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November 25, 2009
Reliquary to be displayed during Year for Priests
By John Gleason
A special reliquary containing 16 relics of St. John Vianney is to be displayed at several churches throughout the Archdiocese of Denver in the coming months for veneration.
The reliquary, which was a gift to Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., consists of an inner and outer ring that hold relics of the patron saint of parish priests including: hair, flesh, shirt, cassock, confessional, wood from a pulpit, shoe and handkerchief.
Strictly speaking, a relic is an object or personal item of religious significance, carefully preserved with an air of veneration as a tangible memorial. The word comes from the Latin word reliquiae meaning, “remains.” According to Deacon Charles Parker of the archdiocesan Office of Liturgy, relics in the St. John Vianney reliquary are considered to be both first- and second-class relics.
“A first-class relic is an item of physical remains,” he explained. “Something like a bone fragment or a lock of hair. Second-class relics refer to items the saint wore or frequently used, such as his clothes. This reliquary contains both.”
Almost from the beginning of Christianity, the faithful have seen relics as a way to get closer to the saints and through that form a closer bond with God. During the Middle Ages, people often made pilgrimages to shrines of saints. They felt that returning home with a relic was like bringing back a small piece of that shrine.
“Relics have always been important because they give us actual living history of a saint’s life whose strength we now draw from,” Deacon Parker said. “It’s a concrete way to venerate the saint whose intercession we ask.”
According to Archbishop Chaput, it’s human nature to want to have objects that were close to people we know or love or admire from a distance.
“When I see the reliquary, the whole life and person of St. John Marie Vianney comes to mind,” he said. “Some of the relics are from his personal life and some of them are from his public ministry in Ars.”
The Church forbids the sale of relics and those who would like to request them must do so through the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, according to Deacon Parker.
“The relics in our possession have been authenticated from this office in Rome,” he said. “Each comes with a wax seal on the back of the container which holds the relic along with documentation.”
The reliquary will be displayed during the Year for Priests Holy Hours (see schedule) as well as at the Mass that will close the Year for Priests in June. Deacon Parker said that these dates will provide the faithful ample opportunity to come and venerate the relics of St. John Vianney.
“We ask for guidance and strength from these saints,” he noted, “because where they are is where we want to follow.”
Reliquary at Holy Hours
The St. John Vianney reliquary will be displayed at the Year for Priests Holy Hours listed below. All services begin at 7 p.m.
Dec. 14: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
5450 S. Lemay Ave., Fort Collins
Jan. 19: All Souls
4950 S. Logan St., Englewood
Feb. 19: St. Anthony
331 S. Third St., Sterling
Mar. 15: Our Lady of Loreto
18000 E. Arapahoe Road, Foxfield
May 17: Holy Trinity
7595 Federal Blvd., Westminster
May 27: St. Mary
215 Capitol St., Edwards
June 7: Our Lady of Lourdes
2298 S. Logan St., Denver