U.S. tour of saint's relics prompts thoughts of one's own legacy
by Sister Elise Cholewinski
One of the highlights I experienced early this summer was an event that took place in my parish. I am a member of St. Bernadette Parish in Appleton, and for two days we were privileged to have the relics of St. Bernadette present in our church. The relics were in a beautiful gold container encased in a glass box. The box was set in front of our statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Bernadette.
I spent several hours during that Sunday and Monday volunteering at the “Welcome” desk in the narthex of the church. Many of the people who came through our church on those days stopped at our desk, asking for rosaries. Luckily, the faith formation coordinator had a great number of them to hand out to those who wanted them. I learned that the reason for the request for the rosaries came from the desire to have the crucifix on the rosary touched against the box containing the relics. In effect, that would make the rosary a third-class relic in itself.
On Monday afternoon I took some time to venerate the relics myself. When it was my turn to kneel before them, a woman approached me, inquiring if I wanted my rosary touched to the box. Instead, I took off the symbol of my religious community, which I always wear around my neck, and offered it to her. I then spent a few moments praying for healing in our world.
As I began walking away from that special shrine, a young woman stepped forward and asked if I remembered who she was. Indeed I did. She had been in the high school religion program in my former parish and now works at our diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. She told me how much she enjoyed the classes I had taught and that the course on world religions was “amazing.” At the conclusion of our conversation she asked if she could give me a hug.
Sometimes we touch an object to something sacred and that object takes on a new significance. Sometimes we become aware that we have touched another person in ways we didn’t realize, and we see the significance of our own lives. As I ponder those two days, I continue to ask myself, what are the “relics” I want to leave behind?