Recently, Father Carlos Martins, of the Companions of the Cross, blessed all those who made a pilgrimage to our Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield to pray together and to see the Sacred Relics Exposition. Included in the exposition were over 150 relics of our faith, some dating back 2,000 years. While there, I talked to so many excited Catholics, like 9-year-old Marissa Davis of Riverton, who traveled from near and far. They shared with me they could “hardly wait” to see the relics.
Father Martins gave an address to those gathered at an opening prayer service and then he invited hundreds of pilgrims to view and be blessed by those sacred relics placed in the Cathedral Atrium. What a powerful display of relics to behold, to touch and seek a powerful blessing from the Lord in our visitation to this faith event.
I was touched by the sharing of so many who attended. John and Sharon Schilawski with their two children Max and Sydney, from Ss. James and Patrick in Decatur, were in awe of the display. Showing his excitement, Max found the relic of his patron, St. Maximilian Kolbe, but took photos of so many of the relics.
I was able to pray with a beautiful couple who asked me for help in finding the relic of St. Gerard Majella. I asked if we could pray together for their hope to conceive a child. It was awesome. Mary Ericson and Sarra Smith drove hundreds of miles from North Michigan to view the relics — Mary (and her husband Adam) likewise are seeking St. Gerard’s intercession for them to be able to conceive a child. What deep faith was so evident in the lives of so many who attended.
The event gave us the opportunity to look at the lives of many saints of our Roman Catholic Church. It is not that we are creating idols of our worship, but rather we seek to view these sacred items to lead us to a deeper personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Likewise, the lives of the saints are not to become the focus of our faith, but their lives, extraordinary in the view of our Catholic Church, are a means of inspiration which hopefully lead us to seek, develop and find how we can grow ever more close and be fully committed to our own vocation and call as disciples trying to live “saintly” lives as we follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
When I was a seminarian and had been called to the order of deacon I had the privilege to meet now-St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta in the Bronx in New York and have lunch with her, another sister of her community, and about 15 priests and brothers of the Missionary of Charity Fathers and Brothers Community, co-founded by Father Joseph Langford, MC, and Mother Teresa. We then went together to the ordination of Father Brian Kolodiejchuk. It was an awesome day I will never forget. I wrote to Mother Teresa to invite her to my diaconate ordination. I have a framed letter she typed and sent to me congratulating me and offering her best wishes and prayers for me. (Her secretary, the sister who later became the superior after Mother Teresa, sent me another note telling me Mother’s note was all done by Mother Teresa herself). Still today I get chills thinking that for those few minutes, Mother Teresa, now St. Teresa of Calcutta, was thinking of and lifting up in her personal prayer Chuck Edwards who was aspiring to be a priest.
As I treasure this personal “relic” and as I viewed the beautiful and inspiring display of so many fascinating relics at the Cathedral I was very moved and yet challenged to realize that relics are to inspire us — like the lives of the saints are to inspire us — to live holy lives, to follow and seek to imitate the one they sought to follow and adore. It is not enough to view relics and read about saints, but we must allow these opportunities to call us ever more deeply into the call to discipleship, making “Discipleship as a Way of Life” our choice as we seek to be “Intentional Disciples.”
As you read this article, we are living out the Paschal Mystery in worship. Holy Week offers us powerful gatherings of prayer and worship as Catholics. These days are given each year to transform us as true followers of Jesus, who embraced the cross and gave his life for us and to forgive our sins by his death, only to be raised up in the glory of his resurrection three days later on Easter. In his mercy we experience that dying of sin and rising to new life, set free to live as an “alleluia” person of faith.
We are called with others on the journey to take up our cross and follow him. This is not his call to lay burdens forever on our shoulders, but to take those burdens to him and be set free, as well as to help others do the same as we are called to be “Ambassadors of Mercy” that Archbishop Carlson of St. Louis recently spoke of. He said, “Moments of encounter with the crosses of others can be opportunities for us to become more like Christ when we show mercy.” It is the Easter call. St. John Paul ll and Sister Faustina, both from Poland, understood this, and hence it is why next Sunday the Catholic Church celebrates Divine Mercy Sunday.
Happy Easter! May the joy of his resurrection and hopefully of the dying and rising you and I experienced this Lent and Holy Week lead us to a deeper walk with Christ, our Risen Savior. May the mercy of God, and the intercessions of all the saints in glory empower us to fully commit to a life of discipleship as we hunger and thirst to one day see our Risen Savior face to face. I can hardly wait.