By Deacon Gesualdo Schneider

 

I didn’t remember what he looked like. My wife and I only remembered the effect his

ministry had on someone we knew. Communicating by e-mail and then a few phone calls as he reported on his progress to Montpelier, did not prepare me for the jolly man who bounced into St. Augustine Church that cloudy April afternoon.

 

The best description I can give is that he reminded me of a jolly elf we hear so much about near Christmas. But Santa Claus only brings gifts that satisfy our bodies for a short time; Father Carlos Martins brings a gift of eternal significance.

 

Father Martins, a priest with the evangelical order Companions of the Cross, travels

throughout the country and internationally bringing more than 150 relics to churches, schools and prisons.

 

Montpelier was the first stop on a tour through eastern New England. This tour took four years to arrange and allows the faithful a unique opportunity to connect with the Communion of the Saints.

 

At 6 p.m. on April 3, a dreary Tuesday evening, almost 200 people from throughout northern Vermont gathered for a presentation by Father Martins and to venerate the relics. He talked about relics in general and then got into the importance of relics to connect us both with the past history of the Church and with the present spiritual reality that we live in.

 

Relics, some coming from as far back as the first century AD, are a reminder that the earliest Christians recognized the intimate connection between the material and spiritual worlds that we live in. Holiness of individuals was acknowledged by a desire of those who loved them to keep something that belonged to them. Just as we like to keep alive memories of our loved ones, Christians throughout the ages did the same for the people who influenced their lives.

 

Despite the long timeframes involved with some relics, there is a remarkable record, tradition and written on the history of these relics.

 

The second thing Father Martins emphasized was the need for forgiveness in our lives. He wove the idea of forgiveness through the remarkable story of St. Maria Goretti. This mortally wounded 11-year-old forgave her attacker on her deathbed. This in itself was a remarkable action. It became more significant when her totally unrepentant killer converted about eight years later after Maria appeared to him in prison in a dream telling him that she forgave him. He served his prison sentence and then went and apologized to Maria’s mother for what he had done. Her mother also forgave him and accepted him as a son. He died as a Capuchin tertiary dedicated to serving others.

 

That history of forgiveness is itself a remarkable miracle, but St. Maria’s story does not stop there. There have been numerous miracles of healing attributed to her

intercession.

 

Father Martins reminded his listeners that God can and does work miracles through His saints. Their relics give us an opportunity to get personally close to individual saints and ask for help in our personal pains and failures. Reaching out to saints reminds us of the total interconnectedness, over time and space, of the whole Church. It is as members of the Body of Christ that we are all joined together in the Communion of Saints.

 

What stood out were the peace, joy and reverence which filled the hall. It is that peace and joy which needs to be the mark of the Christian.

 

Faced with so many problems and issues in our lives we cannot arrive at it ourselves. Truly opening our lives to friendship with the saints who have gone before us and are all around us is one of the best ways to bring us closer to Jesus.

 

The saints are saints because they loved Jesus and knew that Jesus loved them. They only want to help us find and live that same love.

 

For more about Father Martin’s ministry go to treasuresofthechurch.com.

 

Deacon Gesualdo Schneider serves at St. Augustine Church in Montpelier.

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