The Apotheosis of John XXIII and John Paul II, 2

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By Ver F. Pacete

As I See It

Saturday, April 26, 2014


WELCOME new saints, John XXIII and John Paul II. The Church at the Second Council of Nicaea officially recognized praying to the saints in 787. Our Mother Church has the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to determine those who deserve to be conferred sainthood.

It was Pope Alexander III who officially recognized the canonization process but it was Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241) who published “Decretals,” a collection of canon laws that asserted that the pontiff has jurisdiction over the causes of sainthood. It is at this point that the Church made a distinction between veneration and adoration. Veneration is for the saints while adoration is for God alone. Filipino family altars (some Catholics only) are loaded with images of saints. In our prayers we have litany of the saints. We channel our prayers to the saints for God.

There is a little confusion here because many of us have sometimes forgotten to pray directly to God through Jesus. John 16:23 says, “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name (not the name of the saints), he will give it to you.” The Catholic Church credited thousands of saints. There are saints for all events, diseases, professions, infertility, nations, races, churches, etc. The Immaculate Conception is the patron saint of the Philippines. There are songs, varied images, fiestas, novenas and rituals for Mama Mary.

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My catechism class taught me to pray to Mary and the saints to intercede. I was told I can go faster to God through them. The Holy Bible has a different interpretation of who are the saints. Paul in his epistles had repeatedly addressed those Christians living for the Lord as saints. The saints are dead and the Old Testament reveals that God forbids the practice of communication with the dead. King Saul was killed by God because of this. (I don’t say that our God has also the “K instinct” like what we want for Pacquiao.)

In 1968, Pope Paul VI suppressed some saints because historical research reveals that they never existed. Some of them (ex-saints now) are St. Barbara, St. Christopher (the popular patron saint of drivers and tour guides), St. Eustace (patron saint of hunters), St. Expeditus (patron saint of emergencies), Saint Margaret, and St. Philomena. My previous principals in the Dominican Order were Sr. Margaret and Sr. Philomena.

Catholics venerate relics. These are the objects coming from the body of saints or articles used by them. Instead of direct prayer to God, some of us put more faith in the relics. That could be the reason why all the altars in the Church are required to have a relic of the saints. St. Ambrose was the first to popularize the veneration of the relics. He considered the relics necessary to counter the wicked spirits roaming the earth. (I remember my “lanahan” for the wicked spirits from the Ati of Marikudo tribe in Isabela.)

Thomas Aquinas condemned the practice but tradition has become too difficult to expunge. Some of the relics could be found in Rome: skull of St. John the Baptist, foot of Mary Magdalene, vocal cord of St. Anthony de Padua, gallstones of St. Clare of Monteflaco, the tongue of St. John Nepomucene, and the hands of St. Catherine Laboure.

The Vatican also indulges in the relics of human bones in the chapel vaults located in Santa Maria della Concezione. Human bones decorate the walls. The ceilings are covered with pelvic girdles; and there is even an area where the entire crypt is covered with pelvic bones, “Crypt of Pelvises.”

Our high school religion teachers told us that relics were supposed to have the same spiritual power as the saints. Touching and kissing the relics were parts of the veneration. I was made to understand (my classmates also) that these articles come from saints who were honored by the Church and their remains are filled with power that can be helpful (for their curative effects on disease).

The graves of the saints are even venerated, more so when their bodies remained uncorrupted. Shrines or churches have been constructed to house their relics. The body parts are even distributed in far away churches so that others could share the miracle of relics. Catholics believe also that by venerating the relics, indulgences are gained.

“As I See It” is just giving a background. John XXIII and John Paul II are about to become our new saints. Do you have some items related to them (t-shirts, caps, ballers, hankies, whatever)? Let us have faith. This is the substance of our religion.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on April 26, 2014.

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