Holy Family Catholic High School Receives Saint Relic
In recognition of the 300th anniversary of the April 7 Good Friday passing of St. John Baptist de La Salle, a relic of the saint is traveling for display and veneration throughout the Christian Brothers Midwest District. St. John Baptist de La Salle is a patron saint of teachers and all those who work in education.
Holy Family Catholic High School is the first high school in Minnesota to receive the transfer of the relic for display. Holy Family President Mike Brennan, Principal Kathie Brown, Lasallian animator Doug Bosch, and Brendan O’Connor received the relic from Brother Dennis Galvin before the start of the Founder’s Week Mass. It will remain on display from the April 23 Mass through Friday, April 26, before transferring to Totino-Grace High School in Fridley.
According to Catholic teachings, relics of saints may be displayed for veneration but are not worshipped. They are holy objects with association to saints who now live in God’s presence.
The Holy Family community is welcome to view or venerate the relic during school hours (7:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.) The relic will be displayed a cabinet in the school foyer and in the school chapel for the Friday, April 26, Day of Giving 24-hour Prayer Vigil.
Click HERE to watch the transfer ceremony.
Dr. McInerny comments on relics and their veneration:
Holy Family theology instructor, Dr. Brendan McInerny, prepared the following information on relics and the Catholic Church:
The veneration of relics appears to coincide with the broader veneration of the saints. Already in the first ‘post-apostolic’ (after the deaths of the apostles) generation of Christians, we find accounts of Christians collecting the relics of the martyrs. There appears to be some scriptural support for this in miracles occurring by touching the garments of, e.g., Peter or Jesus, and the reverence being given to the remains of prophets and patriarchs within the book of Genesis (all the more striking since the authors of Genesis did not appear to have a belief in the idea of the resurrection of the dead). Between roughly 200 and 1500, relics were a constant, universal, and central feature of Christianity.
Only where Protestant Christianity became dominant do we see a disappearance of relics. As those who have been in historically Catholic or Orthodox countries (France, Italy, Spain, Greece) might attest, relics are still very much in existence and sometimes very much on display. It is widely reported that a relic of the Crown of Thorns was saved from the 2019 fire at Notre-Dame. Up to the 1960s, virtually all Catholic churches had a relic in the altar. They are still around us, though we often don’t notice or know what to do with them.
What are we to make of all of this?
First, we can understand relics as a special instance of what is commonly referred to as “the sacramental imagination” or “sacramental worldview.” “The sacramental imagination” refers to the Catholics belief that God’s grace or presence works through tangible, physical things. Encompassing the seven ‘chief” sacraments (baptism, chrismation/confirmation, Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony) as well as the innumerable ‘lesser’ “sacramentals” (the altar, incense, candles, images/icons, song, funerals, etc), the sacramental imagination in fact stretches to embrace all of creation. Everything can potentially be an avenue of God’s presence and grace because God is creator of everything, and called all of it good. Furthermore, God “assumed” this tangible, physical, created order “directly” (though mysteriously) in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The Word became flesh and through his flesh Jesus is connected to the whole web of relationships that make up the material universe.
One crucial purpose of this sacramental economy of grace is to transform men and women in holiness. God does not simply work through created things as passive instruments. God also works together with free human beings, who, in ordinary and extraordinary ways, become witnesses of God’s love. These men and women imitators of Christ, temples of the Holy Spirit, or simple “saints,” become vessels of grace themselves. Sometimes this grace is shown in miracles during a saint’s life, sometimes not.
Second, just as the immaterial and material are bound up together in the sacramental imagination, so too does Catholic theology maintain that the body and soul of human beings are distinct but not truly separate. This lack of separation is what undergirds the practices of fasting and abstinence. What happens in the body affects the soul. Therefore, from a Catholic point of view, a ‘complete’ human being is an embodied soul or an ensouled body and even after death the two realities remain, somehow linked. In our lives we might see something of this in the care with which we treat the bodies of the dead or the way in which we treasure mementos or heirlooms.
Somehow, we intuitively sense that a corpse is still our loved on in some manner or that a treasured object is still theirs. From a theological viewpoint, this common intuition reflects the truth in reference to the resurrection of the dead or the resurrection of the body. Being body/souls, we are incomplete in death and await a re-union of body and soul. Just as Christ rises bodily from the dead, so too will we. What exactly that resurrection body is or how it might relate to the assemblage of molecules that make up our bodies on this side of death and which pass into other bodies as a result of decomposition remains a mystery, but Catholics hold the conviction that the body, fully united with the spirit, will have a share in paradise.
In the instances of holy men and women – those beatified and canonized – we imagine the ‘link’ between body and soul in this life and after death as somehow ‘stronger’. To put it in a spatial metaphor: because the saint is ‘closer’ to Christ, he or she is ‘closer’ to the state of paradise in which there is no discontinuity between body and soul. As a result, the saint is both present and (potentially) active in and through his or her relics. Perhaps, it is better to say through the relic, the believer is made present to the saint. It is for that reason that people went to such lengths to go on pilgrimage to Paris, Canterbury, Rome, Constantinople, and Jerusalem: to be in the company of saints in the presence of God.