The Catholic Church has a thing about things--things like bits of bone, desiccated flesh, random body parts, scraps of cloth, splinters of wood and stuff like that. They like to use such things in the practice of those arcane rites that only those in the RCC clerical hierarchy appear to really understand. In nimistic or shamanistic religions such objects would be called fetishes, and would be given unreasonably excessive attention or reverence. The Roman church calls these things relics and would have her faithful consider them as means to focus on the Lord God. Well, that is what they say, anyway.
In ancient times, there was a regular cult of the dead. It existed before the birth of Christ. In the morning of Christianity, the Church presented no coherent opposition to it. In fact, some of the early church fathers and some bishops participated in the pagan practices of the cult of martyrs and some even encouraged them.
In the early centuries of our Christian faith, there was a wide trade in relics, or bits and pieces of dead martyrs and saints. Seems just about every town and church wanted its own piece of some dead church hero or something that hero had touched or worn. Those who could afford it, bought such relics and either enshrined them in their homes or places of business or wore them on their persons.
This was such a lucrative trade that folks began to invent martyrs. No grave was safe, for the unscrupulous – or the excessively religious – were wont to dig up the remains and hustle the various body parts and bits of clothing to some other town in need of a martyr of its own. Sometimes, country folk would erect a little shrine to Saint Somebody-or-other to attract visitors and their custom. This practice became so rampant that, in Africa, the assembled bishops resolved in 401 A.D. that:
For centuries, people reported all manner of fantastic experiences, either their own of someone else's, and visitations from angels, spirits of the dead and, of course, Mary. What was behind this surge of religious activity and the incredible growth of the cult of martyrs in the latter years of Constantine's rule? Emperor Constantine, by the Edict of Milan, legitimized Christian worship throughout the Roman Empire, which certainly facilitated church growth. Converts began to flock to the new religion, which seemed not to fully meet their spiritual needs:
Sure, leaders of the early church made an effort to convince people that Almighty God was big enough and caring enough and accessible enough to handle all their problems, even the littlest of them. Augustine, time and again, struggled against his congregation's reluctance to go to God with the routine problems of ordinary living:
The Bishop of Hippo rebuked "those misguided men who count God as necessary for eternal life, for that life of the soul, but thinks these Powers must be worshipped by us on account of temporal matters." (Ibid.)
What to do now? Christianity taught that God was sufficient to meet all man's needs, yet the common people did not feel confident in approaching so great and illustrious a Being with their "little" problems. They missed their many "little" gods, the lower order superhuman beings to whom they were accustomed to applying for help and protection. Fortunately, there was a Christian answer: they could appeal to sanctified martyrs.
Early Christians were well-served by their dead martyrs in the early days of the church. We have no record of any of these martyrs accomplishing any miracle involving hens, but St. Felix could cure larger animals as well as find those who ran away. Sts. Hypatius and Thecla could do about the same. St. Martin once exorcised a demon from a mad cow, and St. Fides is said to have resurrected a mule. St. Germanus, while still alive, ministered to a rooster who had lost his cock-a-doodle-do (Constantius, Vita Germani II)
Even today, in the RCC way of religion, God is presented as virtually inaccessible and Christ seems aloof and even somewhat to be feared. After all He is the Judge Who will seal for all eternity the fate of the lost at His judgment seat. Scripture tells us there is but one mediator between God and man, our Savior Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). How can we, insignificant and virtually powerless, dare to take our petitions straight to the Omnipotence? Rome provides a more loving and nurturing mediatrix to intercede with THE Mediator in our behalf – Mary, Queen of Heaven.
Should a problem require the services of a specialist, there are plenty of saints, many of them martyrs, to call upon. Why bother God over a coming traffic court appearance? St. Jude can help you. The RCC pantheon of saints not only replaces the old college of pagan gods and demigods, it actually makes it better. Where as before, folks only were able to appeal to a few hundred deities for help, Rome provides a list numbering in the thousands.
How are these ministering spirits and unacknowledged deities to be recompensed for their labors in our behalf? Why by rendering them worship and reverence, of course. In keeping with Rome's wordplay, these spirits of the dead are to be rendered a type of worship other than that rendered to the Almighty One. God alone, in His Three Persons, is to be adored with latria. Only Mary qualifies for the second level of worship, labeled hyperdulia. However, all those spirits of the dead and even the bits and pieces of their mortal remains or appurtances, as well as odds and ends of things or emanations, are to be honored with the lowest level of worship, which Rome terms dulia. Seems only fair, doesn't it?
The Roman church is so caught up in the worship of spirits and things that it likes to keep relics in its churches, chapels, shrines, and similar places. Shoot! There is a scrap of rag, or a shrivelled up body part, or splinter of wood or some other things that once belonged to a saint or martyr in most of its permanent altars. It used to be that every permanent altar had to hold relics, but that changed in this ecumenical era of the Novus Ordo Mass. The Code of Canon Law and General Instruction V of the Roman Missal still appear to continue the tradition of relics in altars, but the Novus Ordo does not require them
Doesn't that call to mind the pagan religions Rome so eagerly incorporated into her own religious practice? Rome is so big on the ghoulish business of worshipping body parts or involving them in its worship that some really bizarre situations have developed.
One example of the silliness that has risen up around the cult of saints and martyrs is the fact that the Vatican possesses of TWO skulls which it claims were Peter's. One is enshrined in the Cathedral of St. John Lateran and the other at "Peter's burial site" in the graffiti wall inside the Vatican. Peter was quite a guy, but I doubt he had two heads.
Then there's the story of a merchant who paid a hooker to use her skills to obtain an arm of John the Baptist as her price for servicing the sexual needs of an hospitaler. John's relics were in demand. In 1016, monks in Aquitaine claimed they had come into possession of the head of John the Baptist. This "discovery" seemed not to create any distress, although another head supposedly having also belonged to John had been on display in Antioch for a very long time.
Anything that had touched the body of Christ was particularly desirable. One such object was the Spear of Destiny, the very weapon that was said to have pierced the side of Christ as He hung on the cross. Some stories claim that this spear has existed since the beginning of recorded time, being passed from dynasty to dynasty. Adolf Hitler, who was deeply involved with things occult, was fascinated by the Spear. On the very day Germany annexed Austria, March 12, 1938, Hitler was in Vienna, where he went to the Hofmuseum to personally take charge of the Spear, which was on display there. After Germany had been defeated, General Patton, himself a believer in reincarnation and other curious things, was shocked to learn that Germany had been in possession of the Spear. The general was concerned that the Allies might have hadto resort to the use of nuclear weapons to fulfill the Spear's destiny.
Other relics held and revered by Catholic faithful and the Roman church included Christ's Holy Navel, Holy Tears, Hair, Fingernails and Holy Foreskin. Of course, Mary's milk, tears, hair and such were in great demand as well.
Little has changed since the early days when the church, in her zeal to "make converts," adapted pagan beliefs and rituals and legitimized them by tacking on the label "Christian." Do you reckon God is fooled by that label? I'll be posting details of some of the strange things the Catholic Church has said and done as regards the ghoulish practice of using holy body parts in her worship. For now, I urge all those who participate in the pagan ways of Rome to read and bear in mind the very serious way God has dealt in the past with those who would not heed His commandants and worshipped as heathens:
Do you reckon God has changed His mind? That the things that bothered Him in the Old Testament no longer concern Him? That believers are not under the Law and therefore need not worry?
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