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Saintly relics lie inside cathedral's altar

Posted July 26

— Inside the marble altar in the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral sits a wooden box containing remains of St. Peter, St. Paul and a fragment from Christ's crucifixion.

Relics, a tiny piece of saintly body or belongings, such as a bone fragment or a stitch of clothing, are often found in large Catholic churches, where they are preserved and revered. The practice is misunderstood and sometimes even scorned by non-Catholics.

"We don't worship them. We just venerate them in terms of asking for their prayers. It's part of their presence," said Monsignor David Brockman, vicar general of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh.

All praise goes to God, Brockman said, but Catholics see the saints as intercessors who appeal to God on their behalf.

"Oftentimes, when we need prayers, we ask those we know are holy, and we ask our friends," he said. "These (saints) are our friends in Christ, that even though they are with the Lord, our communion with them is not broken. We are still one with them in prayer."

The practice of installing relics in churches is as old as the Catholic church itself.

"Traditionally, the people went to the graves of saints for prayer and even celebrated Mass on those graves," Brockman said. "It's this sense that the saints help through the power of their prayers to join us more completely to the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus."

The relics of more than 20 saints, including St. Francis of Assisi, St. Pope John Paul II, St. Thomas Becket and St. Teresa of Avila, are contained in the ossuary inside the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral altar, each sealed in a small, ornamental case.

"To be close to all of these wonderful men and women is to be in contact with the holiness that God calls us to live," Brockman said. "With the saints with us, we are never alone. Our Lord is always with us, too, but the saints surround him as well."

The relics toured the 54-county diocese for two months before the cathedral's dedication.

"You cannot explain it, but to have a little piece of St. Peter and a piece of the clothes Jesus wore when crucified, it is a blessing to have something from them in this small church," said Father Marco Antonio Gonzalez-Hernandez, pastor of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church in Farmville.

"I've been to the St. Peter's (Basilica) in Rome, but I never had a chance to see, look at the relics of saints," said Francesco Rhee, a member of St. Ha-Sang Paul Jung Catholic Church in Apex. "I feel like I'm meeting some great saint, kind of surrounded by them."

"It makes me look at my beliefs, make my belief more stronger, and I want to be a more faithful follower of Jesus Christ," said Gus Myung, another St. Ha-Sang Paul Jung parishioner. "It exemplifies what the follower of Jesus should be. It just shows us how to live our lives as well as how to be a good believer."


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