QUEZON City, March 1, 2014—In what became a “sacred museum of sorts”, the saints’ relic exhibit which the Ateneo Campus Ministry Group (ACMG) held last week from February 24 to February 27 educated both Catholic and non-Catholic guests on the veneration of relics, ACMG apostolate coordinator Meynard Espinosa shared.
Espinosa told the CBCP News that more than 300 visitors, not only from within the Atenean community but also from elsewhere, lined up for the one-of-a-kind exhibit.
“It was the first of its kind in Ateneo and we are looking forward to organizing a repeat of this,” Espinosa said.
The exhibit aimed to broaden the knowledge of Ateneo’s own Jesuit saints and blessed, and spread awareness and devotion to them who are the central pillars of Jesuit education, explained Espinosa.
Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) president Fr. Jett Villarin, SJ, who had opened and blessed the exhibit commented, “I hope as a group, we can lead people to experience God’s love… create the space, the time to first of all, receive love because once you receive love, it’s a natural step to love God in return.”
Apart from inspiring piety among visitors, the exhibit also served as instructional tools for the faith.
Each of the 40 relics on display came with a label which provided background information on the item.
Most of the relics are from Jesuit saints with a replica of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s sword being the most popular.
Espinosa shared that a fragment of the “True Cross” also piqued the curiosity of the lay faithful.
Also featured are relics of some of most beloved saints like Francis Xavier, Aloysius Gonzaga, Thomas Aquinas, Augustine of Hippo, Anthony of Padua, Martin de Porres, and Padre Pio, and various religious statues.
The relics were loaned to the ACMG by private groups like the Works of the Saints Apostolate and the San José Seminary, and various individual relic collectors.
Many lapsed Catholic, Protestant, and non-religious guests who dropped by the exhibit left Peter Faber Hall with a more enlightened opinion of the Catholic veneration of relics, Espinosa added.
The veneration of relics has been a touchy subject among non-Catholic Christians since the earliest days of Christianity.
Catholics have been accused of idol-worship because of their attachment to what are generally called sacramentals.
The official Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), which outlines everything that the Catholic faithful should believe in, makes this point clear in its treatment of popular piety and the use of sacramentals. It states that “The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church’s sacramental life, such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals, etc. (1674)
But the CCC also stresses that the faithful should always be rightly guided in this regard. It explains: “Pastoral discernment is needed to sustain and support popular piety and, if necessary, to purify and correct the religious sense which underlies these devotions so that the faithful may advance in knowledge of the mystery of Christ. Their exercise is subject to the care and judgment of the bishops and to the general norms of the Church.” (1676 )
Espinosa thanked everyone who patronized the exhibit, and those who helped make it a success.
“Until the next relic exhibit,” Espinosa said. (Raymond A. Sebastián)