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ALTON — Ss. Peter & Paul Parish in Alton held a pilgrimage Feb. 13, offering the opportunity to view relics usually seen only in Rome or the Holy Land.
A collection of the relics have been brought together in a program of meditations, music and prayers commemorating the events of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The relics include a piece of the True Cross, a piece of the stone from the room where the Last Supper was held, a piece of the Column of Flagellation, a piece of the Crown of Thorns, the effigy of the Veil of Veronica that was touched to the original veil, a replica of a holy nail containing filings from the true nails, a piece of bone from St. Longinus, and a thread from the cloth used as a wrapping for the Burial Shroud.
More than 200 pilgrims took advantage of this event during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Below are some excerpts of reflections from some participants of the pilgrimage.
“…I was honored when the Monsignor asked me to bear one of the relics in the procession, but I must admit that I was initially skeptical of their authenticity. I am a convert from Protestantism with a degree in Philosophy, so I fear that a healthy skepticism is part of my nature. Although I follow the official teachings of the Church joyfully, some of the devotional aspects of our beautiful and complex Faith leave me scratching my head. Until yesterday morning, the veneration of relics was one of these head-scratchers. I wrestled with doubts throughout the entire program, but as the Monsignor tells us: ‘The first thing we should do as Catholic Christians is pray when something happens.’ So, I offered these doubts of mine up to the Lord. He answered in a tremendous fashion.
Once we finished the meditations associated with the relics, the handlers were once again called up to assist with the veneration. I picked up the relic I was assigned and the pilgrims began to come forth. The devotion of the people who were here yesterday was palpable. I soon believed in the relics I had arrogantly dismissed, but it wasn’t through my own intellect or my own will — it was through the pilgrims’ unshakeable faith made tangible in their veneration of these relics. These relics taught me something: God is not a lofty, egg-headed concept that we acknowledge once a week or perhaps, occasionally when we want something really bad. Nor is he a method of therapy that we invoke when we want to feel good about ourselves. God is Love, and if His Passion and Death are any indication, Love hurts. Love is tangible. Love redeems. And Love is not found in isolation. Love, Christian Love, caritas, is a process of conversion initiated and ultimately consummated by God, but it is a process that is continually upheld and substantiated in our interactions with others. We are not Christians in a vacuum. We are Christians because we Love — not in an erotic, self-interested way, but in a way that hurts. A way that is tangible. And in a way that redeems. We are Christians because God chose us and in His great love He died for us. We are Christians because we are not satisfied with our fallen human state. We have fallen and need a redeemer and because we have one in Christ Jesus, we have the unfathomable privilege of calling ourselves Christians. This is what I learned yesterday from the pilgrims who, with tears in their eyes and the fire of the Holy Spirit in their breast, kneeled down to acknowledge all that God has done, does still, and will continue to do for us, his beloved children in whom He is well-pleased. May God’s blessing come down upon us and remain with us always. I ask this in Jesus’ name.”
“On Saturday morning as I entered the parking lot at SSPP for the Relics Of The Passion Tour, I could hardly wait to get into the Cathedral to be a part of such a rare and amazing exhibit for which I thought I was ready to experience. I had just gone through the Stations Of The Cross the night before after 6 p.m. mass with the Deacons and Families and others from SSPP Parish, and as I always get closer to the crucifixion, I try to ready myself, as I can feel the emotions stirring in my mind and heart.
As I prayed, the sounds of beautiful music from a woman playing the violin, joined by the sounds of the piano and a women singing filled the church with such angelic glory and praise. Then as I watched the Relics being carried down to the altar, by the people wearing white gloves, being ever so careful and filled with such respect and joy of the job they had been given to present to the people of our church and to all visitors, the 8 relics that are a part of this 1,200-piece collection presented by the Apostolate For Holy Relics.
Knowing that I would never get the opportunity to go to Rome or the Holy Land to see such an unbelievable collection of our history, I gave and give praise and thanks to Monsignor Steffen, for his efforts in bringing such a glorious and a once-in-a-lifetime experience, to me, a lifelong Catholic, and to our blessed church and community.
Perhaps this inspirational experience can explain the long long line leading to the confessional for all our souls to be cleansed and blessed by our very own personal inspirational blessing, that is, Monsignor Kenneth Steffen.
It filled my heart to see that so many people came to experience and share the Veneration, bringing with them their own personal items not only to be blessed but to be in the presence of and to touch the replicas of the Holy Relics.
Our narrator, read before each Relic, Monsignor chanted meditations and Prayed. We then sang as a choir of angels, a short song after each Relic which was held on display with the utmost respect and honor by the Knights of Columbus dressed in full uniform and swords by their side. As the meditations were coming to a close and the Veneration was nearing, my palms began to sweat as I saw Deacon Adam being handed the Relic Of The True Cross and preparing for each of us to come up, I was overwhelmed with emotion, I could not stand up , so as I slid across the pew to the end to go stand before him and lay my cross from around my neck onto the actual Relic and then to kiss the top of the cross, I began to weep, rivers of tears flowed from my eyes and as I went from relic to relic I prayed harder and deeper and trembled as I got closer and closer to the Relic Of The Nail, I felt and know, that I was in the presence of God himself, it was then that I thanked God for giving his life for us all and for giving me the gift of prayer through song and to carry whatever burdens I may be handed in this life to always remember the Cross of which he carried for me, and I shall do the same, in order to Honor the Lord.”
“To have the opportunity to be in the true presence of relics — actual pieces of the nails that pierced Jesus’ hands and feet, a piece of the cross our Lord was crucified on, a piece of the table where Jesus celebrated with His disciples the Last Supper, a thread of the Holy Shroud — and all the other relics of the True Passion of Christ brought tears to my eyes, yet I also felt a calm come over me as I touched these relics!
Words cannot fully describe how this affected me, how it deepened my Catholic faith, and drew me even closer to God during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Being a part of this pilgrimage is something I will never forget!”