Postcard from Bologna, Italy: Drawn to those bones

The bones above purportedly belong to the bodies of Saint Vitalis (Vitale) and Saint Agricola. The pair’s history is a bit hazy, as the two were martyred in Bologna under the orders of the Roman Emperor Diocletian (244-316) somewhere in the neighborhood of the year 304. As Diocletian claimed to be the son of Jupiter himself, he was not particularly tolerant of people worshipping a supreme being other than his own father.

Catholic Online relays one version of the end of the lives of the saints above:

Vitalis was the slave of Agricola and a dedicated Christian. Arrested and condemned for his faith, Vitalis faced his death with such aplomb that Agricola was converted and accepted his own crucifixion.

The Cathedral in Bologna houses a collection of what are termed “First-Class” relics, including those above. First Class refers to relics that actually were part of the saints’ bodies, versus, say, scraps of their garments.

My fascination with relics stems from the difference of practice of Catholics growing up in Virginia Beach where we had none of which I am aware, and the practice of Catholics in Europe and Mexico where many reliquaries are displayed prominently in churches. The stories about the church and saints I find of interest are the ones nuns never ever mentioned during catechism.

Of course, the United States is not home of many canonized saints, whereas Italy has hundreds. Perhaps the practice of spreading the bones around to different churches arose naturally from the fact that the various extreme methods of exterminating the lives of early Christian martyrs did not always leave their bodies intact.

Rather than try to lamely explain why churches house reliquaries, I thought I’d see how Catholic websites define the practice:

More commonly, the saint’s bones were divided up, so various communities could have a portion of his relics: the skull here, a hand there, other bones elsewhere.

“Relics,” Catholic Answers To Explain and Defend the Faith

The article continues that Saint Jerome explained how the faithful “venerate the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore him whose martyrs they are.” Relics also “may be the occasion of God’s miracles.”

T.L. Frazier clarifies church policies about relics:

Harkening back to the eighth-century iconoclastic controversy and the seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea (787), the Council of Trent maintained against the Reformers that the honor given to a relic, statue, or icon was honor not to an object (fetishism and idolatry), but to the person it represented. Latria (Greek: worship) must be given to God alone, whereas dulia (Greek: veneration or respect) may be given to holy people or articles.

“No Bones about Dem Bones,” T.L. Frazier

Saint Thomas More lost his head over conflicts with Henry VIII who broke with Catholicism to accommodate his habit of engaging in serial marriages. Pope John Paul II proclaimed Thomas More the patron saint of statesmen and politicians. During this contentious election year in the United States, we sure could use some miraculous relief from ugly rhetoric.

Relics of Saint Thomas More were on a whirlwind tour in the United States, ending up in Washington, D.C., on July 5. Hopefully, they left a residue of miraculous powers to evoke statesmanship-like behavior behind in their wake.

If you know anybody who lives in Centennial, Colorado, maybe ask them to visit St. Thomas More Catholic Church to ask for assistance from its reliquary of the saint. But wait, this one American church possesses more than 60 First-Class relics available for veneration, so all my thoughts about saints’ bones in churches in this country must be wrong.

So now I’m curious. Surely a church as ancient as San Fernando Cathedral and the seat of the Archdiocese must have some reliquaries of their own…. Might have to go on a reconnaissance mission in my own backyard.

I spy what you are reading here….

A 1911 postcard shows the beauty of the land in Brackenridge Park formerly owned by Helen Madarasz.

A 1911 postcard shows the beauty of the land in Brackenridge Park formerly owned by Helen Madarasz.

Time for the semiannual big-brother spy report on what posts you have been reading most during the past 12 months. As usual, you are all over the map, seemingly encouraging me to continue randomly sending postcards from San Antonio and back home no matter where we wander.

The mysterious murder of Helen Madarasz in Brackenridge Park rose to the top, which makes me wonder why ghost-hunters have not latched onto the story of Martha Mansfield. There are still some who pine to hear the San Antonio Song, a post from five years ago, but a few new posts squeezed into the top dozen. Hope some of you have found your way to dine in our favorite restaurants in Oaxaca, but my personal favorite entry about food in Oaxaca is on grasshoppers.

The number in parentheses represents the rankings from six months ago:

  1. The Madarasz Murder Mystery: Might Helen Haunt Brackenridge Park?, 2012 (2)
  2. Artist Foundation unleashes another round of creative fervor, 2015
  3. The danger of playing hardball with our Library: Bookworms tend to vote, 2014 (1)
  4. Remembering everyday people: Our rural heritage merits attention, 2014 (5)
  5. Seeing San Fernando Cathedral in a new light…, 2014 (7)
  6. Please put this song on Tony’s pony and make it ride away, 2010 (3)
  7. Picturing the City’s Past Just Got Easier, 2014 (6)
  8. How would you feel about the Alamo with a crewcut?, 2011 (10)
  9. That Crabby Old Colonel Cribby Condemned the River to Years of Lowlife, 2013 (11)
  10. Weather Forecast: 11 Days of Confetti Ahead, 2015
  11. Photographs from the 1800s place faces on the names in Zephaniah Conner’s Bible, 2014
  12. Postcard from Oaxaca, Mexico: Favorites on the food front, 2015

Thanks for dropping by every once in a while. Love hearing your feedback.

alamo-full-page

 

Biannual round-up of what postcards you read most

cathedral6Every six months it’s good for me to check back to see what type of post you have been reading during the past 12 months. As usual, you are all over the map, leaving me free to continue selecting topics arbitrarily.

It makes sense that blog-readers love libraries; the most read post expressed concerns affecting funding of the San Antonio Public Library. The mystery surrounding the murder of Helen Madarasz in Brackenridge Park rose to second in popularity, and there are those who pine to hear the San Antonio Song. A few new posts pushed aside several long-time favorites, and, for some reason, you dug deep in the archives to resurrect a couple that had not been read for quite a while.

The number in parentheses represents the rankings from six months ago:

  1. The danger of playing hardball with our Library: Bookworms tend to vote, 2014
  2. The Madarasz Murder Mystery: Might Helen Haunt Brackenridge Park?, 2012 (7)
  3. Please put this song on Tony’s pony and make it ride away, 2010 (5)
  4. The Tragic Rule of Maximilian and Carlota in Mexico, 2014 (10)
  5. Remembering everyday people: Our rural heritage merits attention, 2014
  6. Picturing the City’s Past Just Got Easier, 2014
  7. Seeing San Fernando Cathedral in a new light…, 2014
  8. Postcard from San Miguel de Allende: Sun rises again at La Aurora, 2014 (9)
  9. “Nuit of the Living Dead” (8), 2010
  10. How would you feel about the Alamo with a crewcut?, 2011
  11. That Crabby Old Colonel Cribby Condemned the River to Years of Lowlife, 2013
  12. Postcards from San Miguel de Allende: Redirecting Graffiti Artists, Part Four, 2014

Thanks for dropping by every once in a while and for giving me permission to keep rambling on about whatever I’m currently pondering.

And best wishes throughout the coming year.