The veneration of relics is rooted in Scripture and has been a part of Catholic life since the apostles. Healings through relics were present even in the Old Testament. It is more prominently seen in the Old Testament in the book of 2 Kings.
“Then he picked up Elijah’s mantel which had fallen from him and went back and stood at the bank of the Jordan. Wielding the mantle which had fallen from Elijah, he struck the water in his turn and said, ‘Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ When Elisha struck the water, it divided and he crossed.” (2 Kings 2:13-14
Later, in 2 Kings 13, the bones of Elisha bring a dead man back to life.
“Elisha died and was buried. At the time, bands of Moabites used to raid the land each year. Once some people were burying a man, when suddenly they spied such a raiding band. So they cast the dead man into the grave of Elisha, and everyone went off. But when the man came in contact with the bones of Elisha, he came back to life and rose to his feet.” (2 Kings 13:20-21)
We also know that in the book of Acts, handkerchiefs and cloths touched to the skin of St. Paul were used to heal others and cast out demons. (Acts 19:11-12)
So, as we begin to come out of the Lenten season and enter the joyous season of Easter, celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and His victory over death and sin, let us take a moment to remember what the crucifixion of Christ has done for us. Although the Vatican has the largest private collection of relics in the world, you do not need to go to Rome to venerate relics of the True Cross. You don’t even need a passport. You might have to travel a state or two away from your home, but you can venerate relics of the True Cross in the United States. Here are 9 places where you can be blessed by the presence of a relic of the cross that held Jesus on Calvary, and other pieces of his passion.
1.) The Old Mission Basilica in San Buenaventura,California
The Mission is located on E. Main Street in San Buenaventure and was one of the nine missions St. Junipero Serra founded in the late 1700s. The Mission has relics of the True Cross along with numerous other saints. Visitors to the mission are provided the opportunity, in addition to venerating the relic of the True Cross, to spend time in prayer before relics of St. Mary of the Incarnation, St. Vincent de Paul, St. John Neumann, St. Bonaventure, St. Bernard, St. Junipero Serra, St. Catherine Laboure, and St. Jude Thaddeus. Additionally, there is a 3rd class relic of St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Mother, available for veneration as well. The museum has displays of Chumash Indian artifacts and mission-era items. The mission offers self-guided tours for a small fee ($5), with discounts for military, seniors, and youth. Children under 4-years old are free.
2.) The Basilica of St. John the Evangelist, Stamford, Connecticut
The beautiful basilica is known as “The Mother Church of Stamford”. The Minor Basilica was founded by Irish immigrants in the 1850s. The relic of the True Cross is located off to the right of the gothic marble and onyx High Altar. It is on permanent display and available for visitors to pray before the sacred cross any time the church is open. The relic of the True Cross is one of over 400 relics the side chapel displays. Other relics include those of Apostles and Our Lord’s Resurrection. The tours are free and the church offers special pilgrimage Masses, Confessions, and pilgrims can receive a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions by visiting the Basilica on designated days.
3.) Mary Help of Christians center, Tampa, Florida
The beautiful scenery surrounding Mary Help of Christians school and center is enough to cause any pilgrim to make a visit. The retreat center sits on 140 acres and includes a lakefront area, gymnasium, pool, and barn. It’s easy to find and located off I-4 at Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Mary Help of Christians contains a private Catholic High School, parish, as well as a retreat center. It’s the perfect place to get away on retreat or send your children to summer camp. Additionally, the Salesian center and church contains approximately 200 relics, including a relic of the True Cross. The relics are located in a room in the back of the church. They are available for veneration anytime the church is open. In addition to being able to pray and spend time before the relic of the True Cross, there is a full-sized replica of the Shroud of Turin hanging on one of the walls in the relic room. Pilgrims can also enjoy spending time at an outdoor Altar, outdoor Stations of the Cross, and several other statues located on the property.
4.) Basilica of the Sacred Heart, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart is located on the campus of The University of Notre Dame at 101 Basilica Drive. It is open each day, except for Saturdays, for visitors to come and pray, venerate relics, participate in Mass or receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is open Monday – Friday 9-4 p.m. (closed from 11 – 1 for lunch) and on Sundays from 1-3 p.m. You can choose to take a self-guided tour or participate in a guided tour conducted by volunteers. Admission to the Basilica, museum, and participation in guided tours are free.
The Basilica contains six chapels. Relics are located in the Reliquary Chapel and contains a large collection of relics which includes the True Cross, as well as relics from many saints such as St. Severa, the body of John Cardinal O’Hara, Blessed Basil Moreau, and many other saints. When you visit, do not forget to take advantage of the Bishops Museum which contains items from American Bishops dating back to the 1900s.
5.) St. Meinrad Archabbey, St. Meinrad, Indiana
St. Meinrad is a Benedictine monastery that is home to 80 Benedictine monks. The quiet and peaceful grounds contain the monastery, church, school, and a guest house. The guest house is perfect for a quiet, prayerful weekend getaway or a week retreat. Visitors, whether you stay at the guest house or are just visiting for the day, can attend Mass and Vespers with the Benedictines. The scenic grounds contain outdoor Stations of the Cross and a brief walking trail that takes you to a statue of Our Lady. Located just a short drive off the grounds of the Archabbey are shrines to Our Lady of Monte Cassino and St. Joseph.
The Archabbey contains a relic of St. Meinrad within the chapel that can be venerated by visitors. It also houses a relic of the True Cross, however, it is not available for public display. Visitors are able to venerate the True Cross relic when they attend the tour of the grounds, provided by one of the Benedictine monks, each day. During the tour, visitors will be able to learn about the history of the Archabbey, venerate the relic of St. Meinrad, and the True Cross relic.
6.) St. Mary of Victories Catholic Church, St. Louis, Missouri
Located on S. 3rd Street in St. Louis, St. Mary of Victories Catholic Church contains High Altars, as well as side altars, with over 280 relics in reliquaries. The relics are displayed in the statuary or paintings and are available for public veneration. Among the 280 relics are a piece of the True Cross, a piece of thorn from the Lord’s crown of thorns, a particle from the sponge which was offered to the face of Jesus while He hung on the cross, and a small part of the pillar where the Lord was scourged prior to being crucified. In addition, there is a particle of the stone taken from the Holy Sepulcher.
Aside from the relics of the Passion of Christ, the collection also contains a fragment of the veil worn by the Blessed Virgin Mary, pieces of St. Joseph’s mantels, along with relics from St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Emeric, St. Stephen of Hungary, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, St. Agnes, St. Margaret, and Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos.
Tours of the church are available following each Mass on Sundays (9 a.m. .and 11 a.m.) but you have to request the tours so give them a call prior to your visit so they can arrange it. The tours are free, but they accept donations. The donations are used with the maintenance of the church. Tours will guide you through the historical and artistic aspects of St. Mary of Victories and allow you to view the relic collection.
7.) Most Holy Redeemer Church, New York, New York
The reliquary chapel of St. Datian, located at the Most Holy Redeemer Church, is one of two chapels (the other being Our Mother of Perpetual Help chapel), contains an incredible collection of relics which include relics from the True Cross, along with relics of the Manger of Our Lord, Pillar of Scourging, and the Holy Sepulchre. Additionally, it contains relics of the Blessed Virgin Mary (including pieces of her girdle and her house), along with relics of St. Joseph, St. Ann (Mother of the Blessed Virgin), St. Andrew the apostle, St. Agapitus, St. Athanasius, St. Augustin, St. Ambrose, St. Benedict, St. Clement, St. Cosmos, St. John the Baptist, St. Jerome, St. John the Apostle, St. Justin, and countless others.
8.) Basilica of Saint Mary of the Assumption, Marietta, Ohio
Located in the back of this breathtaking church is a shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. There is a large mosaic of Our Lady at the back and there near the mosaic you will find the relic of the True Cross. The relic is available for public veneration all year and offers the opportunity to receive a plenary indulgence to visitors (under the usual conditions) when they visit the Basilica on specific days of the year
9.) Shrine of the True Cross, Dickinson, Texas
The relic of the True Cross housed at the Shrine of the True Cross in Dickinson, Texas comes from a larger piece of the Holy Cross at the Basilica Church of Santa Croce in Jerusalem. This small relic is venerated all year long by pilgrims and visitors to the shrine. Additionally, there is a plenary indulgence for anyone who venerates the relic with a kiss on Good Friday (with all the usual conditions being met).
On the celebration of the Exaltation of the Cross you can receive a solemn blessing with the relic of the Holy Cross.
St. Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Cor. 1:18) There is power in recognizing the sacrifice Jesus made on Calvary and being able to venerate relics of the Holy Cross is an incredible opportunity each Catholic should experience. You don’t even need a passport to do it!