The following story appeared in the December 2 Idaho Catholic Register.
From left, Father Dat Vu, pastor at Our Lady of the Rosary in Boise and Deacon Lou Aaron, parish administrator, are with Braden Stauts, right, the woodworker who crafted the cabinetry and cases for the reliquary. The reliquary is open before and after Masses, during office hours on weekdays and by appointment.
(ICR photo/Vero Gutiérrez)
By Emily Woodham
When Deacon Lou and Renee Aaron went to France and Italy in December of 2018, they were struck by all the relics of saints he encountered. “I kind of just fell in love with relics,” said Deacon Aaron, the administrator at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Boise. “Over there, there’s a relic in every church and some had reliquaries,” which is a designated space or room with relics.
Deacon Aaron’s encounter with the relics in Europe was not the first time the subject of relics came up at the parish he administers. A few months before the trip, a Polish family approached him about obtaining a relic of St. Maximilian Kolbe for Our Lady of the Rosary. About that same time, another parishioner suggested a reliquary for the church. After praying with the relics on his vacation, Deacon Aaron met with the environment team at Our Lady of the Rosary to make plans for a parish reliquary.
The first hurdle was choosing where to build the reliquary. A section in the back of the church with rarely used pews seemed ideal. “I’ve been here for 25 years, and I had never seen anyone sit there except for Easter Sunday,” he said.
The space determined, the team Braden Stauts, a woodworker who has done projects for Our Lady of the Valley in Caldwell and for the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Boise.
It was the right call. After discussing plans with the environment team, Stauts created a scale model that the parish accepted. He created the pieces of the reliquary in his workshop, while workers prepared the space by removing pews and covering the cement wall with plywood and drywall.
Stauts began with the corner unit, which was for the altar to Mary. He then constructed eight units, one for each saint. Each unit had to be fitted to both the wall and the floor and then bolted together. Wiring was done for lighting for the units. A contractor then
did the marble tops.
From left, the relics of St. Louis de Montfort, Blessed Vassyl Valychkovsky and St. Padre Pio are among the nine relics on display at the reliquary. (ICR photo/Emily Woodham)
After the units for each saint were installed, marble and columns were in place.
Stauts then began the work of preparing the individual units for each saint. “They have some very excellent relics that are quite valuable, and so there was a concern to make sure that the cases were secure,” Stauts said. Each case has quarter-inch glass, with a special sliding mechanism and dead-bolt to the wall.
Stauts took 2½ years to build all of the cabinetry and cases necessary for a reliquary. A convert to Catholicism and a parishioner at St. John’s, he had seen relics on several pilgrimages. But, it wasn’t until this project was completed that he more fully realized the value of relics, he said.
The plans and construction of the reliquary seemed to coincide providentially with the acquirement of relics, Deacon Aaron said. The first relic to arrive was the one of St. Maximilian Kolbe. (Because St. Maximilian was cremated at Auschwitz, his relics come from his hair that his firar-barbers saved, believing that St. Maximilian would one day be a saint.) Then another Polish family flew to Poland to retrieve a relic of St. Faustina Kowalska, whose apparitions inspired the devotion to the Divine Mercy.
As word of mouth spread about the plans for the reliquary, the parish started getting more donations of relics.
A priest in Belgium donated the relics of St. Louis de Montfort, St. Bernadette of Lourdes and St. Rita of Cascia. A priest in Canada donated a relic of St. Padre Pio. Other sources donated the relics of St. Francis de Sales, St. Jane de Chantal, Blessed Vassyl Velychkovsky, St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louis IX of France. (St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louis are not currently on display.)
Relics (from the Latin reliquia, “remains”) are Vatican approved “remains” of saints.
According to the Vatican’s Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, “The term ‘relics of the Saints’ principally signifies the bodies - or notable parts of the bodies - of the Saints who, as distinguished members of Christ’s mystical Body and as temples of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Cor. 3:16 and 6:19 and 2 Cor. 6: 16) in virtue of their heroic sanctity, now dwell in Heaven.” The directory goes on to say that objects which belonged to the Saints, such as clothes and manuscripts are also considered relics, as are objects which have touched their bodies or tombs such as oils, cloths, and images.
One way of viewing veneration of relics is that just as God worked His graces through the physical presence of a saint while living on earth, He continues to work His graces through the physical presence of their relics, as they live on in Heaven.
Scripture teaches that God acts through relics, especially in terms of healing. In fact, when surveying what Scripture has to say about sacred relics, one is left with the idea that healing is what relics “do.”
When the corpse of a man was touched to the bones of the prophet Elisha the man came back to life and rose to his feet (2 Kings 13:20-21). A woman was healed of her hemorrhage simply by touching the hem of Jesus’ cloak (Matthew 9:20-22). The signs and wonders worked by the Apostles were so great that people would line the streets with the sick so that when Peter walked by at least his shadow might ‘touch’ them (Acts 5:12-15). When handkerchiefs or aprons that had been touched to Paul were applied to the sick, the people were healed and evil spirits were driven out of them (Acts 19:11-12).
A relic of St. Maximilian Kolbe was the first obtained for Our Lady of the Rosary's reliquary. (ICR photo/Emily Woodham)
In each of these instances, God has brought about a healing using a material object. The vehicle for the healing was the touching of that object. It is very important to note, however, that the cause of the healing is God; the relics are a means through which He acts. In other words, relics are not magic. They do not contain a power that is their own; a power separate from God.
The bodies or major organs of saints are considered significant relics. Small fragments of their bodies or objects they came in contact with are considered non-significant relics. Relics are further classified as first-, second-, or third-class. First-class relics are actual fragments or parts of the body. Second-class relics are objects or fragments of objects that a saint personally owned. Third-class relics are objects that the saint touched or that were touched to another relic.
“I’ve seen people just practically fall over when they’ve gone in the reliquary; they get blown away by the Holy Spirit. They either start crying or just get overwhelmed. It’s quite amazing to watch,” Deacon Aaron said.
“It was a lot of work, but it turned out absolutely gorgeous.”
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