Relic: First Class

St. John Vianney is on tour! But how can he be on tour? He’s dead!

Ah, the power of sainthood and incorruptibility.

One of the weird and cool things about the Catholic Church is that many of its saints are incorruptible, meaning that although they died many years ago, their bodies (or parts of their bodies) never decayed and remain relatively intact. These parts of a saint are known as first-class relics. A second-class relic is an item that the saint used often in his lifetime, such as a rosary or a prayer book. A third-class relic is an item that was touched to a first- or second-class relic.

St. John (Jean) Vianney, a French priest who is the patron of parish priests worldwide, is one of the “incorruptibles.” He died in 1859, so you’d think every bit of his earthly remains would have crumbled into dust by now. But his heart is incorrupt and recently traveled the country in a glass reliquary guarded by the Knights of Columbus. (And they had swords. How awesome is that?)

St. John Vianney’s incorruptible heart visited a parish near us on Memorial Day weekend, so being the huge Catholic fanboys we are, my husband and I were going to go, but I ended up staying home with the baby instead.

From what my husband said, the church was crowded with visitors from all over who wanted to venerate the incorruptible heart and ask the saint for intercession and for a resurgence of vocations to the priesthood.

I was sad to have missed the event, but my Miraculous Medal was touched to the relic and is now a third-class relic itself. However, a third-class relic is only as good as the faith of its owner, so to gain any benefit from it, I need to continually improve my faith.

What Is Grace?

The sacraments are said to bring graces. Specifically, the sacrament of holy matrimony is said to bring grace to the married couple, who conferred the sacrament upon themselves. A priest does not marry two people. They marry each other; the priest is only the Church’s official witness.

Merriam-Webster defines the noun grace as follows:

a: unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification
b: a virtue coming from God
c: a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance

That all seems accurate, but it is still fuzzy to me. All the vocations recognized by the Church—marriage, consecrated life, priesthood, and single life—have graces attached to them. Once you have responded to the call and entered your vocation, God grants you the graces needed to fulfill it and become sanctified so that you may enter heaven upon earthly death.

Maybe the better question is, how does one recognize grace? We have unique, unrepeatable souls, so it makes sense that each person would recognize grace in his or her own way.

To me, grace is a peaceful feeling, an infusion of patience that I didn’t have before, that leaves me wondering how I still feel so calm, when I would ordinarily be anxious. I also see grace as the wisdom to keep my mouth shut when I am tempted to verbally lash out. Grace is still hard to recognize, and many times, I fail to use or grasp it, but I have learned to be more open to it and to pray for it.

tl;dr version of this post: I don’t think I ever recognized grace as a legitimate blessing that could be helpful until recently.

Thank you, God, for this grace.

Advent Reflection Series #9

Here’s the last Advent reflection series post, and the prompt seemed to be pretty appropriate for Christmas:

Do you believe that Jesus is the answer?

Well, I wouldn’t be a Catholic if I said no to that, right? I do believe that Jesus is the answer to everything. Some aspect of his life or his teachings can always become relevant to wherever I am in life. Many questions can be answered by the Bible, and if they’re not, then I’m making things too complicated or not looking in the right place.

Like worrying, for example. Most of us worry incessantly for no good reason, and we know it’s not a good reason, but we somehow can’t stop worrying. Plenty of places in the Bible remind us not to worry and let us know that Jesus has our best interests at heart.

This Christmas season has been anxiety ridden for me, because I haven’t been able to really give like I wanted to. There wasn’t any time to send Christmas cards, and I always wish I had the creativity to make handmade gifts instead of buying something from a store. I’m trying to save money for the baby and sure-to-be-outrageous hospital expenses that accompany that, so I haven’t donated to a charity in a long time. I didn’t contribute to my company’s holiday get-together. I haven’t cooked anything. The apartment complex was having a toy drive for needy kids, and I didn’t donate to that.

Kinda feels Grinch-y, especially when people have been so kind to me. I feel like I have no way to adequately repay them. But is Jesus the answer to this problem? Yes. I’m sure he would tell me not to worry. Perhaps in some years, I am supposed to be the recipient of gifts rather than the giver. Maybe next year, I’ll be in a better place to give. Or maybe I won’t. Either way, feeling guilty and worried isn’t going to solve anything.

So I turn to Jesus in the Bible, and he says, “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.” (Matthew 6:34).

Merry Christmas to all of you!