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THE SAINT PHILOMENA MESSENGER
Issue Number 26 October, 2001, A.D.

My dear Friends and Benefactors,

Greetings to you all once again as we come to the end of another year.

Many of you will already be aware that our long-awaited Website is “up and running”. Please do take a look at it if you have not already done so. We are all very pleased with its appearance. The different pages deal with the following topics: “About us”, Mass schedules, directions of how to get to the Shrine from main local highways, pictures of recent important events (currently showing photographs taken at this year’s Patronal Festival in August and our Haitian community’s celebration of Saint Philomena in September), Mass requests, Perpetual Masses, Newsletters, Catalogue of Saint Philomena devotional items that we supply, petitions and prayer requests, frequently asked questions, and last, but not least a regular catechism of the Catholic Faith.

As can be seen by the photographs, this year’s Patronal Festival on Sunday, 12 th. August was a great success. Numbers grow with each succeeding year. The heat also seems to become more intense! Father Enrique Rueda delivered an inspiring sermon during the traditional Latin High Mass, which was characterized by the most uplifting congregational singing throughout. Owing to the large numbers of Haitians now frequenting the Shrine, for the first time we included traditional hymns in French. The rendition of “Chez nous” had the celebrant in tears, it was so beautiful. I was rather worried about safety, since we broke all fire regulations owing to the numbers present. There were dozens standing in the church and more outside in the street, who were able to follow by loudspeaker. As the procession left the building 4,000 fire-crackers exploded much to the joy of all present, especially the children young and old! I was amazed that the police escort actually closed down all three lanes of S.W. 8th. Street (previously they only closed one lane), so we blocked the traffic for at least twenty minutes before turning back to the shrine church on S.W. 6th. Street. On returning to the church another batch of fire-crackers were lit as Saint Philomena made her triumphal entry. The veneration of our First Class relic, followed by anointing with the Holy Oil of Saint Philomena was made by hundreds of people. In fact for three days after I could hardly move my right arm!

Patronal Festival, 2001, A.D.

The amount of food provided for our lunch was astonishing, but it all went, appetites having been well worked-up by the spiritual and physical exertions of the previous hours. All I can say is that if you yearn to see the real Catholic religion in all its glory, you must be present at this yearly event. My heartfelt thanks to all who helped give such worthy homage to our dear Patroness!

RAFFLE WINNER

Congratulations to Gladys Abujaber of Miami, who won the 16” Spanish-made statue of Saint Philomena in the raffle drawn on Sunday, 12th. August.

6TH. SEPTEMBER: HAITIAN CELEBRATION OF SAINT PHILOMENA

This is the date when the Haitian people celebrate a Saint who is very dear to them. Most Haitian Catholics are very devoted to “Sainte Philomene”. My experiences in Africa (Ghana and Nigeria) taught me how close the African is to the spiritual world. There is a saying in Ghana that “anyone who says there is no God is is insane”. The Haitians are the descendents of African slaves, so one is not surprised at their accentuated spiritual perception.

Presumably the changes in the Mass came slower in Haiti. Most adults are familiar with Latin chant and participate vociferously. In a simple way, many tell me that they prefer the traditional Mass over the new because it “has power”. As in Africa, I find that the longer the Mass lasts, the happier the people are. Imagine the average congregation in this country feeling the same! They want singing, sound, colour, incense (the more the better), holy water, statues of the Saints, candles, dynamic sermons and ceremony, all of which we are only too pleased to provide!

Sadly, Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world (one of our people recently visited there and told me she saw people “eating grass” in order to survive. A gallon of milk currently sells for 7 American dollars! No wonder that so many flee to Florida in order to survive.

We celebrated a High Mass, followed by devotions to Saint Philomena in a packed church on 6th. September.

NOVEMBER: THE MONTH OF THE HOLY SOULS

As usual, with this October mailing, you will find included an All Souls’ remembrance envelope, on which you may write the names of loved ones departed to be remembered in the three Masses on All Souls’ Day, 2nd. November. An offering may be enclosed. Please return the envelopes as soon as possible. They will remain on the altar during the whole of November. Masses on All Souls’ Day will be celebrated at 7.30 and 10.00 a.m. and 7.00 p.m., the latter being a High Mass with Absolutions at the catafalque.

Don’t forget these consoling words:

NEVER DESPAIR OF A SOUL!
REMEMBER - THERE IS NO TIME WITH GOD! PRAYERS AND MASSES OFFERED NOW FOR A LOVED ONE LONG SINCE DEPARTED MAY BE APPLIED AT THE MOMENT OF THE SOUL’S GREATEST NEED, THE MOMENT OF DEATH!
NEVER DESPAIR OF A SOUL!

RELICS

Sadly, the cultus of relics has today, basically fallen into disuse in the modern Church, but it reaches back far into biblical times.
In Christian usage the word is applied to the material remains of a saint after his death, as well as sacred objects which have been in contact with his body. The veneration of relics is found in many religions, and is based on the natural instinct of men to treat with reverence what is left of the dead they loved. Traces of it may be found in the Old Testament miracles worked through the mantle of Elijah:
“Then (Elisha) took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” And when he had struck the water, the water was parted, to the one side and to the other; and Elisha went over.” (2 Kings 2: 14)
Then again, through the bones of Elisha:
“And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Elisha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood on his feet.” (2 Kings 13: 21)

Saint Luke, writing in the Acts of the Apostles’ tells us: “And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them” (Acts 19: 11-12).
Soon after, the bodies of the martyrs were venerated, the first evidence we have of this being in the “Martyrium Polycarpi” (c. 156-7), where the relics of Saint Polycarp are desribed as “more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold” (ch. 18), to be carefully collected and honoured by a memorial service for the saint at the place where they were laid.

Relics of the saints are of three distinct “classes”. First Class relics are from their bodies: bone, flesh or blood. Second Class relics are items used or worn by the saints. Third Class relics are pieces of cloth touched to a First Class relic, generally mounted in a prayer card (As are our 3rd. Class relics of St. Philomena).

VENERATION OF RELICS TODAY MISTAKENLY DISCOURAGED

When finishing my studies for the priesthood in Rome, some 18 years ago, I came across a church which possessed dozens of relics, hidden away behind bars in a dusty place. On asking one of the priests whether I might have one to venerate, he laughed, mockingly, “What do you want old bones for? Eh? ”

Some years later, walking down a street in Chicago, a little old nun in full habit (Glory to God!) came up to me, obviously in distress, and asked me please to accompany her to the local rectory. This I did, whereupon she presented me with a box full of relics, some in beautiful containers (reliquaries). She explained to me that the “modern” Pastor had told her to throw the “old bones”, as he put it, in the trash and she begged me to bury them with reverence. I thanked her profusely for this treasure and assured her that I would go far further than her initial request: they would be venerated. And so they are. This priceless gift contained relics of the True Cross, First Class relics of Saint Dominic, Saint Ann, Saint Pius X, Saint Catherine Labouré, Saint Margaret Mary, Saint Martin de Porres, and others, all with certificates of authentication from Rome. I already had First Class relics of St. Thomas of Canterbury (exceedingly rare), Pope St. Gregory VII and Saint Margaret of Antioch, given to me at my ordination in 1984 . In 1991 Bishop Canisius Van Lierde, Vicar General to Pope John Paul II most graciously gave us a First Class relic of Saint Philomena. This dear bis\hop gave us another in 1994. All these priceless treasures are regularly venerated on their particular Feast Days and that of Saint Philomena on her Feast Days and every Friday after our evening High Mass.

Our First Class relic of Saint Philomena


Letter of Msgr. van Lierde, Vicar General to His Holiness Pope John Paul II

TEXT OF THE LETTER:

February 22, 1991

Monsignor Pietro Canisio van Lierde, Titular Bishop of Porfirione,
Vicar General of His Holiness for the Vatican City.

Reverend Father Timothy A. Hopkins, Pastor,

Herewith you receive a precious H. Relic of Saint Philumena you asked for in your letter of 26th. January, 1991 which arrived yesterday here on February 21, 1991.

God bless your ministerial work increasing your love and devotion to His Saints in the midst of your dear faithful people. With my kind regards and greetings.

+Peter Canisius J. van Lierde
titular bishop of Porfirion.

I would like to have available for public veneration as many relics of the Saints as possible, making up in a little way for the horrible profanations to which they have been subject over the last few decades. Any relics donated to the Shrine will be fittingly venerated.

The same thing applies to other church items (vestments, books, sacred vessels, etc.) that might be presently disused. Some years ago, a group advertised in “The Wanderer” trying to save such items rejected by “modern” Catholics and subject to the possibility of sacrilege. We would like to do the same, not to make a museum, but to restore these holy things to sacred use.

Assuring you all of a daily remembrance in the Holy Rosary offered daily at the shrine, not only in this month of the Blessed Rosary, but always.

Yours sincerely in Jesus, Mary and Saint Philomena,

Revd. Fr. Timothy A. Hopkins, B.A., M.Th., P.G.C.E., Administrator of the Shrine.

If you know anybody who would like to receive “The Saint Philomena Messenger”, please send in their name(s). Feel free to copy this Newsletter and to distribute it. If you no longer wish to receive it please let us know and your name will be removed from our mailing list. We NEVER give the names of our subscribers to other organisations!

COPYRIGHT: Revd. Fr. T.A.Hopkins, 2001.