Relics: The true cross, patron saints among the relics at area parishes
Nov. 1 is All Saints’ Day, a holy day of obligation. This is the second story in a two-part series about saint relics. Click here to read the first installment from the Oct. 19, 2011 Denver Catholic Register.
By Julie Filby
Photo by James Baca/DCR
“Relics draw us back to an awareness of a life lived in virtue and grace,” said Msgr. Thomas S. Fryar, moderator of the curia and pastor of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.
“A life not unlike our own,” he added.
The cathedral maintains relics of 37 different saints, as well as clothing from the Blessed Virgin Mary and two relics of the true cross.
“The true cross is very special to everyone because of the nature of its centrality to our salvation,” said Msgr. Fryar. “With the others (saints), it really depends on the individual and whether they have an affinity to a particular saint.”
There are several parishes in the Denver Archdiocese with relics of saints special to their community.
St. Anne: ‘Grandma’s house’
Shrine of St. Anne Parish in Arvada received a relic of their patron—mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus—from then-Denver Bishop J. Henry Tihen at the church’s dedication June 25, 1922.
Bishop Tihen had acquired the small piece of wrist bone in Apt, France, near the Shrine of Lourdes, when he visited Europe in 1921. Though very small, it was believed to be the largest relic of St. Anne in the United States at the time.
The location of St. Anne’s body was unknown for centuries. An account of its miraculous recovery is relayed in the book “Good St. Anne” (Tan Books, 1999).
“In those stormy days of persecution, it was necessary to hide the relics of the martyrs and saints,” according to the anonymous author. “Consequently, the body of St. Anne was buried in an underground church or crypt.”
For centuries France was overrun by barbarians, therefore for protection, her body was buried even deeper in a subterranean chapel. After many years, she was believed to have been “lost in obscurity.”
When peace returned in the eighth century, efforts to find her remains were fruitless, until the day the newly rebuilt Cathedral of Apt was to be reconsecrated.
During the Mass, 14-year-old “John”—deaf, dumb and blind since birth—was “carried away by some overpowering emotion … (and) moved toward the high altar, struck with his staff the steps leading up to it and made signs that they should dig there.”
Photo by James Baca/DCR:
Excavation uncovered the door of an ancient crypt, with stairs to an underground church that housed another crypt. Here they discovered a casket of cypress wood with the inscription “Here lies the body of the Blessed Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary.”
“I hope the story’s true,” said Ron Beck, head sacristan at St. Anne’s. “We do call this ‘Grandma’s house’ … I believe Bishop Nickless (of Sioux City) is the one who started calling us that; he would say: ‘You’re always welcome at Grandma’s house.’”
The Denver native served as pastor there 1980-1988.
The relic is on permanent display in the church’s side chapel and on the altar for veneration every year on her feast day, July 26.
Pastor Father Piotr Mozdyniewicz was recently given a second-class relic of Blessed John Paul II—a piece of papal sash—by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow, who worked with the pontiff for 40 years. The relic was revealed at the parish Oct. 22, the first feast day since his beatification.
St. Faustina: ‘She’s going to be busy’
Another church with a devotion to Blessed John Paul II is St. Joseph Polish Church in Denver. St. Joseph’s just completed the process of acquiring a first-class relic of St. Faustina Kowalska, who was canonized in 2000 by Pope John Paul II. St. Faustina inspired the Divine Mercy movement. Both St. Faustina and Blessed John Paul II were Polish.
“This church is mainly a Polish community,” said pastor Father Marek Ciesla, Schr. “In the relic, we really have the presence of the saint in a special and spiritual way.
“I thought her presence would help us,” he said of the decision to request the relic.
Sole custodian of St. Faustina’s relics is the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Krakow. In conjunction with then-Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Father Ciesla drafted the necessary letters of request; which were hand-delivered to the sisters in Krakow last month by two representatives from the Denver parish.
“They (the sisters) scrutinize people; they really put you ‘under the glass,’” he said. “They want to make sure the relic will be venerated and ‘brought to life.’”
Their request was approved and the relic was picked up in Krakow by parishioner Jerzy Salamon who delivered it to the parish Oct. 24. It will be revealed at all four weekend Masses Oct. 29-30.
“It’s not (just) bringing her here and putting her on a shelf … she’s going to be busy here,” said Father Ciesla. “She’ll be available all the time; she is here for the people. If they want to come close and touch her, we will let them do that.”
On Nov. 4, the parish will host the nationally touring production: “The Message of Jesus, The Divine Mercy.” Events include Mass at 7 p.m. followed by the program at 8 p.m. (in English). A special presentation geared toward children “Divine Mercy for Young Hearts” will be given at 11:30 a.m. Nov. 6 (in English). St. Joseph Polish Church is located at 517 E. 46th Ave. in Denver. The upcoming events are open to the public.
Below is a partial list of saint relics in parishes throughout the Denver Archdiocese. For locations, phone numbers and parish websites, visit www.archden.org/parishes.
Holy Family, Denver
Our Lady of Loreto, Foxfield
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Denver
Our Lady of Peace, Dillon
Queen of Peace, Aurora
Risen Christ, Denver
St. Bernadette, Lakewood
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Fort Collins
St. Thomas More Parish, Centennial
St. William, Fort Lupton