The pews were packed, the aisles filled with children and the walls lined with people who stood for more than an hour at All Saints-St. Mary Church in Holdingford June 6 to listen to Father Carlos Martins tell dramatic stories of great miracles, inspiring conversions and chilling tales of the lives of the saints.
The presentation was part of the “Treasures of the Church” relic tour, which includes more than 150 relics of saints and has traveled all over the world with Father Martins, a priest of the Companions of the Cross religious order.
“My goal with these presentations is not that you just come in and encounter these saints. I want you to leave here having become saints,” Father Martins said to the crowd.
Using an illustration of what he terms the “Four Handcuffs,” he helps people examine their consciences. The four handcuffs are: attending Mass on Sunday; frequenting confession regularly; making an honest confession; and forgiveness.
He said, in his experience, people identify the most with the last “handcuff” — forgiveness. While re-telling the story of St. Maria Goretti, he emphasized the importance of her choice to forgive her murderer and encouraged attendees to make acts of forgiveness in their own lives.
Following the talk, participants were invited to venerate the relics, encased in varying sizes of “thecas,” or specially designed containers for the relics, including those of St. Maria Goretti, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Faustina Kowalska.
People weaved their way around the basement of the church, stopping before each of about 20 tables displaying the relics, touching them with holy cards, medals, rosaries, photos of loved ones and with their own hands.
Some waited more than two hours to venerate what Father Martins said is the “supreme highlight” of the tour — one of the largest certified relics of the True Cross in the world and a piece of the Veil of Our Lady.
“The point of the teaching is nothing other than to present the basic Gospel message of Jesus Christ: that God is here right now and wants to be encountered. He touches us through the lives and the sacred remains of his saints,” Father Martins said.
Following each exposition, Father Martins said he has received numerous stories of healing from people who have attended his presentation, from physical healing to “a new and deeper relationship with God.”
This is the second time Dan Mead, a member of Immaculate Conception Parish in St. Anna, has seen this relic tour.
“You can just feel the presence of holiness,” he said. “This is what our faith is about. Many of the people here are coming for healing and it is awe-inspiring to think you can pick up a piece of St. Peter or be in the presence of a chunk of wood that once held the body of Christ.”
Tom and Stephanie Giroux brought their four children, Pavel, 8, Meira, 6, Alina, 3, and Marin, almost 2. The family attends St. Francis Xavier Parish in Sartell.
“We heard about it from a friend on Facebook and we thought it was a really cool opportunity. We didn’t want to miss out on it being it was so close. The kids were really interested in it, too,” Stephanie Giroux said.
She read a book to their two oldest children, Pavel and Meira, about St. Therese of Lisieux and her parents. Both children were excited to see their relics.
“It is such a great thing,” Tom said. “You don’t get chances like this to be among the saints. There are so many great ones here like St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, St. Francis de Sales, who are doctors of the faith or great evangelizers. It’s an amazing opportunity.”
The exhibit drew in fans of all ages including Lyla Michaelis, 7, from Paynesville, who gave up a night of playing softball to attend the presentation with her grandmother and her great aunt. Prior to the presentation, she and her grandmother picked up a book on saints at the library.
When asked which saints she especially wanted to see, Michaelis said, “St. Francis, St. Anne and St. Nicholas.” She also added her favorite saint, St. Pope John Paul II.
Father Gregory Mastey, pastor of All Saints as well as Immaculate Conception in St. Anna and St. Stanislaus Kostka in Bowlus, said this kind of excitement is exactly what he hoped for when the Holy Spirit guided the relic tour to the Diocese of St. Cloud. The tour also included a stop in Perham June 3. Father Mastey was particularly excited to see so many youth and young families present.
“When I have gone to World Youth Days, the reliquary area is what young people want to see. They want to have a connection with the holy men and women of the past. They want to become saints,” he said. “That’s why I wanted to host this — for people, and especially our young people, to form real connections with the saints.”