Father Carlos began with a presentation regarding the Biblical history of relics, how they are used, and how we can properly venerate these proofs of God's grace among us.
It was - verbatim - the same presentation he gave last time (which makes perfect sense considering he's given this about a bazillion times at this point). Regardless, I still learned something from it and felt completely uplifted upon its completion.
There had to be about 800-1000 of us in attendance. Three times, Father asked us to sardine ourselves further and further into the pews so more people could fit. Even with our sandwiching, it was standing-room only. For our part, no one complained and everyone was happy to suffer the invasion of personal space for a brief half-hour.
At the close of his presentation, Father directed the massive throng of people to the gymnasium of the parish school. The relics had been set up there so people would have more room to mill about.
This was new for me as the last time I'd attended veneration, it was held in the church. Granted, St. Agnes is a much, MUCH larger church, so there wasn't a question of space. However, I have to say that I truly feel as though something was lost from this experience because we had removed ourselves from the sacred space of the church.
Within moments of stepping outside the church to move ourselves to the gymnasium, folks were lighting up cigarettes and pulling out their cell phones. I admit that I, too, began talking with my friends from Philly. However, it was a subdued chatter at this point. Folks were still being respectful of one another, and the excitement from what we were about to experience was fresh.
Unfortunately, all that was checked at the door as we slowly filed into the gym. This is where I started to cringe.
Being a gymnasium packed with several hundred people, it got very hot very fast. Also, since there were only 168 relics for the several hundred of us to share, the lines weren't exactly the speediest. There was also a lack of organization regarding line direction which led to some folks accidentally "butting" in front of others.
Slowly, the nasty remarks began trickling in. I honestly believe that had we been in a church, this wouldn't have happened.
Why is it so hot in here?
This is horribly organized.
Can't they get fans set up?
Why is no one directing traffic?
Hey, the line starts back THERE, buddy.
Can you hurry it up a little, lady?
Again, had we been in a church, I doubt these comments would have surfaced (or at least wouldn't have surfaced so loudly and so angrily).
Being in front of the Blessed Sacrament (even while enclosed in the tabernacle) seems to remind us that we are in the Presence of the Divine. Relics, while not divine, are instruments of Divine Power. Though nothing of themselves, God has chosen to utilize relics in a way that highlights the lives of His elect so that we may better follow their example.
Anyway, I feel as though we lost sight of that due to our environment (a lackluster gymnasium). Thus, idle chatter and rather rude statements spread like wildfire.
I realized that I, too, was beginning to take part in the chatter. So, to distance myself from the behavior, I left the group of friends I'd arrived with in order to remove myself from the temptation. Mind you, this was through no fault of my friends. I was the one instigating most of the chatter, so I figured it'd be best for both myself and them for me to meet up with them after they'd been able to experience everything for themselves.
I was able to read Conchita's Diary in full while in line to venerate the "Biggies" of the exposition. They included:
There was also a piece of Our Lady's veil, but I forgot to take a photo of it as I was too busy praying. *Blush* I remembered in time for the True Cross, though, because I knew folks would want to see that one!
Anyway, I went from table to table, touching my medals / rosary to the various reliquaries in order to create 3rd Class relics for a few family and friends who were unable to attend. I snapped a few photos of the exposition for the rest of you in an effort to coax you into requesting one for your own parish. Even though this experience wasn't as favorable as my original one, it was still extremely worthwhile and beautiful. I still learned so much, and I'm sure the graces I gained from being present with so many of God's elect steeled my soul and gifted me a deeper appreciation and love for all His many blessings.
Enjoy the slideshow!
On Friday night, I had the pleasure of attending the Treasures of the Church veneration that I've been talking about the last few months. I've been building up excitement for myself since learning Father Carlos would be bringing back our heavenly "friends" to the area. What a blessing!
Even more wonderful was sharing this experience with some Philly friends I hadn't seen in years. After giving them the heads up that this would be happening in South Jersey, they generously made the trip out to join in the veneration with me. A friend of theirs from Central Jersey also came out for the night. How blessed is that?
Anyway, upon arrival at the parish (which I'd never been to before), I was met with one of the most majestic sculptures I've seen in Jersey. I cannot exaggerate the enormity of this structure. It smacks you in the face as soon as you turn the corner. Whoever plotted out the design was brilliant. It's location ensures that it can be seen from any angle as you approach, and the design, itself, is full of theological reference. I love it!
Luckily, I had arrived almost an hour early (because I know how packed this veneration would get!) so I had plenty of time to take photos of the surrounding sculptures. I've put them into the slideshow below for you to enjoy!
After taking photos of the gorgeous Crucifixion sculpture, I went wandering around towards the other statues that dotted the grounds. A little fountain caught my eye, and as I neared, I found St. Joseph holding the Child Jesus amongst the spray of water. To his left, I noted that this parish was lucky enough to boast an Adoration Chapel. Yay! Unfortunately, however, it wasn't open when I tried the door. My guess is the organizers were attempting to herd folks into the church where the presentation was to take place, so I couldn't really grumble. Instead, I snapped a few photos of the Pieta statue that sat in front of the chapel.
When you cycle through those photos, note the gorgeous brick-work that serves as a background for those statues. I have no idea who designed this parish, but kudos to whoever it was! Everything is meticulously beautiful!
I saw a crowd of people moving up the stairs of the church, so I figured it was time for me to high-tail it inside. Before I did, however, I stopped to take another photo of yet another statue they had outside the front of their church - it was one of Our Lady holding Jesus as a toddler. I really liked that one!
Upon entering the lobby, I was immediately struck by two signs (also photographed) that I immediately wished were placed over the doors of all churches. You'll see why when you read them. Ha!
Inside the church, I noted some of the most exquisite stained glass windows I'd ever seen. Each was a different apparition of Our Lady, ranging from Mt. Carmel to the Miraculous Medal to La Salette to Fatima. Each was more brilliant than the last. Unfortunately, I couldn't take as many photos inside the church as I had wanted to. I didn't want to disturb those who were praying, and by the time the presentation was over, it was too dark to get good shots of these colorful windows.
However, the painting of Our Lady that you'll see below is actually painted on their ceiling. It is massive, so I apologize that it seems a little distorted. It's only because I had a difficult time getting a proper angle of the ceiling without lying flat on my back in the middle of the center aisle. Ha ha.
I think this is one of those churches I'll have to go back to to snap some more photos of. They had a gorgeous statue of Our Lady in one of the niches to the left, and I wanted to photograph her so badly!!! I knew I'd interfere with prayer, however, so I kept my longing to myself on that score. They also had one of the most intricate tabernacle lamps I've ever seen. If for nothing else, I'll go back just to photograph that!!!
Anyway, I feel very lucky to have found myself at this parish Friday night. What's more, I learned that this is the elementary school my husband attended as a child. How he was able to make his way through here and not gain an appreciation for our heritage is beyond me. Ah well. It's truly some beautiful, beautiful artwork, though.