Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Dedication of the Cathedral Church of Cubao 2012

“Through his death and resurrection, Christ became the true and perfect temple of the New Covenant and gathered together a people to be his own.

This holy people, made one as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one, is the Church that is, the temple of God built of living stones (cf. 1 Pt 2:5), where the Father is worshiped in spirit and in truth (Jn 4:24).

Rightly, then, from early times “church” has also been the name given to the building in which the Christian community gathers to hear the word of God, to pray together, to receive the sacraments, and to celebrate the Eucharist.

Because the church is a visible building, it stands as a special sign of the pilgrim Church on earth and reflects the Church dwelling in heaven” (RDCA 1 and 2).

Moreover, the Cathedral Church is so important to a diocese because “it is the site of the bishop’s cathedra, the sign of his teaching office and pastoral power in the particular Church, and a sign of the unity of the believers in faith that the bishop proclaims as shepherd of the Lord’s flock” (CB, 42).

Every year the local Church celebrates the feast of the dedication of the Cathedral Church. The RDCA No. 7 states that: “A day should be chosen for the dedication of the new church when the people can be present in large numbers, especially a Sunday.”

Ten years ago, Bishop Socrates Villegas of the Ecclesiastical District of Cubao presided the solemn consecration of the new altar of the Immaculate Conception Parish. This is in lieu of the requirement of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission that future cathedrals of the new suffragans of Manila must be dedicated and/or have a consecrated altar. For the Diocese of Cubao, the Immaculate Conception Cathedral celebrates her dedication every August 14.

RDCA 26: “In order that the importance and dignity of the local Church may stand out with greater clarity, the anniversary of the dedication of its cathedral is to be celebrated, with the rank of a solemnity in the cathedral itself, with the rank of a feast in the other churches of the diocese, on the date on which the dedication of the church recurs.

Therefore, the following prayers and readings will be used:

Major Hours: Common of the Dedication the Church
Divine Office: with “Te Deum”
Prayer: Outside the dedicated church

Vestment: White
Prayers: Common of the Dedication of a Church: Outside the dedicated church
Preface: Dedication of a Church
Readings: Common of the Dedication of a Church

As we celebrate in our own parishes and communities in the diocese this wonderful feast of our Local Church, this is a way to enrich the liturgical and ecclesial spirituality of the faithful. As Fr. Chupungco said in one of his talks: “Liturgical spirituality demands that all celebrate the liturgy in union and communion with the entire Church, whose local head is the bishop.”

Let us unite our parishes, our communities, and ourselves to the Church of Cubao, so that together, with one heart and one voice, we pray: “Renew by the light of the gospel the Church of Cubao. Strengthen the bonds of unity between the faithful and their pastors, that together with Benedict our pope, Honesto our bishop, and the whole college of bishops, your people may stand forth in a world torn by strife and discord as a sign of oneness and peace” (Eucharistic Prayer I for Various Needs and Occasions).

Friday, August 10, 2012

Drawing Spirituality with the Relics of the Saints

Who says we cannot draw something spiritual from the relics of the Saints? Some Catholic spiritualties started from them which now we called Ignatian, Augustinian, Benedictine, Teresian, Franciscan, Dominican, etc. There are many spiritualties to choose from, but all of them came from one source: God, the source and fount of all holiness (cf. Eucharistic Prayer II). He leads everyone to a more intimate relationship with him in answering hiscallto holiness: “Be holy as I, the Lord your God, am holy.” (Lev 19:2) But how can we acquirea spirituality from the relics if they direct us to the Saints whom we venerate? I do not aspire to make a new spirituality. Rather I wish that all who has a relic, or who has relics, may have a deeper spiritual union with Our Lord and his Saints. They must be the first ones who must grow in holiness, for they are with the holy ones.

Allow me to suggest some practical spirituality for those who, like me, called themselves “custodians” of relics:

Spirituality is a way of life that will help us to be holy and to be Saints. It is an on-going process of sainthood for those who are still living in the world- mourning and weeping in this vale of tears- in the midst of temptations and sin. But the good news is this: we can be holy! We need to strive for it and persevere with the help God and the intercession of the Saints whose relics our midst.

Relics in the Church
Relics are treasures. We see them in beautiful reliquaries, adorned with precious metal and stones, to show how we honor the remains of a person: dead or alive, it is still God’s creation – made in his image and likeness, sanctified by the Holy Spirit, saved by Christ on the Cross.

All around the world we see Churches who place relics in a worthy place, it may be in the sanctuary, within or beneath the altar, statues of Saints, and chapels. This manner of honor is a way to manifest to all faithful that these remains are important: they are children of God and of the Church, who now enjoy the beatific presence with their Lord and Master in heaven.

If Holy Mother Church continuously gives proper honor to the relics, we, the faithful, especially the caretakers who are blessed to have relics in our custody, must draw some spirituality from her. What does the Church want us to learn with these relics? How will these help us become holy? Relics also serve as teacher of holiness, which we will tackle in this paper.

Honesty and Truthfulness
One time, I had the chance to talk to my fellow workers in different causes of canonization and beatification. They shared to me that they received letters from different parts of the world, but most especially from the Philippines. They were surprised that some of these letters contain inaccurate information: name of bishops that do not exist, parishes with residential address, unregistered congregations of brothers or priests, etc. Some use signatures of priests or bishops in laser print or stamped. What’s wrong with these?

Holiness is a life living in Truth, in Jesus. If we wish to be holy and be friend with the Saints, we need to live in a reality that what we are and what we do will be accepted by others. Some ask relic of saints for their parish Church, or for their beloved who is ill, or for their community – but we need to be honest of our status and intention.

Not telling the truth – which is lying – is the work of the number one enemy of God and of his Saints: Satan. He is the father of lies. If we lie, whose side are we? Never tell lies: be honest!

In the Gospel, Jesus said: “Veritas liberavit vos - the truth will set you free.” (Jn. 8: 32) Free from sin, free from temptation, free from all negative charges. Who wants to be slaved by the number one deceiver of the world? If we are for God, we must not do the work of the devil. Lie not, neither to thyself, nor man, nor God.

To ask something to someone depends on our honesty if we really need it. It is God’s will that the one who will give will answer our request, as long as it is asked with pure intentions and truthfulness. We need to tell the truth.

The same goes with the relics we expose for veneration, we need to tell the truth because this will help people have a more intimate meeting with the Saints. You cannot say this is a “bone,” or “hair,” or “blood” of this or that Saint without any proof. The Church gives apostolic mandate that only authentic relics are allowed for veneration[1]. We can say that one relic is authentic if there’s a seal at the back and a certificate of authenticity signed by a Bishop or a delegate of the Church (Postulator or Vice Postulator).

C.S. Lewis once said: “A little lie is like a little pregnancy: it doesn't take long before everyone knows.” We knowwe will acquire in the next life either a reward for telling the truth or punishment for telling a lie. Let us live in the truth!

Contentment and Humility
I saw once in the internet a page for relics, and as if they are in the contest of “the Most Numerous Relics in the Web.” How many relics do we need that we may be holy? None. Saint Teresa of Avila said, “Solo Dios basta (God is enough)!”

Relics are God’s instruments of his love and grace: showing that our bodies are sacred, and all what he created is precious. But in the end, it is still God’s. God will still be our end.

We may have hundreds or thousands of relics. But is this the measure how holier we are than others Benjamin Franklin once said, “Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.” We need to get to the point that we are contented with what we have, and what God has gave us. How many people like us who thank God for a relic and place it in the altar or donate it to the parish for the veneration of all? I hope some did this. But some, they’ll keep it and ask for more, and more, and more. Making relics a collection is against the law of the Church.[2] It is a sin of sacrilege. 

I knew one news that someone in my country stole so many relics just for fame, and gave it to others. How can this be a way of holiness? Your act is evil, your intention is good, but logically it is still evil. Are we not happy with what God has given us: our life, our family, faith, our salvation, Himself? Relics may be a way to be holy, but it may also be a way to do evil like envy and pride. How can we stop these evil acts?

One time, a kid approached me and said: “I have a relic, my Grandma gave it to me.” I asked him, “What do you do with that relic?” “I pray before it, and ask Saint Therese to pray for me and my family, especially Grandma.”

Relics also serve as teacher of humility before God. We may not have the most number of relics in our possession, but this is a way God works in us, to make us humble before him and be contented also with his graces. His grace is sufficient for us.  I knew more than one who has relics of less than 5 in their care because priests or bishops gave it to them, and you will see in them that they are growing in holiness and pray sincerely. The number of relics is not the measurement of our humility and holiness; it is how we humble ourselves down before God, counting his graces from him to be shared, and how we became honest before the eyes of God and man.

Gratitude and Generosity
Relics are gifts. We do not pay anything to get a relic, or else it is simony for both the seller and the buyer. To make a donation is a way to support a cause or an act of gratitude. If we receive something free, we need to do our act of charity towards other, to venerate the relics, without expecting a return. Jesus said to his Apostles, “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” (Mt 10:9).

I remember one mentor who had relics, a hundreds of it, who donated it in the diocese and placed it in a shrine where others many venerate and pray before the saints. It is a holy and heroic act. How about us, are we ready to give relics to those who are in need or to the Church that others may be holy?

It is fitting to remind ourselves with the prayer Saint Ignatius of Loyola made, “Lord, teach me to be generous: to give and not to count the cost and ask nothing for reward.”

WE DO NOT OWN RELICS. If we have some, it is because God is kind to you. He is generous to you. But it does not mean that it is yours. It is still God’s and is still for his people; you are only made a caretaker and sharer of his blessings and of his saints. Therefore, let us be generous towards others.

Studiousness and More for Holiness
For Saint JosemariaEscriva, “an hour of study is an hour of prayer.[3]” It was a challenge for me before to study the relics of the saints and its connection with the liturgy. And I find this study, as a form prayer and a move to manifest the truth, all worthwhile.

To have a relic is not the end of our spirituality. We need to learn more about the Saint whom we are caring, to understand his or her teachings, and live it in our life.

I am just wondering: if you have hundreds or thousands of relics in your care, how will you study their life and live their spiritual teachings? That is the challenge for them: to be holier because they have so many intercessors and examples. But it does not mean that if you have less relics you are less holy. Holiness is how we live in the love and knowledge of God, and sharing it to others.

Communion with the Church
“The Saints have been traditionally honored in the Church, and their authentic relics and images held in veneration,”[4] and not in houses of individual persons: the relics of Saints are owned and kept by Holy Mother Church.

We need to be with the Church andto think with the Church- sentire cum Ecclesia-as Saint Ignatius of Antioch said, because outside the Church we are nothing. We cannot move by our own. A hand cannot manipulate if it is not connected with the body, even the other body parts. We need to be with the Church- to be in the Body of Christ. It is only in the Church that we can work holiness, for it is the universal sacrament of Christ salvation.[5]

One of the spiritualities that we need to develop is to put everything, all our relics and works, within the Church. Only then we can say that “I am part of the Body of Christ, where I help my brothers and sisters to be holy through the presence and intercession of the Saints.”

Reconciliation and Eucharist
We are not perfect, but we strive to be one – to be holy, to be a saint. One way to see and accept our weaknesses, which are caused by sin, is to do a daily examination of conscience and lead ourselves to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The Church recommends that the faithful go to Confession at least once a year.[6] But as people who strive to be saints, as St. Josemaria Escriva suggests, we can do it weekly or even frequently as we can – as time permits.[7] But it does not mean that when we confess regularly we can do sin and just confess it. No. We need to have the sincerity to change and to stop our favorite sins that separates us from God, our source of holiness. There must be a resolution at the end not to commit the same sin we had confessed. God is merciful, and we need to be Children of the Merciful God by living a holy life, patterned in the lives of the Saints.

In the end, all spirituality draws its strength and ends in the Eucharist. How sincere are we in celebrating it? How much love do we have for the Eucharist? If we have the guts to take care relics of Saints, we must never forget to take care of our life-our spiritual life- by meeting and receiving our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist on Sundays, and on daily basis as possible. It is in the Eucharist that we become Saints: being an ‘alter Christus, ipse Christus’ (another Christ and Christ himself)[8] in the world, in our work or school, and in our home. We become what we eat: We eat the Body of Christ; therefore, we need to live as reflection of Christ to others through our thoughts, words, and deeds. Let us be a Christ to one another!

We, as a Church- as a community of disciples, treasure relics because it is near to the divine. We treasure relics because it helps us to be holy. But the question is: “When will I start to be holy?”

Everytime I see a relic, especially of a first class, I am always startled because of how the nuns made it beautiful: gold theca, paper flowers inside, some with gems, and nice calligraphy for the name and description. We honor the relics of the Saints because they persevered to combat temptation and sin, and chose to follow the life of Jesus: the Truth, the Humble Master, the Teacher and Our One Lord.

How about this: are we ready to live in the Truth, to be Humble and contented with what we have, and be united in the Church? Are we ready to learn more truths and teachings of the Saints whom we care and venerate?

Spirituality is a way of life, and like a car who wants to go somewhere, from one point to another yet needs to have a direction. These, the relics, are our direction to holiness. It may be a rough road to heaven, but in the end, it is Christ who will welcome us with the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!” (Matt. 25:21).

[1]Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, 237.
[2] Ibid.
[3]The Way, 335.
[4]SacrosanctumConcilium, 111.
[5]Lumen Gentium, Chap. 7.
[6] CIC, 989.
[7] Cf. Sammons, Eric. Holiness for Everyone. Huntington, IN.: Our Sunday Visistor 2012, p. 106.
[8] In love with the Church, 38.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Works of the Saints

In the Catholic Church (both in the East and West), and those in the Anglican Communion, the faithful venerate the Saints. They attribute some works of wonders, or miracles, to an individual or a group of persons whom they believe are in heaven, and have special powers which, as our faith teaches us, are coming from God. How many of us already prayed to St. Jude, St. Rita, or St. Philomena for impossible cases? Or to St. Anthony of Padua to find a lost object? How many of us already asked for miracles especially to those who are still active like St. Januarius, whose blood liquefies on his feast day, or St. Cecilia, who continuously sings in the monastery where she lived? Do people come to them because they are powerful, or they are someone in heaven? How can we understand these devotions and lead them to the right path, which is our Church’s desire to inculcate in our faith?

One time, we had an exposition and veneration of the relics of Pope Blessed John Paul II in the largest city in southern Philippines, Davao. The venue was opened 24/7 which started the middle of December until the first week of January. People flocked and in queue from the street passing to the corridors of the place down to the small chapel where the relics of the Blessed Pope are in exposed. From young to old, men and women, even non-Catholics and non-Christians came to pay tribute and to offer prayers. Some reported miracles and conversions that happened during the event which people attributed to Blessed John Paul. All thanks the Blessed Pope for his intercession and by the aid of almighty God! 

The Catholic Church teaches that the Saints are part of our Church: We are in communion with them, we profess this in the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe… in the Communion of Saints.” The Church, as a family of God, looks on the Saints as older brothers and sisters. And we, who are still pilgrims on earth, are their younger brothers and sisters. The Saints, as our elder siblings in the faith, care for us, and we look at them as our models of faith, hope and love. They are our brethren who have gone ahead of us and who left an astounding remembrance of their lives here on earth.

Let’s take the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta who was beatified in October 19, 2003 by, then pope, and now, Blessed John Paul II: She is a well-known missionary sister who took care of “the poorest of the poor” in India. The world looks at her not only as a simple nun but an inspiration to serve others, especially the poor. When she died, her legacy continued. The congregation of the Missionaries of Charity (M.C.), which she founded, continues her mission and, even without income, lives through charity of others as they rely on God’s providence. The charity you give is the charity you will receive. People until now remember Mother Teresa as the “living saint.” She did what others can do, but she did it with extraordinary love. One work of the saints is to inspire others with their humble work of love.

The Saints are also those who “Blessed” for following Jesus and who believed in the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of Matthew (5: 1-12a), Jesus gave the eight (8) Beatitudes. Some people are confused, others do not believe, and some do not care about this teaching. But the Saints and Blesseds, whose work drew from the Beatitudes, gave their 100% confidence in the Word of Life, who is our blessed Lord himself. Despite their crises in life, they became “Blessed,” and were welcomed in heaven with the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant… (Mt. 25: 23)” Because of their confidence, people imitate them. Some followed their way of life, others were named after them during Christian Initiation. Even our church buildings and some Church-based and civic groups, works, and other ecclesial and social events are named after them. Because of the abundant graces from Our Lord, the lineage of holy men and women continues to exist in the Church from every time and place. That is why every year, the Church raises up to the honor of the altars men and women and are given the title of Saints and/or Blessed so that we, their younger siblings in the family of God, may have the courage to live a holy life as reflection of the Beatitudes. We long to see the Lord’s face, as Psalm 24 inscribes, and these can only be realized if we work for the Lord and follow and live his words, as what the saints did: “Who may go up the mountain of the LORD? Who can stand in his holy place? The clean of hand and pure of heart, who has not given his soul to useless things, what is vain. He will receive blessings from the LORD, and justice from his saving God (v. 3-5 NABRE).”

The Church as a praying community draws her graces from the fount of all holiness (Eucharistic Prayer II): God. We adore, make reparation, do our work, and offer our needs to the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the sole-mediator between God and man. The Blessed Virgin Mary, his Mother, stands with him as co-mediator, and the angels and saints as intercessors. The work of intercession is like a bridge to the one who has the sole power to answer petitions and give graces, none other than God. An intercessor is a helper in whom we can be confident, courageous, and firm in faith that God answers our prayers. The saints have no power. But they can help us to pray. Jesus said in the Gospel that where there are two or three are gathered in my name, he is in their midst (cf. Mt 18: 20). When a couple or group of people pray, as if it is a choir singing wonderfully a song that makes a rhythm and pleases the one who hears. The saints help us in our prayer; they accompany us in offering our praises and our needs to God. Only God can make a miracle and can answer prayers. That is why we invoke these holy men and women with the words: “Pray for us,” “intercede for us.” Miracles do happen: prayers are answered because someone in heaven helps us here on earth. When we pray, we are not alone; someone there in God’s Kingdom accompanies us so that our prayers may be heard.

Why do Saints help if they are not our miracle workers? Our life here on earth is not an event of asking for more miracles; rather it is a journey towards our ultimate end – heaven – the Kingdom of God. No one wants to be left behind. So they are here to help us, to accompany us, and to show us that grace abounds and Our God is a loving Father. Like Jesus Christ, the humble worker in Nazareth, we wish that all our work be directed to the glory of God and for our sanctification and salvation. Yes, we ask for their prayers, and because of their help, which pleases God, God answers. The work of the saints is to let us feel God presence and love, which they already experienced and continuously enjoy where they are now.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Relics of Saint Peter

We all look up to the Pope, Our Holy Father, for he is the Vicar of Christ. We show our love and fidelity to him, because he is Christ’s representative here on earth. One of the titles of the Pope is “Successor of Saint Peter.” In him the mandate of the Lord to his faithful continues through his role as shepherd, teacher, and priest. In him we see Christ-he is Peter in our present time!

The Prince of the Apostles
We meet Simon in the Gospel of Matthew (4: 18-22). He is the brother of Andrew, a fisherman from Galilee, a married man (cf. Mt. 8:14), and simple Jew. Uneducated he might be, he knows what he’s doing. Jesus chose him as his own by changing his name to Cephas (Petros in Greek and Latinized to Petrus; cf. Mt 16:18). He was blessed to witness miracles and work, the Transfiguration, the agony in the garden, the trials, and the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus. At the end, he was chosen to lead the flock of Christ – the Catholic Church, and the other apostles. He then is called the “Prince of the Apostles,” and keeper of the keys of heaven and earth. Many recorded his work after Pentecost and we can still read his epistles. Clement of Alexandria wrote that after his missionary work and evangelization, he was martyred in Rome, crucified upside down, as proof of his love and faith to the Lord.[1]

To cut it short, after the death of Peter (probably between 64-68 A.D.), the Christians buried his at peace in the Vatican Hill where, after the Edict of Milan, Emperor Constantine built a Basilica in honor of the Blessed Apostle. After which, state of his remains where unrecorded and are at peace.[2] Other pontiffs made monuments and other markings to honor the Prince of the Apostles However they never attempted to disturb his remains until the excavation under the pontificate of Pius XII.

The Discovery Part 1: Pius XII
Excavation of the tombs beneath the Basilica of St. Peter was made under the pontificate of Pius XII (1939-1958). The team was made up of priests and lay to look for the bones of the Blessed Apostle, which, at the end, found some bones and presented it to the Pope with the probability that this is the Apostle Peter.

One of the discoveries they had was a remains of a certain person that has no skull. Probably, as they say, might have been the skeleton of St. Peter because at the baldacchino of St. John Lateran kept the skull since the 9th century but no one could guarantee its authenticity, no one knew exactly where it had come from, or how it had reached the Lateran.[3]The discovery of these bones now has relevance. The reliquary at the papal basilica and cathedral was opened in 1804 and saw that particles of skulls are present: cranium, part of jawbone, some teeth and some vertebrae. But it still made a puzzle in minds of critiques.

In Christmas of 1949, Pope Pius XII made the first official announcement on the discovery of the bones. Though it took him some time to do such act, for reflection, spiritual guidance, and divine providence, still, people and experts, show their criticism and show curiosity on the bones of the person they found.

People around that world show interest on the relics found in the Vatican tomb. But, still, guided by the Holy Spirit, experts present themselves to give second opinion. One of them is Dr. Margherita Guarducci, who asked permission to Pope Pius XII to continue to said excavation and to see more evidences on the authenticity of the bones of the said blessed Apostle.

With her expertise and with the help of a Vatican Official designated by the Pope, they continue searching and, asking the help of the former workers who found the bones, ended with another small box containing some remains and brought for further studies.[4]

Using some modern methods of science, the new skillful team found out that the early discovery of the past team had not made any further scientific study on who and what bones they discovered. In the end, they found out that some came from two males, in there 50’s, and one, probably a female, on her 70’s,[5] and some animal remains too! The Holy See ended that the issue had simply shifted from "probably Peter," to its opposite, "probably not Peter."

It was October 1962 before Correnti, glad to see the end of an interminable assignment, turned his attention to the wooden box with the brown paper wrapping. What she found in this box could be the man they’re looking for. They need more proofs before presenting it to the Pope.

What did they found? Allow me to give you an excerpt from J.E. Walsh in his book The Bones of St. Peter, Chapter 8:

As the scientist's enumeration of the human remains continued he began to see that, except for the feet, every part of the skeleton was represented. For the skull there were some twenty-seven fragments of the cranium, along with two small pieces of the mandible (jaw), and one tooth, a lower-left canine. One of the cranial pieces bore a trace of the suture, and since this was completely ossified Correnti could tell immediately that the skull, in any case, was that of an individual at least fifty years old, and probably a great deal older.
There were eight arm fragments, upper and lower, making about a quarter of the total lengths of left and right arms. Interestingly, the hands were well represented, even though most of the finger bones were very small and might easily have been lost or overlooked. The left hand was virtually complete; the right lacked two fingers and most of the wrist. For the legs, both thighs and shins, about eighty percent of the bone was present, though in fragments. Only the feet, from the ankles down, were entirely missing. Not a single one of the many small bones to be found in the human foot could be seen on the table.

Several months were needed to determine the age at death for all the bones, a task that was not finished until early in 1963. Without exception, they fell within the category of "elderly," between sixty and seventy years. An even longer period was required to determine the sex, as Correnti made nearly a hundred separate measurements and other analyses on more than two dozen critical fragments. In the end he had no doubt of his opinion, though because the skeleton was incomplete his description had to be a qualified one. The bones from the graffiti wall, he concluded, were those of a single, elderly individual, about five feet seven inches tall, of heavy build, and almost certainly male.

A thorough investigator, in his report Correnti also mentioned two further facts which had struck him. In the depressions and hollows of many of the pieces he had found encrusted soil, earth particles clinging in hardened patches. From this, he said, it was reasonable to suppose that the bones had lain - and for a considerable period of time - in a bare earth grave.

The second fact was still more curious. Four or five of the larger bones showed an unnatural staining on their intact extremities. The color was a dark, uncertain red, in spots tending to reddish-brown, the same as could be seen in the shreds of fabric found in the wooden box. All these bones, it appeared, at some time after dissolution of the flesh, had been taken from the earth and wrapped in a purplish, gold-threaded cloth.

The Discovery Part 2: Paul VI
The study continued even after the death of Pius XII. The experts, now, look on the present pontiff for permission for further studies and discovery of the relics of St. Peter. They are now under the guidance of Pope Paul VI, who is a good friend of the Guarducci.

One of the things they asked is for the permission to check the relic of St. Peter that is kept in the Lateran Basilica, to check if this will coincide with the bones they found in the Vatican tomb. For a thousand years, at least, the Lateran head had been accepted as the true remnant of Peter's skull. Among the graffiti wall bones, on the other hand, numerous fragments of another skull had been found. After the study of the two relics, they ended: nothing found in the reliquary interfered in any way, not in the slightest, with the claims made for the graffiti wall bones.[6]

After presenting results of studies, the team of archeologists and experts present the remains to the Pope, with some ecclesiastical authorities present, in June 27, 1968 declared that the skeletal remains of Saint Peter was found and identified. Now, these bones are laid at rest beneath the altar of Saint Peter’s Basilica, where the Church pastors and its faithful may venerate the Prince of the Apostles.

Theory of Earlier Relics of Saint Peter
If the relics of Saint Peter were officially discovered and identified on June 27, 1968, how come there are relics already being spread throughout the world?

Personally, after reading this book of J.E. Walsh, it led me to further studies on the relics of Saint Peter. We all know that during those times, the cult of the saints and veneration of their relics was already present. Allow me to present you some theories that, I think, might help us see how the relics of the Blessed Apostle already venerated before the official discovery.

Theory No. 1:
After the death of Saint Peter, Christians in Rome buried him in the catacombs. Some might kept his remains like his cross, clothing, cloth with blood, and others that for them is “being more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place.”[7] T. Haynes, once shared, according to his professor in the Angelicum, Rome: It was a Roman Tradition to break the legs of those who are crucified. Probably, if Saint Peter’s legs were broken, and were left, Christians kept and treasured it for a while until Emperor Constantine gave the freedom of religious practice throughout the Roman Empire. Private individuals, perhaps, kept some bones of Saint Peter, who turnover from generation to generation - and ancestral account proved its authenticity. This might be one of the reasons why ‘ex ossibus’ relics of the Blessed Apostle was available during those times.

Theory No. 2:
Though history was silent on the state of the Apostle’s remains, there might be an unrecorded date that during the early years the relics of Saint Peter was moved from his original grave to another. But no evidence can be seen where they extract some parts of his relics.

Theory No. 3:
During the Middle Ages, relics are rampant especially those came from dubious sourceswhich uses bones of other animals and even of humans, while others stole corpses of dead people or stole relics in Churches.[8] This is one of Martin Luther’s protests that led the Council of Trent decree a strict observance in obtaining a relic from a reliable source, which is the Church alone.

Theory No. 4:
If the Lateran Basilica has kept the relic of the skull thousand years before, they might have got some particles of it that was given out to other Churches or extracted some particles from his chains or altar, and other class of relics, for the veneration of the faithful.

Theory No. 5:
Other relics of Saint Peter were available during the earlier years of Christianity like his chains, chair, and altar, and are kept in different Basilicas within the Diocese of Rome until now. Possibly, these relics were distributed for veneration of the faithful. But because some did not preserve well the certificate of authenticity and the theca’s condition: once the name ‘S. Petri Ap.’ appears in the theca, they thought that it might be a particle of the bone of the Blessed Apostle.

So that we may not be confused if the relic of Saint Peter that we venerate is authentic or doubtful: for those who have the relics of the Blessed Apostle, let us try to look for the certificate of authenticity so that people, who venerate it, may be guided accordingly: intellectually and spiritually. It is a courtesy to them (and to the Church authorities) to show proofs of truthfulness of the relic so that they may have more intimate encounter and pure devotion to the Saint whom they are honoring.

Conclusion and Spirituality
“I believe in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church,” we profess it individually every Sunday. In this profession of faith, it manifests that we must believe our Mother who led us to the right Way and Truth, who is Our Life, Jesus Christ, the primordial sacrament of the Father’s love and presence.

We are thankful to God for the gift of the Pope, who let us feel Christ’s presence among his people. We thank God for the gift of Peter, who offered his life, as what his Lord and Master did, that the Church may grow and prosper. We thank the relics of the saints, for in them we see holiness in the midst of human frailties, and we honor them for they are holy. We thank Pope Pius XII and Pope Paul VI for helping us discover the relics of Saint Peter, for in the Blessed Apostle we see clearly the true Apostolic Church founded by Christ, and his presence in the Church reminds us that human we may be, we are called to be holy as Our Father, in heaven, is holy. (1 Peter 1:13-16)

USCCB: New American Bible Revised Edition, 2011.
Douillet, J (tr. Attwater, D.): What is a Saint? New York, Hawthorn Publishers, 1958.
Guarducci, M.:The Tomb of Saint Peter, New York, Hawthorn Publisher, 1960.
Hophan, O. (tr. Wasserman, L.E.): The Apostles, The Newman Press, Westminster, 1962.
The Abbe of Constant Fouard (tr. Griffith, G.F.X.): Saint Peter and the First Years of Christianity, New York and London, Longmans Green and Co., 1982.
Walsh, J.E.: The Bones of St. Peter, Sinagtala (rp. Manila), 1985.

[1]Stromata, III, vi, ed. Dindorf, II, 276
[2] J. Walsh, Chapter 3, The Bones of St. Peter 1982.
[3]Ibid, Chapter 4.
[4]Ibid, Chapter 7.
[5]Ibid, Chapter 8.
[6]Ibid, Chapter 10.
[7]Martyrdom of Polycarp, Chapter 18.
[8] Note: This kind of abuse was done by the Levantine traders who sell remains (of unknown origin) just to satisfy the piety of the people during those times. Cf. J. Douillet, p.99 What is a Saint? 1958.

Friday, August 3, 2012


“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jn. 10:10

The Reproductive Health Bill or House Bill 4244 or Senate Bill 2378, is an anti-life propaganda of the Anti-Christ and Atheists that wish to end life, to kill and destroy, which is God (ibid.; Jn. 16:4).

Who are the promoters of this bill? For the House of Representative: Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay; for the Senate: Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Who are these people?

Edcel Lagman is a father and a politician. We all knew him as a support of leftist government, especially that his brother, Filemon ‘KaPopoy’ Lagman, is a well known activist that promotes Communism. He is a proud alumnus of University of the Philippines (what do we expect?). He is a baptized Catholic, but not a practicing one. The fact that he promotes the RH Bill is itself a manifestation that he has no idea of the teachings of the Church especially on the doctrine on how God created man in his image and likeness, and life is a gift from God. If he is a true Bicolano, he needs to go to ‘Ina’ (Our Lady of Peñafrancia) during her feast on the third Sunday of September, and see how many people are asking Our Lady’s intercession to provide needs for their family, protect their children, and bless them with a child!

Miriam Defensor-Santiago is a mother and politician too. Proud judge of the international court, and, claiming, she has theology course at Maryhill School of Theology. Do we still remember that one of her Son committed suicide? How did she react? An actress who cried then at the end laughed because she got what she wants? The moment her son died she was morbid with her feelings, which is why she has the guts to promote RH Bill and see others killing their own child. What kind of a mother is she? Did she really went for Theology? How come she does not apply what she learned? Setting aside what she learned, isn’t she is a Catholic and a mother? What is it for her child who will be aborted! Oh well, she didn’t cared that much when her son died.

Both of them are ignorant about their Catholic Faith!

One of the programs, if this bill is passed, is that the public schools need to offer “Safe-Sex Education” that the bill’s promoters claim will help young people prevent sex or have safe sex by using contraception or condom. Is that safe sex? Does it really prevent premarital sex? I wish to call the attention of the current DepEd Secretary, Brother Armin Luistro, of the Brothers of Christian Schools (La Sallians): Will you allow this curriculum be included in the program of your department-of your flock? How can Christian Morality and Social Immorality jive? Here is your chance to prove whose side are you: Christ or the Devil? Speak-up, Brother Armin, FSC!

Look at Saint Gianna Beretta Molla: she is an ordinary Mother who chose the life of her child rather than hers. For her, life is a gift, she did well with her life, she had finished her race, and for her the future of the Church is in her child. The doctors offered her abortion, because the birth she will give is complicated: it is either you live and the child dies or the child lives and you die. She chose the best for her: ‘let the child live!’ Holy Saturday of 1962, her child was born, a week later Gianna died. Pope Blessed John Paul II canonized Gianna, and we call her as the ‘Martyr of Pro-Life.’ Many more are coming that did the same, they are now in-line for sainthood.

Isn’t that the noble prize winner George Akerlof already found that the wide use of contraception will lead to premarital sex, illegitimate children, undomesticated men, crimes and abortions? If the world recognized him, why believe these two disciples of death: Lagman and Defensor-Santiago? Then, other disciples are planning to follow them in the next senatorial election: Riza Hontiveros-Baraquel, Liza Maza, et. el. Will you vote for them?

The Word of God reminds us every week on the night before we sleep: “Be sober and alert, your opponent the devil is like a roaring lion, resist him! Solid in your faith!” (1 Peter 5:8) I think these people were already devoured by the devil; they already offered their life for him so that they may have the fame and fortune. Who cares, they are in the retiring age, they need to enjoy life and live it to the fullest! They don’t really care for those women and families that elected them; it is a joke-time because election is near?! They need some ‘sympathy’ from people who were devoured by the devil too.

Now, for us, who are in the side of Christ: Our Way, Our Truth, and Our Life. The Lord already sent messages in different ways and even in the apparitions of Our Lady: The Church will be persecuted because through this persecution the glory of Christ will be revealed. Look at the Catholic countries that went under persecution and produced martyrs: Spain, France, Poland, Mexico, etc.! Where is the Philippines? Are we next? I cannot tell, but with the fight we are doing to defend life is a ‘good fight,’ as what Saint Paul said (cf. 2 Tim 4:7). We will die out of faith, out of chastity, out of love for life and God. The name ‘Catholic’ in us is not a key to heaven. Rather, it is the Catholic life we live! To share Christ’s passion and death is our way to show how serious we are in the battle. Christ will not have an early arrival for the second coming and help us in the fight against RH Bill: HE IS ALREADY WITH US! He is always with us! Never be afraid of martyrdom for Jesus has promised: “Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5:10)

As we go for holiness by protecting life and defending our future, we ask the intercession of Our Lady, the Mother of Life, of Saint Joseph, our father and lord, of all the Archangels and Angels, and Saints, to be with us and to pray for a miracle of divine providence to our law makers, especially for our President.

"Only with prayer - prayer that storms the heavens for justice and mercy, prayer that cleanses our hearts and souls - will the culture of death that surrounds us today be replaced with a culture of life."
-Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Catholic Bishops

PRAYER (Courtesy of the Knights of Columbus)
Almighty God, Our Father, you have given us life and intended us to have it forever. Grant us your blessings. Enlighten our minds to an awareness and to a renewed conviction that all human life is sacred because it is created in your image and likeness. Help us to teach by word and the example of our lives that life occupies the first place, that human life is precious because it is the gift of God whose love is infinite. Give us the strength to defend human life against every influence or action that threatens or weakens it, as well as the strength to make every life more human in all its aspects. Give us the grace...

When the sacredness of life before birth is attacked, to stand up and proclaim that no one ever has the authority to destroy unborn life.

When a child is described as a burden or is looked upon only as a means to satisfy an emotional need, to stand up and insist that every child is a unique and unrepeatable gift of God, a gift of God with a right to a loving and united family.

When the institution of marriage is abandoned to human selfishness or reduced to a temporary conditional arrangement that can easily be terminated, to stand up and affirm the indissolubility of the marriage bond.

When the value of the family is threatened because of social and economic pressure, to stand up and reaffirm that the family is necessary not only for the private good of every person, but also for the common good of every society, nation and state.

When freedom is used to dominate the weak, to squander natural resources and energy, to deny basic necessities to people, to stand up and affirm the demands of justice and social love.

Almighty Father, give us courage to proclaim the supreme dignity of all human life and to demand that society itself give its protection. We ask this in your name, through the redemptive act of your Son and in the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Quest for the Relic of the True Cross: Authentic or Not?

The Quest for the Relic of the True Cross: Authentic or Not?
Dave Ceasar F. Dela Cruz

While doing my spiritual reading I had came to the point where the Baltimore Catechism No. 3 stated: “A relic of the true Cross is never kept or carried with other relics.”[1] This was a surprising statement because when we browse the web world and check some individual collections or ebay.com, relics of the True Cross sometimes are in a theca with other saints, and even some other relics of the Passion of Our Lord. How can this be? What may be the reason behind such statement?

The History of the True Cross
After the Crucifixion of Our Lord and his burial, there were no other written testimonies about what happened to the Cross of Jesus. Legend has it that some concerned disciples (or secret followers) of Our Lord kept and buried it out of respect to the Master.

Saint Helena (AD 250-330) went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to look for the precious relics of Our Lord, her journey was attested by Gelasius of Caesaria (4th c.) and has additions by Rufinus to the history by Eusebius. While Queen Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, was on the Holy Land, she found three crosses at Mount Calvary-at the very site of the crucifixion. To find whose cross is to Our Lord, she called a sick person and asked to be laid in each cross, where the sick man was healed that is the cross of Our Lord. After finding the holy Cross, she returned to Rome and set a Basilica as a house and sanctuary where Christians may venerate it (the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme). Others said that Queen Helena left some remains of the Cross for Holy Land where another Basilica was built to make a testimony that where Our Lord was crucified and where the instrument of Salvation is still present (testimony from Egeria’s Diary). Parts of the True Cross of Our Lord spread rapidly and were enshrined in different Churches and monuments to honor the Savior and ask sign of protection. Currently, the largest portion of it is kept in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome.

The Third Council of Baltimore (1852-1884)
In the 19th century, the Roman Catholic Church of the United States of America, through its Bishops and delegates, led by an Apostolic Legate, Archbishop Francis Kenrick (1796-1863), who’s intention is to have a common discipline in faith, morals, and worship, that will lead the Catholic Church in America to a more intimate communion with Our Lord and his Church.
Does the Baltimore Catechism have a say on the relic of the True Cross, after stating such weighty statement? Yes, because the council was attended by successors of the Apostles and stand as one Church led by its pastors in the name of Our Lord and inspired by the Holy Spirit –they are the Magisterium (the teaching authority led or recognized by the Pope).

One of its decrees is to make a Catechism that would help Catholics in the United States, and extend its usage to all Catholics, and to deepen their knowledge and understanding of Church teachings. One of these teachings is on the Relics which we can found in the Baltimore Catechism No. 3, Lesson 31: the First Commandment. Nos. 1189-1216 are questions that clarify one’s view on the role of the Relics and Saints in our faith, and surprisingly that quoted statement above was included.

Why such a declaration?
We all know that the cross became the instrument of our salvation. We pray in the liturgy: “Save us, Savior of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection: you have set us free”[2]. On Good Friday, the Church leads us to honor the Cross, which hung the salvation of the world.[3] Even in our daily life, we sign ourselves with the Cross to remember our communion with Christ’s Paschal Mystery and of our baptism where we died with Christ and raised to new life with him.[4]

The Baltimore Catechism has a point on giving such statement: “because relics are the bodies of the saints or objects directly connected with them or with our Lord.”[5] I remember in one of my articles I mentioned that we cannot put into any class the relics of Our Lord because it is the Lord’s relics! He may not have a relic which came from flesh or bones, because he ascended into heaven – body and soul. He will never, I believe, allow himself to let any part of his humanity be left in the world or else our belief in his real presence in the Eucharist will be nothing but a mere play and will be led to symbolism. The cross, yes, he may allow to stay to remind us of his passion, death, and resurrection, but not his mortal remains.

The relic of the True Cross manifests the Our Lord’s work of salvation, and must be given a proper place in our devotion. That is why when Church officials give a relic of Our Lord’s cross it is placed in a dignified theca (the container of the relic), and, as what the Baltimore Catechism says, is left alone without any other relics of saints, even of Our Lady and Our Lord’s apostles: “(The relics of Our Lord) are entitled to a very special veneration, and they have certain privileges with regard to their use and the manner of keeping them that other relics have not.”[6] This statement wants to show us that the relic of Our Lord directs our thought and prayers to the powerful saving act of Our Lord that he shown to us through his death on the cross. Not like the other relics of saints that help us to see God’s wonderful work and he uses them as our intercessors that we may receive grace.

Sign of Authenticity
There are many ways to see the authenticity of the relic, especially, now, with the relic of the True Cross of Our Lord. Other than the red seal and thread at the back of the theca, and the certificate of authenticity, the relics of the True Cross after this Catechism (1884) must be seen and venerated, guided by the statement which is the topic of my article. It now depends on the guardians or so-called ‘custodians’ to decide if they will still continue to let people venerate their relics of the True Cross that doesn’t qualify with the statement of this Council, which has the authority over us because they stand us supreme teachers of our faith and instruments of Our Lord.

It will be prudent for us, the faithful, to check the elements within the reliquary, and the documentation and seal of the theca. If the authenticity of the relic dated 1884 onwards and did not follow the teachings of the Church, it depends on the individual how will they accept the truthfulness of the true Cross which individuals expose for veneration. Churches also must check, but I’m sure here in the United States (and in Europe), after personally checking some relics of the True Cross, they followed the way of how to place reverently Our Lord’s instrument of salvation for the veneration of the faithful. Yes, documentations, seals, and threads are not the cause of validity of a relic, but it helps us to deepen our faith and our contact with to Our Lord’s relics, especially to the Cross where Jesus Christ died and redeemed the world.

[1] Baltimore Catechism, Lesson 31, Question 1206, 1941.
[2] MR2002, Memorial Acclamation third option.
[3] MR2002, The Showing of the Holy Cross: First Form.
[4] cf. Colossians 3:1-3.
[5] Baltimore Catechism, Lesson 31, Question 1204.
[6] Ibid, Question 1206.