Two articles today on the arrival of St Therese of Liseiux in Portsmouth. Non-Catholic commenters who post their comments on the articles appear scandalised by the veneration of relics...For Protestants in particular, it would appear the Saints and the veneration of their relics really gets on their nerves.
Courtesy of The Telegraph
The relics and bones that bring us closer to God: Christopher Howse finds that the allure of relics beats the human revulsion for dead bodies.
A woman who has been dead for 112 years arrives in Plymouth today, and at the weekend thousands are expected to turn out when she moves on to Birmingham.
Thérèse Martin will be the centre of attention in a month-long tour of England and Wales, but while her picture dominates dozens of venues, all to be seen of her in person is a casket that holds her mortal remains.
These old bones of St Thérèse, or Teresa of Lisieux, as she is better known, will not be treated with the unease that relatives show departed loved ones, but as a sort of gateway into heaven for worshippers' devotions. Some will even hope for healing. Hunger for relics may be universal – one of Michael Jackson's gloves has just been auctioned for £30,000 – but dead bodies are a special kind.
I have often seen visitors to Westminster Cathedral recoil after inspecting a glass case in a side chapel. It holds the body of St John Southworth, a kindly man who worked in the slums nearby in the 17th century, and was executed just for being a Catholic priest. His body is decorously dressed in a red chasuble and his face covered in a silver mask. It is just that tourists, curious as they may be to see the world, through the optic of their mobile-phone cameras, are not used to stumbling across dead bodies.
So what's the official line on relics? The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts them in the same category as pilgrimages and holy medals, as expressions of popular piety. But there is a deeply mysterious root to their veneration.
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Ruth Gledhill of The Times infamy adds her comment to the arrival of St Therese, who seems to make an exception of the Saint of the Little Flower in what she perceives as an outdated practice of relic veneration.
Not since the Reformation, and perhaps not even before then, has England seen a pilgrimage quite like this.
The closest comparison might be to the Middle Ages, when “pardoners”, or salesmen, would travel the countryside hawking the “relics” of dead saints to credulous Christians who believed that they could buy themselves less time in Purgatory.
But that would not do justice to the phenomenon of St Thérèse, who within hours of touching down on British soil attracted a queue of hundreds of devout Christians who snaked around the Roman Catholic cathedral in Portsmouth merely to light a candle and touch the Perspex encasing the jacaranda casket in which rest the relics of this 19th-century child-like nun...
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