Wednesday, 3 January 2007

The Bones of the Saints

I had cause today to go to the Cathedral crypt, to hunt out a relic for an altar being consecrated in a church in our Diocese. The reliquary cases at the Cathedral are rarely opened, and perhaps because of that we have conserved a wealth of relics.

These are a precious part of the Cathedral's patrimony - and because of that, I have to refuse many requests to donate or to sell them!

Relics of the saints serve several purposes. Firstly, they enable us to honour those men and women who lived lives of heroic virtue, and recognize their great example. In this, a relic helps us to focus our thoughts and prayers. Secondly, they are a reminder of the resurrection, for we know that as the saints now stand at the throne of God, so one day their bodies - and ours - will be raised to share eternal glory. Thirdly, relics remind us of the holiness of our human bodies, and the respect due to our earthly dwelling.

One of the loveliest relics we own is this autograph letter (in medieval french) written by St Francis of Assisi. As with all authentic relics, this brings the holy man closer to us, and helps us direct our prayers and thoughts to him.


Fr. Peter said...

Looks like you have a wonderful collection of relics there. What saints do they represent? Our small church here only has one relic that is available for veneration and one in the altar of course. For many of the Orthodox Icons replace the relic as the focus for veneration.

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

Are the relics in the crypt placed on display for public veneration on the individual Saints` Feast Days ?
It would be most interesting to know which Saints` relics you keep at the Cathedral.

Jay said...

Is it possible to view these items on a visit to the Cathedral?

Rev. Daren J. Zehnle, J.C.L., K.C.H.S. said...

What does the letter signed by St. Francis say?

Anonymous said...

Woh that's cool - esp. the last one!!!

Mark Langham said...

The relics (and there are hundreds of them)represent every saint you can imagine - plus items like a thorn from the crown of thorns, and wood from the true cross. There are relics of the apostles, doctors of the Church (East and West) and more recent Roman Catholic saints - from (for example)Anthony of Paudua to Maria Goretti.

We do occasionally display the relics on the appropriate Feast Days, especially if they have some connection with the Cathedral. Hance our reliquaries of Thomas a Becket and Edmund of Canterbury are exposed on their respective days. However, we do not usually show the to the public, as they are fragile and valuable. Each Summer, though, we do hold 'secret tours' of the Cathedral, during which it would be possible to view them. The secret tours are arranged by the Friends of Westminster Cathedral, and they can be contacted via the website (linked form the blog).

As to what St Francis' letter says, I must confess my medieval French isn't all it should be, and I didn't really examine it closely. When I next do so, I will at least trascribe it for you!

Lastly, Joee, I knew that would have you salivating!

Pippo said...

Thank you ever so much Monsignor! These are simply wonderful pictures and it was most kind of you to share them wth us.