by Andrew Koslosky KGCHS, Contributing Writer
In Catholic tradition, Relics are physical objects that are associated with a Saint or a Holy person. The word Relic comes from the Latin word “relinquo,” literally meaning “I leave.”
By honoring the memories, bodies, and belongings of the Saints, Catholics believe they give thanks to God for these lives of Grace and remind us that eternal life is attainable.
The veneration of Relics is a practice that dates back to the earliest years of Christianity and has a long history in the Catholic Church. It is generally accepted that the first known account of veneration of Relics was in A.D. 156 by the people of Smyrna.
Their bishop, St. Polycarp, was martyred. “We took up his bones, which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place, where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom.”
Today, one of the most well-known of the Sacred Relics is the Shroud of Turin; the fabric believed to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ. For clarification, there are three classifications of Relics.
First Class Relics:
— These are bits of the mortal remains of Saints; These remains could be any part of the body, a bone, flesh, a drop of blood, or even a hair.
Second Class Relics:
— These are items of clothing worn by the Saint or items used by the Saint. Examples include vestments, religious habits, prayer books or Rosary beads.
Third Class Relics:
— These are items that a Saint touched or that have been touched to a first or second-class Relic of a Saint. With this background in place, I will tell you the story of the day.
Father Mike Austin, Pastor of Holy Family Parish in Pass Christian, recently lead a group of local folks to visit Italy. Unexpectedly, Father Mike received a call from Bishop Louis F. Kihneman, III, Bishop of Biloxi, asking him to make a very special pickup while his group would be visiting the town of Assisi, Italy.
The Bishop had arranged with the Local Italian Bishop to gift to the Diocese a Sacred First Class Relic of Blessed Carlo Acutis.
Who is the Blessed Carlo Acutis? He was known as “the influencer of God,” the “cyber- apostle of the Eucharist,” “the Saint of the network” and one who is a strong candidate to become “patron Saint of the Internet.”
Carlo, an Italian teenager, had two passions, his faith and computing.
Carlo Acutis was born on May 3, 1991, in London, England. When he was four months old, his family moved back to Milan, Italy.
Carlo died from leukemia in 2006 at age 15. He was beatified in 2020, making him the first “Millenial” to be named Blessed by the Church.
In his exhortation on young people, “Christus Vivit,” (“Christ Lives”), Pope Francis said that Carlos Acutis was a role model for young people who are often tempted by the traps of “self-absorption, isolation, and empty pleasure.”
“He knew how to use new communications technology to transmit the Gospel, to communicate values and beauty,” the Pope was talking about the effects of introducing social media and the internet in the lives of young people.
The work of Carlo was to be a stark contrast to the norm on the internet. Carlo’s love, appreciation and reverence for the Eucharist was primary.
“The Eucharist is my highway to Heaven!” he would say. “If we get in front of the sun, we get sun tans, but when we get in front of Jesus in the Eucharist, we become Saints.”
At the age of eleven, he began visiting Eucharistic miracles all over the world with his parents, documenting each of them.
As a “computer genius,” by the age of fourteen he promoted the Eucharistic miracles, through the website he designed for that purpose. He had created a Eucharistic Miracle Shrine on the internet that would literally allow millions to experience the Miracles.
He believed that if people knew that Jesus was truly in the Eucharist, they would turn to God. He told people that “the more frequent our reception of the Eucharist, the more we will be like Jesus. And on this earth, we will be able to ask for the sky.”
While in Assisi, Fr. Mike Austin followed instructions given to him by Bishop Kihneman, and began to make arrangements to pick up the Sacred Relic of Carlo Acutis of Italy. When he received the address of the local Bishop, he received another surprise.
Despite making plans almost a year prior for the trip, including the hotel reservations for Assisi, the place where Father was to pick up the Relic was three houses away from the hotel where he was staying in Assisi.
A coincidence? Maybe…After returning home, Father Mike used the occasion to Bless all that attended Sunday Mass with the Sacred Relic, before delivering it to Bishop Kihneman in Biloxi.
The town of Pass Christian, Miss. has been blessed with some very special messages over the last few months…a coincidence?
… I will leave that to you.