Thursday, July 15, 2010

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

The Boston press has reported on the theft of a very valuable relic from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross; a piece of wood believed to be from the cross on which Our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died. It is a great tragedy for the Archdiocese, and the Holy Cross community.

The story had me thinking about the role of relics during the time of Saint Francis of Assisi. Relics were valuable to the people of the time because they were a means of coming in contact with the Divine. Some relics were famous for their ability to heal. Relic could have an economic value for a city or town as well, especially if was the burial site of a popular saint. The community could count on large numbers of pilgrims coming to their city, spending their money, enriching their coffers.

When Francis of Assisi laid dying, the nobles and common people established a guard around him so that the people of Perugia could not raid Assisi and steal his body. When his Basilica was built, the remains of Francis were secretly buried in the church, again to thwart possible thieves. They did such a good job in hiding the body of Francis, that they lost the location for hundreds of years. Now his tomb is visible for all to see in the Basilica named after him.

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