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.
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!
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