Tag Archives: burial


“I know a young family that experienced the tragic death of their little daughter at the age of 18 months. The convention of our time is to deny death, to pretend it isn’t happening, to sanitise it, to make sure it only happens in hospitals and to hide it in funeral homes.

The convention of our time is to deny death

But the little girl’s parents defied these conventions and insisted on bringing their child home to their house for a wake. In making that choice, they were observing an old Irish tradition. In traditional neighbourhoods, the family, friends and neighbours of a person who was dying spent time with them, maybe speaking to them, maybe in silence, maybe praying together, and after they died, this process continued, people praying in silence or talking to each other, eating and drinking and celebrating the life of the person who had just left them. That tradition of the wake is a recognition of the continuation of life into and beyond death.

Precious hours

The child’s parents were glad of those precious hours with their child, that ‘waking’ time, with the house full of friends and neighbours and family. When their baby was taken to the church, and from there to her burial place, the family continued to talk to her and kept doing so for a long time afterwards. They would light a candle sometimes, to represent her and as a way of keeping in touch with her, and in that way, the child the family has lost continues to have a presence in their home. Their beloved child has never left them and they never left her.”

– St Stan Kennedy in Now is the Time , quoted in Saint Martin Magazine, issue July 2014. For subscriptions please visit (external link)


Tags: , , , , ,



When the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I was eager to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for, I tell you, I shall not eat again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

Then they passed him a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you that, from now on, I will not drink the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes. Jesus also took bread, and after giving thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. And after the supper, he did the same with the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant, sealed in my blood, which is poured out for you.

Yet the hand of the traitor is with me on the table. Know that the Son of Man is going the way marked out for him. But alas for the one who betrays him!” They began to ask one another which of them could do such a thing.


They also began to argue among themselves which of them should be considered the most important. And Jesus said, “The kings of the pagan nations rule over them as lords, and the most hardhearted rulers claim the title ‘Gracious Lord’. But not so with you; let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. For who is the greatest, he who sits at the table or he who serves? He who is seated, isn’t it? Yet I am among you as the one who serves.

You are the ones who have been with me, and stood by me, through my troubles; because of this, just as the kingship has been given to me by my Father, so I give it to you. You will eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones and govern the twelve tribes of Israel.

Simon, Simon, Satan has demanded to sift you like grain, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have recovered, you shall strengthen your brothers. Then Peter said, “Lord, with you I am ready to go even to prison and death.” But Jesus replied, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day before you have denied three times that you know me.”

Jesus also said to them, “When I sent you without purse or bag or sandals, were you short of anything?” They answered, “No.” And Jesus said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and a bag as well. And if anyone is without a sword, let him sell his cloak to buy one. For Scripture says: ‘He was numbered among criminals.’ These words have to be fulfilled in me, and now everything written about me is taking place. Then they said, “See Lord, here are two swords!” but he answered, “That is enough.”


After this, Jesus left to go as usual to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. When he came to the place, he told them, “Pray that you may not be put to the test.”

Then he went a little further, about a stone’s throw, and kneeling down he prayed, “Father, if it is your will, remove this cup from me; however, not my will but yours be done.” And an angel from heaven appeared to give him strength.

As he was in agony, he prayed even more earnestly, and great drops of blood formed like sweat and fell to the ground. When he rose from prayer, he went to his disciples, but found them worn out with grief, and asleep. And he said to them, “Why do you sleep? Get up and pray, so that you may not be put to the test.”


Jesus was still speaking when a group appeared, and the man named Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, and Jesus said to him, “Judas, with a kiss do you betray the Son of Man?”

Those with Jesus, seeing what would happen, said to him, “Master, shall we use the sword?” And one of them struck the High Priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. But Jesus stopped him, “No more of this!” He touched the man’s ear and healed him.

Then Jesus spoke to those coming against him, the chief priests, officers of the Temple and elders; and he said to them, “Did you really set out against a robber? Do you need swords and clubs to arrest me? Day after day I was among you, teaching in the Temple, and you did not arrest me. But this is the hour of the power of darkness; this is your hour.”


Then they seized him away, bringing him to the High Priest’s house. Peter followed at a distance.

A fire was kindled in the middle of the courtyard where people were gathered, and Peter among them. A maidservant noticed him. Looking at him intently in the light of the fire, she exclaimed, “This man also was with him!” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”

A little later someone who saw him said, “You are also one of them!” Peter replied, “My friend, I am not!”

After about an hour another asserted, “Surely this man was with him, for he is a Galilean.”

Again Peter denied, “My friend, I don’t know what you are talking about.” He had not finished saying this, when a cock crowed. The Lord turned around and looked at Peter, and Peter remembered the word that the Lord had spoken, “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times. Peter went outside, weeping bitterly.

And the guards, who had arrested Jesus, mocked and beat him. They blindfolded him, struck him, and then asked, “Who hit you? Tell us, prophet!” And they hurled many other insulting words at him.

At daybreak, the council of the elders of the people, among whom were the chief priests and the scribes, assembled again. Then they had Jesus brought before them, and they began questioning him, “Tell us, are you the Christ?” Jesus replied, “You will not believe, if I tell you, and neither will you answer, if I ask you. Yet, from now on, ‘the Son of Man will have his seat at the right hand of the Mighty God’.”

In chorus they asked, “So you are the Son of God?” And Jesus said to them, “You are right, I am.”

Then they said, “What need have we of witnesses? We have heard it from his own lips.”


The whole council rose and brought Jesus to Pilate. They gave their accusation: “We found this man subverting our nation, opposing payment of taxes to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ the king.”

Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “You said so.” Turning to the chief priests and the crowd, Pilate said, “I find no basis for a case against this man.” But they insisted, “All the country of the Jews is being stirred up with his teaching. He began in Galilee and now he has come all the way here.”

When Pilate heard this, he asked if the man was a Galilean. Finding the accused to come under Herod’s jurisdiction, Pilate sent Jesus over to Herod who happened to be in Jerusalem at that time.

Herod was delighted to have Jesus before him now; for a long time he had wanted to see him because of the reports about him, and he was hoping to see Jesus work some miracle. He piled up question upon question, but got no reply from Jesus.

All the while the chief priests and the scribes remained standing there, vehemently pressing their accusations. Finally, Herod ridiculed him and with his guests mocked him. And when he had put a rich cloak on him, he sent him back to Pilate. Pilate and Herod, who were enemies before, became friends from that day.

Pilate then called together the chief priests and the elders and the people, and said to them, “You have brought this man before me and accused him of subversion. In your presence I have examined him and found no basis for your charges; and neither has Herod, for he sent him back to me. It is quite clear that this man has done nothing that deserves a death sentence. I will therefore have him scourged and then release him. (On the Passover Pilate had to release a prisoner.)

Shouting as one man, they protested, “No! Away with this man! Release Barabbas instead!” This man had been thrown into prison for an uprising in the city and for murder. Since Pilate wanted to release Jesus, he appealed to the crowd once more, but they shouted back, “To the cross with him! To the cross!” A third time Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? Since no crime deserving death has been proved, I shall have him scourged and let him go.”

But they went on shouting and demanding that Jesus be crucified, and their shouts grew louder. So Pilate decided to pass the sentence they demanded. He released the man they asked for, the one who was in prison for rebellion and murder, and he handed Jesus over in accordance with their wishes.


When they led Jesus away, they seized Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the fields, and laid the cross on him, to carry it behind Jesus.

A large crowd of people followed him; among them were women beating their breasts and grieving for him, but Jesus turned to them and said, “Women of Jerusalem, do not weep for me! Weep rather for yourselves and for your children, for the days are coming when people will say, ‘Happy are the women without child! Happy are those who have not given birth or nursed a child!’ And they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ For if this is the lot of the green wood, what will happen to the dry?”

Along with Jesus, two criminals also were led out to be executed. There, at the place called the Skull, he was crucified together with two criminals – one on his right and another on his left. (Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.) And the guards cast lots to divide his clothes among themselves.

The people stood by, watching. As for the rulers, they jeered at him, saying to one another, “Let the man who saved others now save himself, for he is the Messiah, the chosen one of God!”

The soldiers also mocked him and, when they drew near to offer him bitter wine, they said, “So you are the king of the Jews? Free yourself!” Above Jesus there was an inscription in Greek, Latin and Hebrew, which read, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals hanging with Jesus insulted him, “So you are the Messiah? Save yourself, and us as well!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Have you no fear of God, you who received the same sentence as he did? For us it is just: this is payment for what we have done. But this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “Truly, you will be with me today in paradise.”

It was almost midday. The sun was hidden, and darkness came over the whole land until mid-afternoon; and, at that time, the curtain of the Sanctuary was torn in two. Then Jesus gave a loud cry, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” And saying that, he gave up his spirit.

[When this part is read out in Church, all of the faithful go down on their knees.]

The captain, on seeing what had happened, acknowledged the hand of God. “Surely this was an upright man!” He said. And all the people who had gathered to watch the spectacle, as soon as they saw what had happened, went home beating their breasts. But those who knew Jesus remained there, at a distance, especially the women, who had followed him from Galilee; they witnessed all this.

Then intervened a member of the Jewish supreme council, a good and righteous man named Joseph, from the Judean town of Arimathea. He had not agreed with the decision and action of his fellow members, and he lived uprightly in the hope of seeing the kingdom of God. Joseph went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. He then took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a yet unused tomb, cut out of a rock.

It was Preparation Day, and the star which marks the beginning of the Sabbath was shining. So the women, who had come with Jesus from Galilee, followed Joseph to see the tomb, and how his body was laid. And returning home, they prepared perfumes and ointments. And on the Sabbath day they rested, as the Law required.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


This month we mark the 750th anniversary of the finding of St Anthony’s incorrupt tongue by St Bonaventure. When considering this practice it may come natural to us to wonder about what the Bible has to say on the veneration of relics. Now there are times when, looking for the origin of a particular custom, we go to the Bible and find exactly when it began in either Israel or the early Church. There are other times when we do not find anything explicit, but we find indications that while that custom came later, its roots were already there. Then there are times when we have to honestly admit that the Bible does not have anything at all to say about what came later. This does not mean that the Church simply made things up, however, for we firmly believe that the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit.

When we speak about relics which of these three possibilities best describes the practice of the Church to venerate the bodily remains or objects associated with the life of a saint?


To answer this question, we should probably divide it up into two parts. The first question is: What was the attitude of the people of Israel toward the bodies of those we consider to be saints? The second question is: Did the Jewish people have objects which they considered to be imbued with the holiness of God?

The attitude of the Jewish people toward those who had died was a bit ambiguous. They did honour bodies by putting them into tombs. We only have to think of the care that Abraham went through to buy a cave in which he could bury his beloved wife, and how that cave became the tomb for a number of the patriarchs of Israel. We also hear about the tombs of the kings. Some of the bad kings, in fact, were refused the honour of being buried in those tombs as a sign of disapproval of the evil they had done.

At the same time, it was not proper to touch a dead body. It rendered one unclean for a certain period of time. This could easily be one reason why, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite passed by the man who had been robbed. They could not touch him lest he had died and they would have been unclean and not able to worship in the Temple. Thus, it would have been unthinkable for Jewish people to preserve a relic of a holy person’s body as a sign of respect and veneration.


At the same time, there were certain objects which the Jewish people venerated and preserved with great respect. One need only think of the objects that Moses stored in the Ark of the Covenant. He put the two Tables of the Law, the Staff of his brother Aaron, and a sample of the Manna which nourished the people in the desert within the Ark.

We also know that the Jewish people carefully preserved the scrolls and papyri upon which the Hebrew Bible had been written. In 1890 a storage room for these texts called a Geniza was discovered in an ancient synagogue in Cairo that was undergoing some renovations. Some of the texts discovered dated back to a couple of centuries before the birth of Christ.


If one scours the texts of the New Testament, one will not find a passage that speaks about relics as such. There is a reference to the body of John the Baptist which his disciples took away for burial, but it does not say that they then venerated the remains of his body.

And yet there is one tendency within the New Testament, and which can already be found in the pages of the Old Testament, that laid the foundation for the later practice of the veneration of relics. That practice was the promotion of the cult of martyrs.

Already in the Old Testament there are stories of heroic figures who gave up their lives in order to be faithful to the covenant. Second Maccabees tells us the stories of the woman who had seven sons, all of whom died maryrs’ deaths in order not to sin against the Law of Israel. Likewise, there is the story of the elderly wise man Eleazar who refused to pretend to eat unclean meat lest it give a bad example to those who might see him do this.

In the New Testament we hear the story of the martyrdom of Stephen and James. Paul is ready to embrace martyrdom to become a libation that is poured out upon the earth. The martyrs became the heroes of the faith. Rather than viewing their deaths as a great tragedy that called into question the preaching of the early Church (which could have happened if their death had been judged to be a sign of God’s disapproval), their deaths were seen as an opportunity to participate in the sufferings and death of Jesus. In fact, in Colossians, we hear that with their suffering they were filling up what was lacking in the suffering of Christ. What was lacking? Only one thing was lacking: to make the mystery of the cross present again in their own sufferings and deaths.

Likewise, in the Book of Revelation, we hear how Satan was defeated by the blood of the Lamb and the blood of the martyrs. The martyrs were considered to be participants in the great battle against the evil one.

It was this tremendous respect for the martyrs that made the early Christian community want to associate itself with their witness. This led to the practice of celebrating the Eucharist in the vicinity of their tombs, and eventually to extending the physical presence of their tombs by taking some of their remains and placing them in sites of worship outside of the cemeteries in which they had originally been interred. Until recently, every altar for the celebration of the Eucharist contained a small relic of one of the martyrs.


One also gets hints in the New Testament of the importance of objects to the faith. In John’s account of the Resurrection, for example, there is reference to two pieces of cloth that had wrapped the dead body of Jesus which were now lying in the tomb. Was that an indication that they were important enough to the community for it to preserve them?

But even beyond that, we see Jesus use physical things in his ministry: bread, wine, oil, spit, breath, etc. These were things that became the raw materials of the sacraments as the Church developed the means to continue the ministry of Jesus after the Ascension. Our faith is not totally spiritual. It gives witness to the marriage of the heavenly realms to this world (e.g. the eternal Word becomes flesh). Things are important, for they help us to ground our faith in this world while we go beyond it to the world to come.

Thus, we cannot say that the idea of venerating relics is found in the Bible, but neither can we say that there is nothing in Sacred Scripture concerning the relics. Rather, it would be proper to say that there are some ideas in the Bible that prepare us to see why these sacred objects can help us in our faith. They remind us that, as the Letter to the Hebrews says, we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. They are tangible reminders of a spiritual reality into which our Lord has invited us.



The word ‘relic’ comes from the Latin ‘relinquo’, literally meaning ‘I leave’ or ‘I abandon’. In the strict sense, relics are material remains of the bodies of canonised and beatified saints; in a wider sense, they are those things used by canonised or beatified persons during their lifetime or objects that have touched their material remains.

In his address to the young on the occasion of the 20th World Youth day in Cologne in 2005, Pope Benedict said: “Relics direct us towards God himself: it is he who, by the power of his grace, grants to weak human beings the courage to bear witness to him before the world. By inviting us to venerate the mortal remains of the martyrs and saints, the Church does not forget that, in the end, these are indeed just human bones, but they are bones that belonged to individuals touched by the living power of God. The relics of the saints are traces of that invisible but real presence which sheds light upon the shadows of the world and reveals the Kingdom of Heaven in our midst. They cry out with us and for us: ‘Maranatha!’ – ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’.”
– This article by Jude Winkler, OFM Conv. was published in “Messenger of Saint Anthony”, issue February 2013. For subscriptions, please contact: Messenger of Saint Anthony, Basilica del Santo, via Orto Botanico 11, 35123 Padua, Italy


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,