Sunday, March 1, 2015

Have You Experienced the Treasures of the Church?

Although I was born and raised Catholic, I somehow missed learning about relics until I was an adult.

The same cannot be said of my children.  

My children and I have talked briefly about relics before, and, now, with thanks to the Treasures of the Church evangelization apostolate, we have experienced relics first hand.

What Is Treasures of the Church?
Treasures of the Church is a ministry that brings folks closer to God through an encounter with the relics of some of his saints.  They offer expositions of some 150 first and second class relics preceded by a multi-media presentation on the Church's use of relics.

During the presentation, Father Carlos Martins explains the scriptural, catechetical, and devotional basis of relics.  While doing so, he shares stories of saints and of miraculous healings.

Then, attendees of the presentation are invited to go view and venerate the relics.  These include a piece of what is said to have been the cross Jesus died upon, a piece of Mother Mary's veil, and fragments of many saints and objects they have touched.

Please let  Father Carlos Martins introduce the Treasures of the Church apostolate to you himself:


What Was Our Experience Like? 

I got stuck on ice in my driveway on the night we went to experience the relics, so we arrived a few minutes into Father Martins' talk.  

Once we got settled into a pew, I was not sure how Luke, Nina and Jack would do during the adult presentation since they tend to be wiggly children.  Jack did well at first, but it was late for him to be out and he ended up getting a bit ornery.  Luke and Nina, on the other hand, quickly became engaged by the presentation.

As Father Martins talked about confession, their ears were wide open and they leaned over to ask me some quiet questions.  They also became particularly interested in the powerful (although at times "adult") stories of the saints that Father Martins shared as well as in testimonies of miraculous healings.

I, too, found myself engaged and, when not shushing Jack or responding to a quick quiet question or comment from Nina or Luke, learned a few new details about saints and relics myself.

Thus, my children and I all benefited from the presentation.  (Yes, even Jack.  For although he complained about being tired, etc., he listened as well and has since shared details of stories he heard.)

After the talk and a potty break, we waited in the long, relatively slow line to see the relics.  This was hard for the kids since they are never good with lines, but, with homeschooling friends right next to us in line, they survived and we made it to the tables the relics were at.  

Just before we did, Nina told me her heart was pounding.  I felt it.  It really was.  My girl was so excited to experience the relics, especially since she had heard a portion of Mother Mary's veil would be there.

Nina's excitement, however, was also laced with disappointed.  She had heard during the presentation that a holy object touched to a relic could become a third class relic and she so wished I had brought an object of devotion with us.  I apologized to her and let her know that I am learning about these things, too.  I did not know to do so.  She understood, but still somewhat sad.

Then, a woman named Nancy, who was nearby to us in line and had the sweetest, most prayerful demeanor, offered Nina a generous kindness.  Nancy had paused several times from her own prayer and devotion to share tidbits about her experience with and knowledge of the saints with my children.  During one of these pauses, when chatting with Nina, Nancy learned that Nina was upset about not having an object of devotion to touch to the relics.  No sooner did Nancy hear this then did she smile, reach into her bag and present Nina with a rosary from Medjugorje.  Nina was absolutely delighted and continued along the table, praying and touching the rosary to the relics.

I was moved by Nancy's kindness, compassion and devout prayer. Light and love seemed to emanate from her and I think I will remember the example of it each time I remember our experience with the Treasures of the Church.

I am not sure what Luke will remember.  For while Luke began his trek through the tables that the relics were on alongside me, he ending up moving ahead with some friends of ours.

I know he read some of the placards, touched some of the relics and said a few prayers.  Luke has also since commented that "it was so cool to see a part of the cross" and he been referring to the experience as a whole and to details from Father Martins' talk.   Plus, he began experiencing the exposition by praying with me and his siblings that the Holy Spirit would guide us and that we might be open to the prayers of intercession from saints.  So, I trust the Spirit is working in him as it seems to be in all of us through the experience -- with slow, quiet whispers. 
Of course, the Spirit's whispers are sometimes hard to hear. Especially in the din of a four-year-old's complaints.  

Unfortunately, Jack was that four-year-old for part of our evening.

As the night progressed, so did my challenges with Jack.  I was able to focus him on the first of the relics and in a few brief prayers, but mostly, he just wanted "to eat", to cry "I'm tired", and "to go home".

Since we had eaten just before going out, I knew Jack was not truly hungry and, since he had taken a rare nap in the afternoon, I also doubted that he was too tired to make it through the evening.  It was clear, though, that he wanted to go home because the sheer number of relics and the waiting it would take to venerate each of them was overwhelming.

Jack was not engaged and he was letting me and everyone else know it.  So, eventually, I just sat him down at a quiet table with some friends, some blank paper and a few pencils.  He contented himself drawing, told me later "it (the experience) was not really fun or like playing at all", but it was interesting to see that "huge one at the end with all the parts of the disciples".    He also perked up when he saw Joseph's relic after the "huge one".

So, four years old might be a little young for an exposition of the relics, I guess.  But who knows?  Perhaps just by being there, praying a little and having me and so many others pray in communion with the saints in Heaven, Jack was strengthened in some way.

I truly hope we all were!  

I know I am glad we went to Treasures of the Church and have been thinking about the saint I felt drawn to despite never really knowing much about him.  Luckily, even though the picture I took of the placard by the saint so I could remember which one it was was blurred, I can read it online.
I was thrilled to discover that all the placards that were next to the relics are available on the Treasures of the Church  download pageWith long, slow-moving lines and an ornery Jack, I could not possibly read each of the placards to my children at the exposition nor digest them myself.  Now, I know I can do so later.  In fact, I intend to print them and, then, pull specific ones out as the kids and I celebrate saint days through teas, playdates and notebooking.

Thank you, Treasures of the Church, for offering this resource free online as a download!

Do You Want to Experience Treasures of the Church?

Treasures of the Church travels to parishes, schools and prisons throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.  It is currently traveling throughout New England with published exposition dates scheduled in MA and NH.  If you're in the area, GO!

If you're not in New England, book an exposition where you are.  To learn about how you can request an exposition for your local area, go to the Treasures of the Church website.

I'd love to hear about your experiences with relics and your ideas for helping young children understand and experience them. 


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