clear. I believe in the same Christian God as any other Christian religion and how that God is worshiped is not up to me to judge. But I am discovering and learning some things about Catholicism in the past few days that I find rather surprising. So as I do most every day I am going to share with you my reflections about these things.

It started out with me watching the Pope’s inauguration. When the cardinals kissed St. Peter’s tomb and the moderator said that this tomb contained a few bones believed to be those of St. Peter, I was surprised. Surprised because I thought that in order for anyone to become a Saint, this ‘right to be’ was signified by the rate of decomposition of their corpse after they die. I thought that people who became Saints were disinterred to check for the rate of decay. I don’t know why I thought that. I just did. Always have.

So when the moderator was speaking and saying that this tomb contained a few fragments of bone of St. Peter, I was somewhat taken aback. Surely Peter’s corpse, above all others, would have displayed the ‘right to be’ condition for Sainthood. So how did his body become, as described by the moderator, nothing more than a few fragmented bones? Too curious, I just had to start investigating my long held belief about the relationship between Sainthood and decomposition.

Nothing in my encyclopedias. So I turned to the Web. Not much there either. (looking on Google, Yahoo, etc. and muttering to one’s self ‘this secrecy thing has got to stop’).

Well eventually I did find out some things I thought were quite interesting, and yes, enlightening as well. Do you know why the Pope kisses the ground or why the Cardinals kissed the tomb of Saint Peter? This has to do with touching relics (something used or touched at one time by Saints). The ground, the earth, is a sacred relic because it was once walked on by all saints.

Okay, that much is cleared up. But then I had to come back to the relics bit because now I found out that there are three types of relics. A) a Saint’s corpse B) something used by that Saint, or C) any object touched by A. But now, things started to get a bit gruesome. I found that parts of a Saint’s corpse (which are called ‘First-class relics’) are placed in the altar of newly consecrated Churches. How are they housed in these altars? I have no idea. Maybe hidden inside or built into a little sealed display box? Now you know what bothers me here is the cutting up of bodies in order to make a large collection of ‘first-class relics’ that can be widely dispersed. My thought was ‘No wonder Pope John the II said he just wanted to be put in the ‘cool ground’ and have his heart buried in his native land’.

I know I’ve got a bit sidetracked here, but returning to my original belief about the decomposition of the bodies of Saints, it was not totally false. According to Deacon George Kozak:

"Certain Saints, at the time of their death or many years later after they were exhumed, were found to be incorruptable. That is to say, their bodies did not decompose….An incorrupt saint can appear almost as if alive or may look like a mummy with darked skin drawn tight, but the body retains a suppleness and has no signs of decay."

What do I know? I only know enough to know how much I don’t know. So I welcome your comments. I want to know more about Saints and more about relics. I want to know how each Saint qualified for Sainthood, and I want to know what relics equated to those saints are stashed in what altars. A roadmap type of thing.

I am a pilgrim (a wanderer in an unknown land) and I am on a pilgrimage. Any guidance would be appreciated.

3 Comments:

Anonymous sue said...

As a small child, my dream in life was to become a saint. In my little *Book of Saints* book, it seemed the most common way was one, be a virgin, two have one's breast ripped off and three be eaten by a lion to amuse the roman masses.And yet I still wanted to be a saint.

Try looking for *reliquary* to find holders of the bits and pieces...

http://images.google.com/images?q=reliquary%20&hl=en&lr=&safe=off&sa=N&tab=wi

11:17 AM  
Blogger Adrian said...

Revelations 17. Steer clear of Catholicism in any way shape or form!!

Why anybody would willingly want to kiss a corpse is beyond me!

But good luck on your quest anyway!

12:03 PM  
Blogger Roberta said...

Hi Sue. Oooh, the bit about the saint-conditions in your little book is incredible. Not much of a choice in those requirements. I think I'd pick #2.

On a more serious note, Thanks for giving me that reference. I intend to go there and have a look around.

adrian t. As a newcomer, Welcome to my blog. I'm not likely to take your advice because I try to keep an open mind in all situations. Part of life's magic is communication and the opportunity it gives us to understand the 'reasonable cause' that leads some to think the way they do. In some situations the 'reasonable cause' of a group to think the way they do, gives me my 'reasonable cause' to disagree; and in other instances, that 'reasonable cause' gives me reason to rethink my perspective. This, I think, is at the very root of tolerance of each other's differences.

1:35 PM  

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