A Rag, a Bone and a Hank of Hair

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.

1674. Besides sacramental liturgy and sacramentals, catechesis must take into account the forms of piety and popular devotions among the faithful. 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,[Cf. Council of Nicaea II: DS 601; 603; Council of Trent: DS 1822.] etc. Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 2nd Ed., (C) 1994/1997 United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

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:

...altars set up here and there in the countryside and along roads as if in memory of martyrs, in which it is shown that no body or relics of martyrs have been deposited, shall be overthrown, though, if this is impossible because of demonstrations by the people, at least the population should be admonished. . ." --L. T. Lefort, Le Chasse aux reliques des martyrs en Egypte au IV siecle, La Nouvelle Clio 6 (1954), pp. 225-230)

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:

For by their own act, they found themselves without gods. A strange way to put it. Surely they understood that the one Omnipotence was enough. But no, the answer was overwhelmingly no. That was because the concerns of the little people were little, and they were therefore not accustomed to apply to Jupiter or Zeus for succor; nor to Yahweh, after conversion. Like the great Lex, they thought, great gods cared nothing "de minimis;" great gods were lords and masters, not the fathers they hoped to appeal to (so Apollonius had once put it). Conversion and the repudiation of their old patrons and rescuers among the divine ranks had left an emptiness, a loneliness in times of trouble, not comfortably to be filled by the Power preached from urban pulpits. --Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity & Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries, (C) 1997 Yale University Press, pp. 120-121)

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:

There are those who say God is good, great, the top, beyond our perception, incorruptible, who will give us eternal life and that incorruptibility which he has promised in the resurrection, while temporal matters and matters of this world belong to "daemons."

"Let us reduce it to the very least things: he sees to the salvation of your hen."--Augustine, En. In ps. 34.1.7, In Ioann. Ev. Tract. 34.3f, and En. In ps. 26.2.19

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)

From Augustine and Basil, "The principal business of the martyrs, by far, then as for a thousand years to come, was to restore fertility, straighten limbs, clear the sight, or untwist the mind. Like Asclepieia, like sacred springs presided over by their healing deities, the martyria served as hospitals to urban and rural masses alike . . .The need for divine help, as the traditional was banished by mission and persecution together, was no doubt enormous; to supply it, the Christian God might seem very distant; but the beneficience of the sanctified dead was close and comfortable. The traditional world of antiquity thus retained or resumed its traditional character "under new management."--Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity & Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries, (C) 1997 Yale University Press, pp. 121-122

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.

969. 'This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation .... Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.'[LG 62.]--CCC, Op. cit.

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?

Can. 1186 To foster the sanctification of the people of God, the Church commends to the special and filial veneration of Christ's faithful the Blessed Mary ever-Virgin, the Mother of God, whom Christ constituted the Mother of all. The Church also promotes the true and authentic cult of the other Saints, by whose example the faithful are edified and by whose intercession they are supported.--Code of Canon Law (CCL), I IntraText Edition LT © 2003 Čulogos

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

Can. 1237 §2 The ancient tradition of placing relics of Martyrs or of other Saints within a fixed altar is to be retained, in accordance with the rites prescribed in the liturgical books.--CCL, Op. cit.

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:

And the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against the LORD their God, and they built them high places in all their cities, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city. And they set them up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree: And there they burnt incense in all the high places, as did the heathen whom the LORD carried away before them; and wrought wicked things to provoke the LORD to anger: For they served idols, whereof the LORD had said unto them, Ye shall not do this thing. Yet the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets. Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the LORD their God. And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them, that they should not do like them. And they left all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger. Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only. Also Judah kept not the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made. And the LORD rejected all the seed of Israel, and afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of spoilers, until he had cast them out of his sight.--2 Kings 17:9-20

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?

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.--1 John 5:21

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.--2 Corinthians 6:14-18

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