Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mother Teresa of Calcutta's Sandals; Relics, and Minnesota

Relics of Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta will be a few hour's drive down the road from me, tomorrow evening. Her sandals, crucifix and rosary, a lock of her hair and drops of her blood contained in reliquaries will be on display for about an hour, at the St. Paul Cathedral (in St. Paul, Minnesota - as you might have guessed) before a special 7:00 p.m. Mass.

I won't be going. Neither will any member of my family, to the best of my knowledge.

A Devout Catholic Not Trekking to See Mother Teresa's Sandals?!

I'm a practicing Catholic, in solidarity with the Magisterium, and quite interested in Mother Teresa of Calcutta. But I'm not driving down to the Cities to see Mother Teresa's sandals.

I've got pretty good reasons.

The trip would cost a certain amount of money: in the neighborhood of $20 for gasoline, if nothing else.

More to the point, the family hasn't been feeling well. I don't think it's prudent to drive 125-plus miles to St. Paul, Minnesota, work our way in through what I suspect will be quite a crowd of folks at the Cathedral, and then drive back.

One Guy With a Blog's Take on Mother Teresa, a Centurion, and Jesus

Besides, I see the matter of going to see those relics as a sort of Matthew 8:5-9 situation. That's when a centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant.

When my Lord said that he'd go, the centurion replied:
"The centurion said in reply, 6 'Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, "Go," and he goes; and to another, "Come here," and he comes; and to my slave, "Do this," and he does it.' "
(Matthew 8:8-9)
As footnote 6 (NAB) in that chapter explained,
"Acquainted by his position with the force of a command, the centurion expresses faith in the power of Jesus' mere word."
(footnote 6 in Matthew 8, NAB)
I'm no centurion, but I understand hierarchical systems and chains of command. I'm also quite certain that when God's saints are concerned, 125 miles' distance isn't much of an obstacle.

Anyway, it's Blessed Mother Teresa for now. It'll take another verified miracle to get her canonized. Which is another topic.

Relic? Isn't That Something Old?

The secular meaning for "relic" includes these definitions:
  1. "An antiquity that has survived from the distant past
  2. "Keepsake, souvenir, token, relic (something of sentimental value)"
    (Princeton's WordNet)
The second definition is close to what a relic is, in the Catholic sense.

And, naturally, the Catholic Church has rules about relics. We've even separated them into three classes:
"What is a relic?

"A relic is something that is associated with a saint, such as a part of the body, a piece of clothing, or something the saint had come in contact with. There are three classes of relics. A first-class relic is a part of the saint's body. A second-class relic is something used or touched by the saint. A third-class relic is something that has been touched to a first-class relic. The St. Damien relic is a first-class relic, as it is a bone from the saint's heel."
(Frequently Asked Questions | The Relic of St. Damien of Molokai, Archdiocese of Detroit)
I've written about St. Damien of Molokai before. (May 11, 2010)

Recapping what's on the Archdiocese of Detroit's page:
  • A relic is something associated with a saint
  • There are three classes of relics:
    • First-class relic
      • A part of the saint's body
    • Second-class relic
      • Something the saint
        • Used
        • Touched
    • Third-class relic
      • Something touched by a first- or second-class relic
Since informed Catholic sources have referred to Mother Teresa's sandals, hair, and blood as "relics," looks like the term can be used to describe stuff associated with 'Blesseds,' too.

Worshiping Relics is Wrong, Right?


Catholics may venerate relics: which isn't the same as worshiping them. (July 12, 2010)

Venerating relics is okay. I think veneration of relics is a good idea, since we're human beings. People like us seem to focus better when we've got something physical to pay attention to.

The Holy See is okay with expressions of popular piety like what's going on in St. Paul, Minnesota, tomorrow evening. They've got more to say on the subject than just 'it's okay,' of course. Here's a sample:
"Popular piety is characterized by a great variety and richness of bodily, gestural and symbolic expressions: kissing or touching images, places, relics and sacred objects; pilgrimages, processions; going bare-footed or on one's knees; kneeling and prostrating; wearing medals and badges... . These and similar expressions, handed down from father to son, are direct and simple ways of giving external expression to the heart and to one's commitment to live the Christian life. Without this interior aspect, symbolic gesture runs the risk of degenerating into empty customs or mere superstitions, in the worst cases."
("Principles and Guidelines," Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, 15)
Which isn't the same as "venerating relics is superstitious." Which is yet another topic.

Related posts:More:In the news:About Relics:
  • "Principles and Guidelines," Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy
    Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Vatican City (December 2001)

A tip of the hat to catholicseeking, on Twitter, for the heads-up on the Catholicseeking blog post.

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.