From the Pastor's Desk
February 18, 2024
Dear Parish Family,
A few weeks ago as I was looking on Netflix and Amazon Prime, I came across a four part documentary on Netflix titled “Mysteries of the Church (Faith).” I will admit that as I chose this link I was skeptical. Often, programs like this lack any real depth or understanding of the Catholic faith. The series summary says that it promised to be an exploration of relics venerated by the faithful to provide a deeper understanding of how it impacts the faith of people.
I took a chance and very quickly I found myself engrossed in a respectful and moving study of an often misunderstood element of our faith.
The series focuses mostly on relics associated with the Passion of Christ. Among them are the Crown of Thorns, the Holy Grail, the Holy Face (the cloth that covered the face of Jesus in the tomb, and the True Cross. Each episode introduces the audience to the relic, its place in the Passion of Jesus and its history. Experts on relics and the priests who are commissioned to watch over them are interviewed, but the most important part is how devotion to these relics has changed their lives: The firefighter who saved the Crown of Thorns from destruction during the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, a man whose daughter was on the brink of death until he turned to the relic of the Holy Face, even Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis who have used and spoken about the Holy Grail. These are the stories of people like us who have found these symbols a source of strength both physically and spiritually.
If you are looking for something to view during Lent, I urge you to, if you subscribe to Netflix, to take the time. I have long had devotion to relics, but this made them even more real for my faith life.
During this Lent we are going to focus on many of the symbols and items used in the Passion of Christ. We are inspired by the canopy and reredos behind the altar at our St. James worship site. This week’s Worship Aid includes an explanation of the canopy and reredos. Each week ISJ Heritage Committee will provide an interesting reflection on these images. Also, my Sunday Mass reflections will also center on the symbols highlighted in the Worship Aid. I hope these will help us all to enter into the Lenten story of Jesus' Passion, Death, and Resurrection in a more personal and powerful way.
While separate parishes, the pastors of each collected relics for the faithful to venerate. This practice in much of our contemporary society has been neglected. However, since I’ve been here I have discovered that we have two beautiful reliquaries with pieces of the True Cross in them. These will be on public display throughout Lent. One of them also contains relics of the hammer used to nail Jesus to the Cross and the sword that pierced his side. We have the ability to see and hold these precious tiny pieces — two of those that actually touched the body of Jesus.
Once I viewed “The Miracles of the Church” I have been drawn even more to these relics in particular. They are a connection to the most important act of love in human history. They have power even today, if we only suspend what our rational minds tell us what is real, and open them to the action of God in our lives.
I hope these weeks of Lent and the programs and offerings that are planned will draw you closer to the Church, the Parish, and to the God who has lived among us.
Fr. Stan, OSST