A nationwide tour of relics believed to have belonged to or touched Catholic saints will make stops at St. Barbara Catholic Church in De Queen on Monday and St. Edward's Catholic Church in Texarkana on Tuesday.
The Rev. Carlos Martins of the Companions of the Cross will present "Exposition of Sacred Relics: Treasures of the Church." Both presentations begin at 7 p.m. and are free and open to the public.
The collection contains first- and second-degree relics of 155 saints and 11 from the Martyrs of Novogrudok. Degrees, also referred to as classes, denote the significance of a relic as having been part of a saint's life. A first-degree relic is the body part of a saint, such as a bone. A second-degree relic is an object that belonged to or was worn by a saint, and a third-degree relic is one that has touched a first- or second-degree relic.
The exposition includes relics believed to be from or associated with St. Paul, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Maria Goretti, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony of Padua, Mary Magdalene and others. A piece of a veil also will be on display that is believed to have belonged to Mary, the mother of Jesus. What is thought to be one of the largest remaining pieces of the True Cross also is included in the display.
Martins has taken the exposition around the world and said it is one of the few expositions of items believed to be associated with saints in existence and is the largest known collection of such objects -- nearly all of which he said are first-degree relics.
Martins developed a proposal for the idea of such a ministry years ago, although at the time it was planned on a much smaller scale. He said he worked with the Vatican to expand the exposition.
"Gradually the church saw what was happening and wanted to support it more and more and it's taken the form that it does today," he said.
The exposition was last in Texarkana about four years ago. Kelli Nugent, St. Edward's director of faith formation, has worked for the past two years to secure a place on the current schedule, which brings Martins through a number of churches in Arkansas.
She said St. Edward's -- at 410 Beech St. -- has sent fliers to other Catholic churches in the area."We are inviting all Catholic churches around us because Father Martins doesn't get to this area very often," Nugent said. "It's been quite the opportunity."
She said St. Edward's is trying to fill the church with Catholics and non-Catholics so they can learn more about the saints. Nugent explained that people don't pray to the saints, they pray for them to intercede and take prayers directly to the Lord.
"A relic is a piece of something the saint owned that helps us to both remember that individual's holiness, the way they tried to serve God all their lives and strove for holiness and the fact that they can intercede for us," Nugent said. "If we believe that our soul is immortal, and that our soul is still alive and went somewhere after our bodies died, if that soul is in heaven, do you think that person has a more direct line to the Lord? The Bible teaches us about eternal life and that they would intercede for us."
The exposition's website contains testimonials of many attendees being healed after praying to the saints represented by the relics, but Martins said the relics are something that are imbued with power only through their association with Christ.
"God works through them. They don't have power of their own, but certainly as members of Christ's body saints are configured to Christ," Martins said. "It's Christ's body that is active. Christ is continuing the ministry of healing he started on Earth prior to his death and resurrection. That work is an every day occurrence in this ministry and I see the miraculous regularly. If I don't see the miraculous, something went wrong."
The exposition was last shown at De Queen's St. Barbara Catholic Church -- at 503 W. De Queen Ave. -- in December 2013, according to Reyna Alvarez, the church's secretary.
The Little Rock diocese website says guests are invited to take an "article of devotion" with which to touch the relic. Alvarez said she doesn't plan to take any items that evening, but that the experience is nevertheless a special one for believers.
"[Seeing the relics] means a lot to a lot of people, if they believe," Alvarez said. "They believe that if they touch [the relics and] they are sick they can be healed.
"It means a lot for us because the saints were humans and sinners like us, but ... they changed, they dedicated their lives to God and they were able to do miracles."
Juan Manjarrez, St. Barbara's priest, doesn't remember exactly what the piece of cloth believed to have belonged to St. Therese of Lisieux looked like, but he remembers that he carried it on his person for the entirety of the one day he was allowed to have it in his possession two years ago -- a day he spent in a hospital as part of its ministry. Ever since, he said, St. Therese holds a special place in his heart.
Manjarrez said the exposition takes on an extra significance for the church because Monday is the day of the church's namesake, St. Barbara's Day, and he expects the event to be a "special spiritual experience" for the 500 or so expected to attend.
After Martins' presentation there will be time for veneration of the relics and informal prayer, said Manjarrez, who said he views the evening as less of an exhibit to be viewed at a distance and "more like a big family reunion."
"The goal is to be there with them," said Manjarrez, referring to both the relics and fellow believers. "Relics are a reminder that we have a little piece of heaven and earth for one day."
For more information about the exposition, visit treasuresofthechurch.com.
Information for this article was contributed by Francisca Jones of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Bryan and Arlene Fair examine a fragment from the crown of thorns at St. Francis de Sales Oratory in St. Louis. More than 150 relics were on display throughout the church. The Rev. Carlos Martins of Companions of the Cross gave a presentation in the parish hall before the viewing. The relic in the glass case on the right is said to be the largest existing part of the True Cross. The relics will be in De Queen and Texarkana this week.
Religion on 12/02/2017
Print Headline: Saints' relics to be shown in De Queen, Texarkana