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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Relically Speaking

I really wanted to talk about this today. I guess I'll give you another chance to peruse it for yourselves. Meanwhile, as I have been on a roller coaster rider with my mother, who is one day better and the next day worse and the next day better again and still in the hospital (but maybe getting out today), we'll just hit a few soft balls.

Another question from a protestant. Tomorrow is Ash-wednesday, in our protestant tradition the receiving of the ash cross on the forehead is not a custom. But I would very much like to receive it as a sign of entering Lent, a time of concentration on God. Would it be allright for me to receive the ashcross in the catholic church. ( Of course without taking part in the Eucharist.)

I don't see a problem with this, although, if you're that interested in the way the Catholic Church does things.....you might want to think about.....doing things that way all the time? You realize that, in a sense, you will be posing as a Catholic all day tomorrow?

In Quebec, there's a big shrine to the famous mother-daughter dream team, Sts. Anne and Mary, and they have tiny chunks of both of them on display.
(Mary's looks like a finger bone, but the piece of St. Anne is literally a "chunk" - just a little square of indescernable body part!) The last time I went there I was in the 7th or 8th grade, and I was amazed that the church could keep track of something so tiny for thousands of years, while I was "lose" my homework assignments somewhere between the bus stop and home.

Whoa Nelly!

This is upsetting. I can't imagine why a Catholic Church would claim to have the
relics of St. Anne and Mary. To begin with, St. Anne...we don't even know her name, really. We don't know one single thing about her. What has been passed down about her mostly comes from Gospels that were tossed out of the New Testament and for good reason, like the Killer Baby Jesus stories. We know Mary had a mother. That is all we know. Well, maybe not all....we know she was a good mother, because look how well she did with Mary. Then, on the other hand, Mary, being free from sin, technically could have had Britney Spears as a mother and still turned out fine. Sacred Tradition venerates Ann as the saintly mother of Mary. Works for me! The idea that anyone has a 'chunk' of her is utterly absurd.

But MARY RELICS!!!! WHAT!!???? It is the Dogma of the Catholic Church (which means this is something the Church says is absolutely true, unlike, say, whether or not dogs go to heaven) that Mary was assumed bodily into heaven. Her whole body went to heaven and I imagine the dress she was wearing at the time. Unless she had a hair cut right before she left, there ARE NO RELICS.

No first class relics, at any rate, unless she had had a recent manicure or a haircut. There are three types of relics:
1. First Class Relics: an actual piece of the person.
2. Second Class Relics: an object the person touched or used, like her hairbrush or her shoes or her handbag.
3.Third Class Relics: an object touched to a first class relic. For example, you touch your hankie to the bone of a saint. The hankie is now a third class relic.

Explaining that will make answering this question a snap!

Where did you hear that people are not supposed to possess relics? I ask because I have a second class relic of Blessed Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac that my friend received during a trip to Europe.
His biography: http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/sainta66.htm
If I'm not supposed to have it I will find a church to which to donate it. I do keep it in a small home altar.

I'll bet you actually have a third class relic there. I really didn't make this up, I promise.

Regular people used to possess first class relics. Now the Church doesn't want that to happen anymore. For one thing, it's a really big fat sin (simony) to sell relics, which is what was going on, even though it was often disguised as a 'donation'. It didn't pass the smell test, a lot of the time, so the Church just put an end to it.

The Vicarate of Rome is in charge of the relics. If a Cathlic Church needs a relic, for the altar maybe, the priest would write a request to the Vicarate in Rome to obtain a first class relic. You might be able to obtain one for yourself, but you'd better have a pretty compelling reason.

I'm not sure quite where the Church stands on possessing second class relics. My guess would be that if you've come by it naturally, like you were Mother Teresa's Super Cuts barber and you kept the comb you used on her, no problem. But once you try to sell it on ebay=problem. I don't think the Church would be much more happy about peole buying and selling and collecting second class relics than She is about first class relics.

But third class relics are NO PROBLEM. You can have oodles of them. I would encourage it! Not the oodles part. I don't know why you'd what oodles, really. That sounds like a collection.

I don't have a problem with having a collection of third class relics, per se. It's just that once you start collecting, where's the veneration? Collecting something tends to be about the pursuit of objects. The saints are not Beanie Babies.

Watch it!

My husband and I are expecting our second child soon. We have a name picked out for both genders (one being straight out of scripture) but one is a variation on a ancient Roman god's. There is a saint with this name that we have found who has noble attributes, but it has been after the fact. My husband thinks that since the child will have a Christian middle name the first name doesn't matter so much in that respect. I still worry that we should go ahead and make sure both names are fully Christian. Does the Church have a view on this? What are your personal feelings?

You can name your child Blotsnefad, if you like. There is no law that says you have to give your child a Christian name, let alone a saint's name. It is simply a practice that is encouraged for a couple or reasons: (I love making little lists!)
1. We feel it surely gives the child the automatic intercession of the saint or saints.
2. As the child gets older it's a helpful way to introduce the child to the teachings of the church (what's a saint? how do you get to heaven? what is that light around those heads in those paintings?).
3. We hope that as the child grows he can choose the emulate the saint and call on the saint for intercession.

So you can see why if you name your child Blotsnefad, we become a little depressed. But, we can handle it.

We've been treating very old pews to bring out the luster of the wood. There is an ordination coming up. Right now the pews feel sticky from the 'glo' treatment, anybody have a remedy?

We never use anything but Murphy's Oil Soap. Cleans and polishes. I don't know why they don't tap us for their commercials.


jquinby said...

Fascinating article on the new monastics, Sister. Thanks for posting it. Ora et labora indeed.

Anonymous said...

What would you consider the reliquaries in Europe that claim to contain vials of the Virgin's breast milk? A first class relic, I presume...
Of course, a number of these exist...as well as churches that claim to have a cloak that belonged to her.
Clearly, the dogma of the Assumption has ancient roots, so the Church must have been comfortable reconciling this with the notion that certain first class relics of Mary do exist.
Whether a particular relic is a "fake" or not, well, that's a whole other story.

PraiseDivineMercy said...

Perhaps that church purports to have a relic of another Mary, such as St Mary Magdalene or Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus?
Also, it really is a second class relic. More specifically, it is a small piece of the Blessed Cardinal's red cassock.

RadioPie said...

LOL I'll have to check out that church! I think it's called Ste. Anne De Baupre...or something equally as French! Thanks for clearing that up!
God Bless this glorious Ash Wednesday!

Anonymous said...

Good day Sister.

Lutherans too will have the sign of the cross in ashes on their foreheads after church services today or this evening. It isn't just a Catholic practice. The words "dust thou art and to dust you shall return' are spoken. The ashes are made from the palm fronds used during the previous Palm Sunday.

I hope your mother is doing well this morning.

Anonymous said...

I belong to an Anglo-Catholic congregation (i.e., Episcopalian, but very high church). However, even the "lower" Episcopalians receive ashes.

Anonymous said...

Is this site Catholic?

Anonymous said...

The guy who put in my wood floors hates Murphy's Oil Soap. Says it does awful things to wood. He once had just finished all the wood in a new home, only to have the cleaners come in after him and use MOS on the wood. He ended up redoing it all.

ArchAngel's Advocate said...

The site in Quebec is the Shrine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. Their website is http://www.ssadb.qc.ca/

Anonymous said...

Hello Sister. I received ashes this morning at an Anglican church here in England. And I know that the Anglican churches in the West Indies (where I grew up) administer them on Ash Wednesday too... until recently I thought all churches did it! Why else would it be called Ash Wednesday?

We also had pancakes last night...

Jeffrey Smith said...

You really might want to do a bit of research before answering questions. The Shrine of Ste. Anne de Beaupre has had a first class relic of St. Anne for quite some time. Whether it's legitimate or not is open to question, but its history and the fact that it was venerated long before you were born is not to be taken lightly.
The supposed relic of Our Lady, however, would have to be a misunderstanding, since neither Ste. Anne de Beaupre, nor any other church makes such a claim.
The Church's position on possession of second class relics is quite clear, since they're readily available from the cause for the canonization of John Paul II and quite a number of others.
First class relics? I haven't heard anything, but I'd like to know the source of your statement.

Sanctus Belle said...

I've been to the Shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre in Quebec - oh about a year and a half ago. The relic of St. Anne is totally legit and well documented - they have an entire radial bone (can't remember right or left) in a reliquary. This is a holy site of worldwide devotion, pilgrimmage and miracles. I spent one entire day there and did not see nor hear of any relic of Mary, which of course could not exist (first class anyway). Highly recommend a visit to this shrine - many long lines for confession, frequent Mass, led prayers and Benediction.

Anonymous said...

We're allowed to have second-class relics. The people who are working for the cannonization of JPII are giving away holy cards with second-class relics on them, which they describe on their web site as a piece of the Holy Father's clothing.

I just found your blog tonight. I love it!

Magdalene6127 said...

Sister, I enjoy your blog immensely. I have been busy with my Lenten practices, and thus am catching up... that's why I'm a week late responding to this. The person with ashes on her head most certainly wouldn't be "posing as a Catholic all day." In my church (that is, the Presbyterian church of which I am a pastor) we do impose ashes. Many Protestants do. Thank you again for your wonderful and witty writing.

Kuroyanagi Ryou said...

Catholics can also become relic custodians. I in fact, has literally a lot of it.