Updated: Sep 18
KEANSBURG - It was a moving, awesome experience, one that forced me to sit for a few minutes to catch my breath. And Catholics throughout the northeast will have several opportunities in different locations to experience the Treasures of the Church, a ministry of evangelization that is different from anything I’ve ever seen.
Presented at St. Ann’s Church last evening, the program began in the church with the Rev. Carlos Martins, an atheist turned priest, explaining how, why, and where this ministry began, and detailing the impact it could have on those continuing in that night’s program, as well as the obligation they would have to meet in order to gain full advantage of the presentation and values of it.
After the priest’s presentation, the several hundred persons in the church walked over to St. Ann’s School auditorium where, laid out on more than a dozen long tables covered with either blue or gold cloths, were the relics of 165 saints or almost-saints recognized by the Church. The relics, with their accompanying framed explanations and bios of each of those being displayed, included popular and well beloved saints like Anthony of Padua, Lucy, Vincent de Paul and Mother Cabrini to the lesser known Catherine Laboure, Athanasius or Solanus Casey. There are relics of Edith Stein, several Popes, and most of the Apostles, as well as Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Thomas Aquinas and even an unknown bishop and martyr whose relics were found in New Jersey.
Just the array and variety is enough to put you in awe.
A relic, as Fr. Martins so thoroughly explained before people exited the church to view, touch and photograph each or all of the relics, is a physical object that has a direct association with either a saint or Jesus Christ. They are defined in three different classes, depending on how or why they are called relics. ‘First class relic are fragments or hair of the body of a saint, and can include bone or flesh pieces. A second class relic is an item that was personally owned by a Saint, for instance, a veil worn by Mary, the Mother of God, or a shirt or book owned and known to have been touched by the saint. Or even fragments of these items. A third class relic are items that a saint has touched or were touched to another relic of a particular saint.
Many of the persons at last night’s meeting brought photos of loved ones, rosary beads, pieces of jewelry and even their infant babies to touch them to the relics, or a particular relic of a patron sight, or a sight recognized for cures of specific diseases or problems. One woman brought dozens of rosary beads she then planned to give to family and friends, once she had made them relics themselves, simply by touching them to the relics she was visiting.
Each of the relics is contained in its own glassed stand, sealed with wax and imprinted by the Bishop or specific person who identified and has proven the item sealed permanently is indeed the specific relic it purports to be. The highlight of the collection Fr. Martins travels around the country to display is also one of the largest relics in the collection, a piee of dark wood believed by the Church to be a piece of the Cross on which Christ died.
Dr. Martins made it clear that when miracles are performed, as has happened at several presentations or shortly thereafter, it is not the relic that does the miracle, but rather God using the relic as His means of effecting a miracle. He cited stories in the Bible where a woman was cured of illness in Christ’s time simply by touching the hem of His garment, or when handkerchiefs or aprons touched by Paul the Apostle were applied to the sick and healing occurred. ” It is very important to note,” the priest said, “the cause of the healing is God; the relics are a means through which He acts. Relics are not magic; they do not contain a power that is their own; the fact that God chooses to use relics to heal and work miracles tells us that He wants to draw our attention to saints as “models and intercessors.”
In New Jersey for the rest of September, the relics will be on display tonight at St. William the Abbot Church, Howell, at 6:30 p.m.; the Blue Army Shrine, Asbury Sept. 18 at 1:30; Immaculate Conception Church, Spotswood, Sept. 20 St. Mary Byzantine Church, Hillsborough, Sept. 21, Church of the Holy Eucharist, Tabernacle, Sept. 22, Our Lady of Peace, Williamstown, Sept. 23, St John the Baptist, Allentown, Sept 24, each at 6:30 p.m.. On Sunday, Sept. 26, Fr. Martens will be at Our Lady of Mount Virgini Church in Middlesex at 3:30 p.m., and at St. Dominic’s Church, Brick at 6:30 on Sept. 27. The final displays in New Jersey during September are Sept. 28 at St. Helen’s in Westfield, and St. Michael’s in Netcong Sept. 29, both at 6:30. There will be one visitation in Philadelphia on Sept. 19, and more in New Jersey and several in Connecticut during October.
The ministry travel by invitation and more can be learned abby Fr. Martins and his mission at www.TreasuresoftheChurch.com