St Bernadette in Liverpool
“I shall spend every moment loving.
One who loves
does not notice her trials;
or perhaps more accurately, she is able to love them.”
St Bernadette Relic Tour, 15 September (Chorley), 17 September (Liverpool)
15 – 17 September: St Mary’s RC Church: Mount Pleasant, Chorley, Lancashire , PR7 2SR
Arrive: 20:30 15/09/2022 Depart: 10:00 17/09/2022
17 September Cathedral Church of the Risen Christ: St James’ Mount, Liverpool , L1 7AZ
Arrive: 11:00 17/09/2022 Depart: 14:30 17/09/2022
17 -20 September Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King: Mount Pleasant, Liverpool, L3 5TQ
Arrive: 15:30 17/09/2022 Depart: 07:00 20/09/2022
A pilgrimage in reverse
Any pilgrimage is a journey to a holy place, or a site associated with a holy person. It helps us to get out of our routine, stripped down to the essentials, and moving through unfamiliar territories. By involving us in a physical journey, any pilgrimage makes us aware that our spiritual life needs to move forward and grow.
However, right now we have an occasion for a different kind of pilgrimage: a pilgrimage in reverse. St Bernadette comes to us now, in September and October, on her tour from Lourdes to cathedrals and churches across England, Scotland and Wales. And we go and greet her: some of us full of vibrant faith, some doubtful or hesitant, some simply curious, and some in need of a miracle. In coming to us, St Bernadette makes the grace of pilgrimage available to many, regardless of whether they are Catholics or not. All are welcome to venerate (give respect and reverence to) her relics, with a special invitation to those seeking healing in their lives.
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What is a relic?
A relic is either an item directly associated with the life of Jesus Christ (these are rare for obvious reasons), or a part of the physical remains of a saint after his or her death, or any object which has been in direct contact with a saint’s body such as clothing or items of their personal use.
Read more on Relics https://stbernadette.org.uk/what-are-relics/
What is veneration?
True veneration of relics is a way of giving thanks to God and expressing faith in the goodness of creation and the importance of incarnation (God becoming one of us in Jesus Christ). It is a way of acknowledging and celebrating our ties to the whole human race that extend, by the grace of God, even beyond death. And finally, it is a way of spending some time physically closer to a person who may be an inspiring mentor, supporter, and friend on our journey closer to God.
Catholics hold relics in special regard, but they also make clear that they worship neither the items nor the saints. As Pope Benedict XVI said:
Relics are quite different from magical items such as lucky charms or talismans. And veneration of relics has certainly nothing to do with superstition. If understood correctly, the closeness of relics draws people to conversion and deeper faith in God.
Since Christians believe that Christ was fully human and fully divine (delving into this puzzle is for another time), anything in direct contact with Christ was then in direct contact with God. One such precious relics is the Cross of Christ (the instrument of torture on which he died), or the Shroud of Turin (the burial shroud into which his body was hastily wrapped after his crucifixion). And because saints are human beings who followed Christ and become so transparent to God that God became tangibly active and visible through their lives, future generations still hope for this connection with God when they are in the proximity of a saint’s relic. In other words, relics are points of encounter with God through the fabric of another person’s life.
By inviting us to venerate the mortal remains of the martyrs and saints,
the Church does not forget that, in the end, these are indeed just human bones, but they are bones that belonged to individuals touched by the transcendent power of God.
The relics of the saints are traces of that invisible
but real presence which sheds light upon the shadows of the world
and reveals the Kingdom of Heaven in our midst.
They cry out with us and for us
‘Maranatha!’ – ‘Come Lord Jesus!’
(Pope Benedict XVI, Address to Young People at Cologne).
Although veneration of relics is an act of faith, it takes place when a special honour and profound respect is displayed for someone (in this case St Bernadette) whose unique humanity inspires us to take the next step on our own journey towards God.
Are relics a Catholic invention?
In the Bible, we have a few miracles that were worked through the cloak of Elijah and the bones of Elisha in the Old Testament (2 Kings 2,14; 2 Kings 13:20-21). The New Testament then speaks of healings through Jesus’ touch, or by a contact with St. Paul’s body, or St. Peter’s shadow (Luke 8:43-48; Acts 5:12-16, 19:11-12).
From the earliest times, the bodies of various martyrs were held in special veneration. The relics of St. Polycarp, for example, were described as being “more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold” (Martyrium Polycarpi, ch. 18.). In Rome, prayer services were held in the catacombs, and from the fourth century, the Eucharist was celebrated over the tombs of the martyrs.
Against those who were uncomfortable with such practices, St Jerome explained that the relics of the martyrs are honoured for the sake of God whose martyrs they are. St Augustine added that their bodies were worthy of veneration since they served them during their lifetime as organs of the Holy Spirit.
The Second Council of Nicaea in 787 laid down that no church should be consecrated without relics of a saint being placed in the altar stone. This was re-affirmed in the 1977 Rite of Dedication of a Church. Just like the Scripture and church fathers, the present-day Catholics affirm the importance of the body and creation for holiness. The premise is simple: there is nothing to lose – only to gain – by drawing closer to God’s saints.
Is veneration of relics just for the Catholics?
Although the Catholic Church has always commended the veneration of relics because God shows approval by granting healing or other graces, veneration of relics is not reserved just for Catholics. All people of good will are invited to come respectfully near the relics, humbly touching the casket or reliquary that contains them if permitted, and all the while being open to grace in prayer and in acts of charity. After all, the closeness to God is never measured by how holy one may look, but how one treats his or her neighbour (even if it may be the person who has just jumped the veneration queue).
How much do relics cost?
Although relics are often set in very precious reliquaries that aim to illustrate the spiritual treasure they represent, it is forbidden to sell relics. In fact, they are priceless, and their true value is only revealed in constant reference to God. A tour of relics, on the other hand, is a costly affair. This is why donations are gratefully welcome to cover transport, security, and organisation costs – all of which enables many people to come, especially those who would have been otherwise unable to get to Lourdes and encounter the saint. Still, the relics themselves acquired their value only through the life of a saint, which is always heroic and costly to themselves in one way or another. You may wish to find out more about the suffering and humiliations of St Bernadette when she single-mindedly held on to what she understood was a message from God (through Our Lady).
Find out more about St Bernadette https://stbernadette.org.uk/st-bernadette/