By Jay Nies
More than 100 people made a pilgrimage to a temporary necropolis in the Holy Spirit Parish Hall in Centralia to commune with the saints.
Father Carlos Martins, a member of the priestly Companions of the Cross, gave a teaching on saints, relics and miracles on Dec. 12 in Holy Spirit Church.
People from as far as Martinsburg, Boonville, Columbia and Jefferson City attended.
Relics are physical objects that have a direct association with saints or with Jesus.
They include fragments of the earthly remains of a saint, tiny pieces of his or her clothing, or other items touched to any of these things.
“The veneration of relics is a communion with the heroes of our Christian faith, asking for their powerful intercession,” Fr. Martins explained.
She chose to forgive
The priest talked about “four handcuffs” that hold people back from experiencing God’s grace: refusal to attend Sunday Mass, refusal to confess sins sacramentally, refusal to make a complete disclosure of sins in confession, and refusal to forgive other people.
He told stories of saints whose bodies have remained inexplicably incorrupt for decades or even centuries after their deaths.
He talked about how St. Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine of Rome, found the cross from Jesus’ crucifixion — known as the True Cross — in the 300s while on pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
He offered a moving telling of St. Maria Goretti, who was brutally murdered but chose before dying to fully forgive her assailant.
That has led to healings and conversions that continue to this day — “simply because she chose forgiveness, because she chose to be a saint,” said Fr. Martins.
It’s in the Bible
The Bible teaches that God acts through relics, especially in terms of healing. For instance:
•When the dead body of a man was touched to the bones of the prophet Elisha, the man came back to life and rose to his feet (2 Kings 13:20-21).
•A woman was healed of her hemorrhage simply by touching the hem of Jesus’ cloak (Matthew 9:20-22).
•The signs and wonders worked by the Apostles were so great that people would line the streets with the sick so that when Peter walked by at least his shadow might “touch” them (Acts 5:12-15).
•When handkerchiefs or aprons that had been touched to Paul were applied to the sick, the people were healed and evil spirits were driven out of them (Acts 19:11-12).
God has continued using relics to heal people through history and into the present age.
Fr. Martins told of a healing he had witnessed of a man whose arm had been nearly destroyed by a poisonous spider bite.
The priest gave the man an opportunity to venerate a relic of St. Maria Goretti, and the effects of the venom disappeared.
One of the relics on display was of St. Peter Claver, a 17th-century missionary to slaves in South America. A man who was dying of tuberculosis in 1861 dragged himself into a St. Louis church to venerate a relic of Peter Claver.
The man promptly stood up, walked out of church and lived for another 19 years. The Vatican later authenticated his miraculous healing, which led to Peter Claver being declared a saint.
“Face to face in glory”
Before sending the people to the parish hall, Fr. Martins told them to be on the lookout for a stirring in their heart.
“There’s going to be one saint next door who is going to reach out and communicate with you in a personal way,” he said. “One saint is going to say to you, ‘I want to be your friend.’
“Your job today, the reason why you’re here, and frankly the reason why I’ve come here, is for you to find your saint,” he said.
It starts by leaving the handcuffs behind and deciding to live a holier, more complete life.
Then, a person must be open to letting the saint into his or her heart.
“What you’re looking for is the saint that touches you most deeply, the saint with whom you find love or a connection, an affection that is easy and that is new,” the priest said.
“That is that saint’s way of saying, ‘I’m choosing you.’”
He suggested remembering who that saint is and including him or her in prayer every day.
“That saint will intercede for you in front of the throne of God, night and day, until one day, God willing, you meet one another face to face in glory,” he said.
In the hall, relics of 160 saints — along with a piece of the true cross and a remnant of the Blessed Mother’s veil — were lovingly displayed in reliquaries on 18 tables.
There were relics of St. Patrick, St. Anthony of Padua, Pope St. John XXIII, St. Faustina Kowalska (apostle of Divine Mercy), St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Francis of Assisi and numerous others.
The atmosphere was quiet and prayerful as people stopped in front of each relic and perused a short biography. Some people blessed themselves with the relics or touched pictures of their loved ones to them.
“It’s like making 160 pilgrimages right here,” said James Boik, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Columbia. “Each of these saints has a particular church or cathedral dedicated to him or her. It’s like we’re on a pilgrimage to all of those holy sites.”
Fr. Martins, author of a book on the life and martyrdom of St. Maria Goretti, was an atheist before experiencing a profound conversion.
He founded Treasures of the Church (www.treasuresofthe church.com) as an evangelization ministry and travels all over the world.
He offers this ministry without charge but accepts free-will offerings to help pay for his travel and expenses.
He said he’s doing what he loves: “giving people an experience of the living God through an encounter with the relics of His saints in the form of an exposition.”
Holy Spirit at work
Holy Spirit parishioner Ann Goosey invited Fr. Martins to Centralia to give the presentation, which took place on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“Our little church was full, and that was great considering all the conflicts going on this time of year,” she stated.
She called Fr. Martins’ teaching inspirational and educational.
“His explanation of the four handcuffs inspired attendees to make full, complete and often confessions,” said Mrs. Goosey. “It was nothing short of the Holy Spirit at work to bring this to our small church.”
People were astonished to be able to see and hold the relics of so many saints and to invite those saints into their hearts.
“What a true blessing this was as we prepare for the coming of the Christ child!” she said.
“There is so much grace here,” said Mr. Boik.