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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Relics

2 Kings 2:8-14: Elijah’s mantle.

Exodus 7:10: Aaron’s rod.

Matthew 9:20-21; Matthew 14:36: The hem of the garment worn by our Lord.

Acts 19:12: . . . so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.

Acts 5:15-16: . . . so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and pallets, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

It was only natural that Christians, from the very earliest days, would hold onto mementos of the saints. Relics remind us that holiness is real and that some of our number have followed Christ in spectacular ways. The veneration of relics of saintly persons or things is recommended by the Bible. However, such regard is not the same as the worship that belongs to God alone. We do not pray to such objects or treat them superstitiously; we honor what they signify and the graces God conveys in them. The secular world does similar things. A person might cherish a lock of hair from his beloved. A nation might treat with respect the great patriotic symbol that is the flag.

For more such reading, contact me about getting my book, DEFENDING THE CATHOLIC FAITH.

5 Responses

  1. Dear Fr Joe,

    I’m sorry if I’m going off topic, but you said that Jesus gave the Apostles authority over even interpreting the commandments and that did pull me up short rather, and I can’t honestly think quite where this is written about in the Bible, please can you help?

    Thanks, Paul

    FATHER JOE: The Magisterium is given authority to interpret the things of God: Scripture and Tradition. I have written about this before and about the keys of the kingdom given to Peter. More later when I return to this topic.

  2. In the gospel, When Christ was told about some doing good works in his name, but not being part of his “group”, he bade them not to chastise. I have encountered holy bearing protestants, as i have also done the same with my Catholic brothers and sisters. While i am slow to judge those who parade, and venerate relics, it is not hard not to see the watering down of Christ’s message by those who blindly wear a crucifix. God can use all to draw his children closer to him.

    FATHER JOE:

    Relics are technically associated with a saint or something intimately related to salvation history. The Church actually distinguishes between degrees of relics: (1) part of the saint’s body; (2) something the saint wore; and (3) something that touched the saint’s body (even after death, like a holy card).

    I get your point about “sacramentals,” and we should never wear the crucifix, medals, etc. like cheap jewelry. A cross in the pocket or a scapular under the shirt can serve a very personal need. Wearing religious items externally should imply giving the proper Christian witness so as not to give scandal. The MTV star Madonna gave one of the most blasphemous responses I have ever heard about the crucifix. Asked why she shockingly wore them, she said, “There is something sexy about a naked man on a cross.” What a sick and faithless attitude!

  3. Dear Fr Joe,
    Thanks for that, and it has helped me see the other side of the equation. I suppose I do try to rationalise and thus compromise my faith especially when confounded by forthright iconoclasts and anti Catholics and because my Faith is only luke warn at times I find it difficult not to be confused by their logic if not their conviction.

    I suppose there must inevitably come a time when I will have to turn, shake off the dust from my sandles and walk away……..not from the True Church, but from those who choose only to see their ‘truth’, but then I find myself doing exactly that and I’m not sure that I’m right. I have even been accused of failing to ‘Keep holy the Sabbath’ because it really falls on a Saturday and the Catholic Church is accused of changing it to an incorrect day………..I just don’t know how to answer that one. Afterall the Jews still honour the Saturdays as the Holy Day……….just how did it end up on the Sunday which they claim is the begining of the week and not the seventh day?
    With best wishes,
    Paul

    FATHER JOE: The late JPII wrote about this matter and gave great clarity. While Saurday is celebrated as the Jewish Sabbath, the transition to Sunday Observance is something we see in the early Church. References to “the Lord’s Day” in the New Testament are cases in point; the Christians gathered together on Sunday to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. After the expulsion of the Christians from the synagogues, the gravity moved from Saturday to Sunday. While the Jewish Sabbath stressed the day God rested after the work of creation; the Sunday Observance reflected our Lord’s offer of a re-creation in him after the great work of our redemption. Jesus gave the Apostles (i.e. the Catholic Church) authority even over interpreting the commandments. Just as the incarnation meant a new economy of images, so too was there jurisdiction over the day we would worship the Lord. Elements of the synagogue service (readings) would be transferred to the Sunday gathering or liturgy. As the number of Gentiles increased, the transition became even less a problem.

  4. Dear Paul,

    Much depends as to what you would describe as superstitious. Different cultures have many ways of expressing the one true faith. We should be cautious in our condemnation unless there are clearly elements in conflict with the deposit of faith and/or Christian morals.

    While all prayer finds its proper object in God and divine worship is reserved to the Almighty, Mary is a singular case in our devotions because of her relationship to her Son and her participation with him in the work of redemption. Certain Mariologists would even claim that while our Lord is the source for grace that they pass through Mary. As far as I know such a view has never been explicitly condemned by the Church. In any case, we can agree that Mary always brings souls to her Son. Her immaculate heart beats in perfect harmony with the sacred heart of Jesus.

    As for relics and sacramentals, they are permitted as further evidence of the incarnation. God uses the things of the world, including our own humanity, to convey something of himself and his blessing. Thus, the use of medals, scapulars, holy cards, holy water, healing oils, candles, crucifixes, etc. is perfectly sound. We invoke the protection and healing of the Lord. We remember him in things and people, so that he might be present in us. Holy objects are manifestations of our orations and we have full confidence that God hears the prayers of his children.

    The common man finds some delight and even edification in plastic trinkets of faith. Neither you nor I have the right to function as an iconoclast to forbid such things to simple souls. I might be personally appalled by a wristwatch with Jesus on the face but another might find in it a constant reminder of his faith and how every moment is a sacred opportunity to encounter the divine mystery. As for scandalized Protestants (Baptist or any other variety), why should any argument be made that would compromise the Catholic use of sacramentals? They are also scandalized that priests presume the power to forgive sins and to call God out of his heaven and into the Eucharist. I would shock them still further. Would we try to argue (i.e. rationalize) this into something they might more readily accept. Accidentals, individually, may not be all that important but all together they may support the most essential of truths.

    While the commerce of sacred and/or blessed objects is lamentable; the motivation for many to acquire relics (body parts or clothing or whatever) is rather noble. We want to give our faith substance and get as close as we can to the saints. The economy of images is changed by the incarnation. I am sorry that the kissing of a relic of the true cross did not have much impact upon you. But what were you really expecting? There is nothing of magic about these things. The power is not in the object (as with a superstitious talisman) but in God who can use the material things of creation. How do we access this power? Why is it that some people have incredible and even life-changing experiences, as with relics or pilgrimage sites? Much depends upon what the pilgrim of faith brings. Much hinges upon the proper disposition. A relic of the cross would bring to our mind and imagination the scene of Christ’s passion and death. We are moved because our Lord loved us so much that he took our sins upon his shoulders and sacrificed his life for us. Relic or not, that truth always shakes my soul.

    Where did the Pope say that St. Christopher never existed? Are there no saints in heaven by the name of Christopher? Are we not all supposed to be “bearers of Christ,” showing his face and love in a cold world that desperately needs him? Many saints were removed from the universal calendar, just as the late Pope John Paul II added still others. It may be that the facts about many saints are lost in the passage of time or loaded with legends… so what? Saints are our friends, and they pray for us, but again the power of heaven is still with the throne where Christ sits. No prayer for St. Christopher for intercession was ever wasted or in vain.

    The bones or relics of the altar are but another reminder that if we die with Christ, we will rise with him.

    Many blessings,
    Father Joe

  5. Dear Fr Joe,
    “We do not pray to such objects or treat them superstitiously”………….try telling that to the Europeans, especially the Catholic Church of Spain. I have seen the various forms of adoration that can only realistically be described as ‘worship’ around gold clad madonnas, and various quasi-religious rituals with relics, certainly before a bull fight, and usually at the celebration of feasts of saints, and all of this rigmarole does much damage to the church.
    It is difficult to argue the case before Baptists and Protestants when they have witnessed such obscene performances whilst on holiday in these countries, and the sale of Chinese made, plastic musical boxes depicting the apparition of Our Holy Mother Mary to St Bernadette in Lourdes especially splashed with water from the river running by is the worst form of tatt I can imagine.

    I have kissed a relic of the true cross, or what the Church has reliably confirmed to be the true cross, and found it a bit of a ‘non event’ really, but then I’m not sure what I was expecting. And we’ve spoken elsewhere about the trade in body parts over the centuraries that is indicative of someone somewhere always wanting to make a fast buck.

    I used to have a “St Christopher” medallion, but I must confess I tended to think of it as a “good luck charm” and always kept it in the car……surprisingly I never had an auto accident, and then The Pope told us that he never existed……from that moment on I drove a little more carefully!

    I have a lock of my dog’s hair…….I couldn’t resist last week as I laid his poor old body into the cold wet soil, and I have it kept it safe…….for a while; it gives me comfort. And that’s how it is for me with the bits and bobs that The Church venerates. Our Parish Priest, with the zeal of any convert to Catholicism and certainly doubled by his progression to the priesthood, has a goodly collection of various relics, and whilst I was in Paris last year, at Notre Dame, I photographed a number of thigh bones and various assorted possessions of long dead notorious defenders of the faith.

    And I suppose, as a priest at the commencement of every Mass, you must think of those who have died in the faith as you kiss the centre of the Altar. If nothing else it reminds me of my mortality.
    Thank you,
    Paul

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