Monday, 30 November 2015

How pieces of St. Faustina are going out into the world

4,189. This is the number of 1st class relics (consisting of pieces of bone) which have, thus far, made their way to parishes, religious congregations and to exorcists in 102 countries. St. Faustina is therefore the most popular, and most efficacious, canonised saint in the world. It therefore comes as no surprise that the number of requests for her relics is constantly increasing.

Sr. Ignatia, of the Congregation of Our Lady of Mercy at Lagiewniki in Cracow, has been the custodian of the relics of St. Faustina since 2003. She alone is permitted to distribute and divide the 1st class (consisting of pieces of bones of the Saint), 2nd class (pieces of the Saint's clothing) and 3rd class relics (material which had been in contact with bones of the Saint). 1st class relics are pieces from the smaller bones in the hands and the feet.

When St. Faustina's body was exhumed, in 1993, the major bones of her arms, legs, skull and pelvis were placed, and sealed, in a small coffin, which now lies in the altar at Lagiewniki.

"The small bones have been designated as relics", explains Sr. Ignatia. How are they prepared?

"The bones have been washed in special (surgical) spirit. When necessary, they are removed from their container and divided into small sections", she relates. "They are cut into small sections, 2mm by 2mm, using special surgical scissors. I always do this reverently, and ask St. Faustina that the grace of her powerful intercession be present in each fragment", says Sr. Ignatia.

"When each fragment is prepared, it is immersed in a special organic glaze which protects it from damp and dirt". She then places it in the centre of a small sun or flower-shape, made of cloth.

"We then enclose it within a silver or bronze gilded capsule. We tie it up with thread and seal it, using a special seal placed onto the sealing wax" explains Sr. Ignatia. The capsule is placed in a reliquary, reminiscent in shape of the Neo-Gothic altar in Lagiewniki.
2nd class relics consist of fragments of the habit in which St. Faustina was buried. Some metres of cloth on which the saint's bones were laid out, following the exhumation, have also been preserved in Lagiewniki, and these form the 3rd class relics. Sr. Ignatia creates these, by means of rubbing ordinary material over the saint's bones.

The need for the relics is evidenced in the testimonies of the thousands of people who visit the grave of St.Faustina. "We recently welcomed a group from Sri Lanka. They told us, how, by means of contact with pictures containing such relics, many Buddhists in their country have converted to Christianity" relates Sr. Ignatia.

There are also testimonies of miraculous healings and of the casting-out of devils. Sister Ignatia explains, however, that the relics do not act in a magical manner. They are not talismans, but they build-up our faith, which then allows miracles.

Exorcists frequently request relics, as they are greatly feared by the Devil. "Faustina is one of those saints, like Padre Pio and John Paul II, to whose presence demons react violently.", says Sr. Ignatia, smiling .She relates how several exorcisms have taken place in the (convent) chapel, where the Saint is buried. The process of casting out devils from one girl lasted several days, but was ultimately successful.

However, there are fewer relics available, and not all those who ask obtain them. Relics of bone are granted only to parishes of whom The Divine Mercy is patron or those where such devotion is very strong. 2nd class relics, of pieces of the Saint's habit, are granted to churches where such devotion is developing. 3rd class relics are given, on request, at the convent door. These have been placed within laminated pictures.

"We do not sell them, as it is sacrilege to trade in relics. However, the faithful do pay for pictures or rosaries in which they are placed", says the nun.

On three occasions there were attempts to deceive them and wrongfully obtain bones of the Saint under false pretences. Once it was a mentally-unbalanced seminarian, who pretended to be a priest. The Sister looked-up his name in a register and unmasked him. Another, was a Filipino man, posing as a deacon, who was also unmasked. He later apologised for the deception. "St. Faustina must have been on the alert, so that her relics did not fall into un-consecrated hands", laughs Sr. Ignatia.

Sr. Ignatia, adds, that it is possible to buy rosaries, with counterfeit relics of St. Faustina, even in the stalls around the shrine. The only ones which are genuine are those available from the Congregation of Our Lady of Mercy.

Marta Paluch

"Gazeta Krakowska".

Original Article - Divine Mercy Group - Edinburgh