Milwaukee was recently blessed with the presence of the major relics of Saint Maria Goretti. In April, a number of relics from the Vatican associated with the Passion of Christ will be on display at Holy Hill for public veneration. Be sure to visit the shrine for this rare opportunity.
The veneration of relics is an ancient custom that I wish we saw more of in the United States. When I lived in Rome, it was not unusual for me to visit a church on any given day specifically to visit the relics of a Saint, followed by espresso. In many parts of Catholic Europe, street processions with relics both large and small still take place. Down the centuries and in times of crisis, relics were carried with great solemnity through the streets of Rome, Jerusalem, Paris, Venice, Constantinople, you name it.
Spain’s Philip II spent his entire life hoarding two things from all over Europe for his magnificent Escorial: relics and books. Countless relics were saved from destruction in the Protestant regions of northern Germany, as Philip dispatched teams to ship back hundreds of large crates of relics to the safe haven of Catholic Spain. The enormous monastery just north of Madrid still treasures tens of thousands of these relics from Philip’s day. Interestingly enough, the only places where Philip had trouble getting relics from were other villages in Spain. You see, local townspeople were prepared to go to war with all the king’s men to prevent their precious saints’ relics from being carted away to Philip’s monastery/royal residence, so he wisely decided to leave them alone. (Read Henry Kamen’s excellent, The Escorial: Art and Power in the Renaissance.) So relics are clearly an established part of our long tradition. Current events these days certainly warrant a public relic procession or two…or three.
Venerating relics is what we do as Catholics and I for one am happy about that. But where can you go in Milwaukee if you are interested in relics? Is there anywhere to go? Thankfully, the answer is “YES!” There are several churches worth visiting. I’ll update this list as I learn of more churches that still honor relics.
- The Basilica of Saint Josaphat has an impressive collection of relics in the crypt. Each relic is labelled. The cross in the center has relics of the true Cross, the twelve Apostles, and many others.
2. The beautiful convent chapel of the Sisters of Saint Francis contains two enormous reliquaries containing first-class relics of hundreds of Saints. The artistry and embroidery are stunning.
3. The must-see place for relics in the city is Saint Joseph Chapel. Over 1,600 relics are housed throughout the historic chapel. The relic chapel on the second floor is packed with first-class relics.
3. Saint Stanislaus Oratory recently acquired a large amount of relics from the archdiocese, which are now on display for veneration in the sacristy.
4. Saint Casimir in Riverwest has a relic collection at the back of the church.