Co. Cork Powerfully Shows it's Love for St. Anthony



RTE News reports that hundreds of people queued in the rain outside Holy Trinity Church in Cork on Sunday, to venerate the relics of St Anthony of Padua.



Just one more example of the extraordinary strength of the faith and Catholicity of Irish Catholics--very powerful witness! I think this demonstrates, as I have stated previously, the deep rooted faith of the Irish people, which desperately needs nourishing, after the scandals of recent years. I often find myself discussing (as indeed I did earlier today) how and why so many Catholic devotions seem to have declined over recent years. Many of the practices I remember from my own childhood are alien to youngsters today. You rarely see a holy picture, or hear of a family praying the Rosary together. Even grace before and after meals is infrequently observed. Outpourings of faith like this one in Cork demonstrate the hunger for these and other Catholic devotions which provide simple little ways for us all to show our love for God.

The counter-point for me is the turn from orthodoxy: that is "right-thinking". (from the Greek orthos ("right", "true", "straight") + doxa ("opinion" or "belief", related to dokein, "to think"), to a more superstitious faith. Ireland is the land of Saints and Scholars with a proud tradition of deep intellectualism that evangelised an area of the world vastly disproportionate to its own modest land mass. Has the dearth of catechesis and constant focus on emotionalism resulted in a faith easily damaged by the scandal of abuse?

The relics - a small piece of bone from the Saint's rib and a layer of St Anthony's cheek skin - are being brought to six venues around Ireland.

Earlier this morning, Bishop of Cork and Cloyne Dr John Buckley received the gold reliquary containing the relics at the entrance to the church.

St Anthony was born in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1195 to Vicente Martins and Teresa Pais Taveira. Against the wishes of his family, however, he entered the community of Canons Regular at the Abbey of Saint Vincent on the outskirts of Lisbon. The Canons were famous for their dedication to scholarly pursuits, and sent the youth to their major centers of studies, including the Abbey of the Holy Cross in Coimbra. There the young Fernando studied theology and Latin.

Invited, in somewhat casual circumstances, to preach on the occasion of a priestly ordination, he showed himself to be endowed with such knowledge and eloquence that the Superiors assigned him to preaching. Thus he embarked on apostolic work in Italy and France that was so intense and effective that it induced many people who had left the Church to retrace their footsteps. Anthony was also one of the first if not the first theology teachers of the Friars Minor. He began his teaching in Bologna with the blessing of St Francis who, recognizing Anthony's virtues, sent him a short letter that began with these words: "I would like you to teach the brethren theology". Anthony laid the foundations of Franciscan theology which, cultivated by other outstanding thinkers, was to reach its apex with St Bonaventure of Bagnoregio and Bl. Duns Scotus.

Anthony was canonised by Pope Gregory IX on 30 May 1232, at Spoleto, Italy, less than one year after his death. His fame spread through Portuguese evangelisation, and he has been known as the most celebrated of the followers of Saint Francis of Assisi. He is the patron saint of his adopted home of Padua, not to mention many places in Portugal and in the countries of the former Portuguese Empire. He is especially invoked for help with the recovery of lost items.

In St Anthony's teaching on prayer we perceive one of the specific traits of the Franciscan theology that he founded: namely the role assigned to divine love which enters into the sphere of the affections, of the will and of the heart, and which is also the source from which flows a spiritual knowledge that surpasses all other knowledge. In fact, it is in loving that we come to know.

Anthony writes further: "Charity is the soul of faith, it gives it life; without love, faith dies" (Sermones Dominicales et Festivi II, Messagero, Padua 1979, p. 37).

"The richness of spiritual teaching contained in the Sermons was so great that in [16 January] 1946 Venerable Pope Pius XII proclaimed Anthony a Doctor of the Church, attributing to him the title Doctor Evangelicus ["Evangelical Doctor"], since the freshness and beauty of the Gospel emerge from these writings." ~Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience.

In Cork there was Mass at 12.30pm followed by veneration until 8.30pm. The relics were then taken to Limerick on Monday, and Galway on Tuesday. On Wednesday they will returned to Dublin to St Mary's of the Angels on Church Street. 

What Are Relics?
EWTN explains: Relics include the physical remains of a saint (or of a person who is considered holy but not yet officially canonized) as well as other objects which have been "sanctified" by being touched to his body.

These relics are divided into two classes. First class or real relics include the physical body parts, clothing and instruments connected with a martyr's imprisonment, torture and execution. Second class or representative relics are those which the faithful have touched to the physical body parts or grave of the saint.

The use of relics has some, although limited, basis in sacred Scripture. In 2 Kings 2:9-14, the prophet Elisha picked up the mantle of Elijah after Elijah had been taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. With is, Elisha struck the water of the Jordan, which then parted so that he could cross. In another passage (13:20-21), some people hurriedly bury a dead man in the grave of Elisha, "but when the man came in contact with the bones of Elisha, he came back to life and rose to his feet." In the Acts of the Apostles we read, "Meanwhile, God worked extraordinary miracles at the hands of Paul. When handkerchiefs or cloths which had touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases were cured and evil spirits departed from them" (19:11-12). In these three passages, a reverence was given to the actual body or clothing of these very holy people who were indeed God's chosen instruments—Elijah, Elisha and St. Paul. Indeed, miracles were connected with these "relics"—not that some magical power existed in them, but just as God's work was done through the lives of these holy men, so did His work continue after their deaths. Likewise, just as people were drawn closer to God through the lives of these holy men, so did they (even if through their remains) inspire others to draw closer even after their deaths. This perspective provides the Church's understanding of relics.

The veneration of relics of the saints is found in the early history of the Church. A letter written by the faithful of the Church in Smyrna in the year 156 provides an account of the death of St. Polycarp, their bishop, who was burned at the stake. The letter reads, "We took up the bones, which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place, where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together as we are able, in gladness and joy, and celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom." Essentially, the relics—the bones and other remains of St. Polycarp—were buried and the tomb itself was the "reliquary." Other accounts attest that the faithful visited the burial places of the saints and miracles occurred. Moreover, at this time we see the development of "feast days" marking the death of the saint, the celebration of Mass at the burial place and a veneration of the remains.

After the legalization of the Church in 312, the tombs of saints were opened and the actual relics were venerated by the faithful. A bone or other bodily part was placed in a reliquary—a box, locket and later a glass case—for veneration. This practice especially grew in the Eastern Church, while the practice of touching cloth to the remains of the saint was more common in the west. By the time of the Merovingian and Carolingian periods of the Middle Ages, the use of reliquaries was common throughout the whole Church.

The Church strived to keep the use of relics in perspective. In his Letter to Riparius, St. Jerome (d. 420) wrote in defense of relics: "We do not worship, we do not adore, for fear that we should bow down to the creature rather than to the Creator, but we venerate the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore Him whose martyrs they are."

Here we need to pause for a moment. Perhaps in our technological age, the whole idea of relics may seem strange. Remember, all of us treasure things that have belonged to someone we love—a piece of clothing, another personal item, a lock of hair. Those "relics" remind us of the love we share with that person while he was still living and even after death. Our hearts are torn when we think about disposing of the very personal things of a deceased loved one. Even from an historical sense, at Ford's Theater Museum for instance, we can see things that belonged to President Lincoln, including the blood-stained pillow on which he died. More importantly, we treasure the relics of saints, the holy instruments of God.

During the Middle Ages, the "translation of relics," meaning the removal of relics from the tombs, their placement in reliquaries and their dispersal, grew. Sadly, abuses grew also. With various barbarian invasions, the conquests of the Crusades, the lack of means for verifying all relics and less than reputable individuals who in their greed preyed on the ignorant and the superstitious, abuses did occur. Even St. Augustine (d. 430) denounced impostors who dressed as monks selling spurious relics of saints. Pope St. Gregory (d. 604) forbade the selling of relics and the disruption of tombs in the catacombs. Unfortunately, the popes or other religious authorities were powerless in trying to control the translation of relics or prevent forgeries. Eventually, these abuses prompted the Protestant leaders to attack the idea of relics totally. Unfortunately, the abuses and the negative reaction surrounding relics has led many people to this day to be skeptical about relics.

In response, the Council of Trent (1563) defended invoking the prayers of the saints and venerating their relics and burial places. "The sacred bodies of the holy martyrs and of the other saints living with Christ, which have been living members of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit and which are destined to be raised and glorified by Him unto life eternal, should also be venerated by the faithful. Through them, many benefits are granted to men by God." Since that time, the Church has taken stringent measures to ensure the proper preservation and veneration of relics. The <Code of Canon Law> (No. 1190) absolutely forbids the selling of sacred relics and they cannot be "validly alienated or perpetually transferred" without permission of the Holy See. Moreover, any relic today would have proper documentation attesting to its authenticity.

The Code also supports the proper place for relics in our Catholic practice. Canon 1237 states, "The ancient tradition of keeping the relics of martyrs and other saints under a fixed altar is to be preserved according to the norms given in the liturgical books" (a practice widespread since the fourth century). Many churches also have relics of their patron saints which the faithful venerate upon appropriate occasions. And yes, reports of the Lord's miracles and favors continue to be connected with the intercession of a saint and the veneration of his relics.

In all, relics remind us of the holiness of a saint and his cooperation in God's work. At the same time, relics inspire us to ask for the prayers of that saint and to beg the grace of God to live the same kind of faith-filled life.


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