Skip to comments.Former atheist promises encounter with God through saints' relics
Posted on 03/30/2012 6:13:57 AM PDT by NYer
Father Carlos Martins never expected to be a priest, or to be touring North America to promote devotion to the saints through their sacred relics. For much of his life, he did not believe in God.
I was raised in a very nominally Catholic family. We didn't go to church, the 37-year-old priest told CNA on March 27. The Catholic school that we went to was 'Catholic' in name only.
By the time I became an adult, aside from being a 'practical atheist,' I became an intellectual one as well. I thought it was impossible for God to exist, given the state of the world.
During his university years, some very committed Catholics made him question his atheism leading to a profound encounter with Christ in Eucharistic adoration.
Sixteen years and one priestly ordination later, Fr. Martins helps others encounter God, through another traditional Catholic practice: the exposition and veneration of sacred relics.
He leads the Treasures of the Church ministry, which brings thousands of relics by request to locations in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Its collection includes relics of St. Maria Goretti, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Faustina Kowalska.
Fr. Martins spoke with CNA during his March 25-April 1 tour of Colorado. After a 60-minute presentation explaining the veneration of relics, attendees can spend time in prayer with a selection that includes a large piece of Christ's cross, and fabric from the Virgin Mary's veil.
As his presentation makes clear, the experience is unlike anything that most attendees have experienced before.
I do not have a 'traveling museum,' he explained. What I have, is a ministry of evangelization and healing.
Fr. Martins refers to the period of veneration, following his introduction to the practice, as the walk with the saints. During this time, he promises that those with an open heart will experience God and the supernatural reality known as the communion of the saints in a new and profound way.
People aren't just going around and viewing the multitude of relics that are there, he explained. They're encountering these heroes of the faith, wanting to connect with them.
I guarantee them that there is going to be one saint, that is present at the exhibition, that will communicate with them in a personal way Their job is to go find 'their saint.'
Ever since my own conversion from atheism, he recalled, my interaction with the saints was always very personal. I could intuit very specific saints extending an offer of friendship to me, with an uncanny deepness and regularity.
That is going to happen, when you encounter the relics, the priest said. I guarantee people that's going to happen.
While some non-Catholics may find the veneration of relics unusual or even strange, it is solidly rooted in scripture and the constant tradition of the Church. Saints and their relics are not worshiped, but honored in a manner that acknowledges God's work in their lives.
Through his work with Treasures of the Church, Fr. Martin has seen God's work continue through the relics of the saints sometimes in surprising ways.
People come to a relic exposition for all kinds of different reasons, he noted.
While some are there because of their devotion to saints, others may attend for different reasons: historical interest, an interest in antiques, or curiosity about a practice with which they are unfamiliar.
They can't believe that there is a 'medieval circus act,' running around with human bones, in this day and age, Fr. Martin joked.
In the presentation that precedes the walk with the saints, the priest makes a promise to all of these attendees.
I make a public guarantee that they will encounter the living God in that exposition.
In the years I've been doing this, the hundreds of thousands of people that have come I have never had anybody make a 'warranty claim,' he said.
Instead he has heard testimonies of healing, accomplished by God's grace, through the intercession of the saints.
I've had thousands of healing stories communicated to me: cancers gone, heart conditions, osteoporosis, you name it.
But the most dramatic effect Fr. Martin sees, following the exposition of relics, is a healing within the human soul.
It is this kind of healing that the priest finds most exciting in his ministry. Through their encounter with the saints, those living on earth are called to remove the obstacles to receiving eternal life.
You can go to heaven with cancer in your limb. You can go to heaven with a bad heart (condition), Fr. Martins noted.
But you can't go to heaven with a heart that has shut God out. You can't go to heaven with unforgiveness in your heart. You can't go to heaven by refusing to participate in the sacraments and live your Catholic identity. You just can't.
If I've managed to help God penetrate the human heart, that invigorates and exhilarates me, he said.
Beautiful reliquaries. Ping!
I found the only philosophy that adequately explained "the state of the world" - but more to the point, human nature - was found in a bible that was given me. That's where it all began, insofar as my conscious participation in the process was concerned.
God calls you, you need to answer, this young man did, the smart ones always do....
Inanimate objects don’t have special powers. The reason the woman with bleeding was healed was that Christ was WEARING the cloak at the time. This worship of talismans saddens me.
Saints and their relics are not worshiped, but honored in a manner that acknowledges God's work in their lives.
It's easy to see how you became a colonel. Another manifestation of the Peter Principle.
This man had an epiphany, look where it led him. What a job! The Church history and treasure fascinates me. My Husband and Son have told me that the feeling that came over them when they visited the Vatican in Rome was beyond any spiritual feeling they have ever felt.
By Julie Filby
Companions of the Cross Father Carlos Martins will return to the Archdiocese of Denver March 25-April 1 to share an exposition of 150 saint relics and a message of evangelization and healing.
Father Martins, who visited seven parishes in the archdiocese last December to standing-room-only crowds, was invited to return by Bishop James Conley, apostolic administrator.
Relics connect us to our forefathers in faith, the holy men and women whove lived in Jesus Christ, and now live with him in heaven, said Bishop Conley. When we venerate relics, we remember to ask the saints for their prayerswere connected to the mystical body of Christ on earth and in heaven.
Since converting to Catholicism 14 years ago, Father Martins has amassed a collection of relics numbering several thousand through his ministry Treasures of the Church. He tours the world with the collection that includes St. Maria Goretti, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Faustina Kowalska. It is highlighted by one of the largest relics of the True Cross and a piece of the veil that, according to sanctioned tradition, is believed to have belonged to the Blessed Mother.
Praying with saint relics can be a grace-filled experience during ones Lenten journey.
Lent reminds us of our mortalitybut we (also) remember though we will die we can live in Jesus Christ forever, said Bishop Conley. Relics call us on and inspire us to holiness (and) the prayers of the saints help us to become more like Jesus Christ.
He described Father Martins ministry as a beautiful way to understand the connection between ones life on earth and heaven itself.
The saints, who were real people, now live in heaven and pray for us, he said. This display makes me eager for the beatific vision!
Father Martins begins each exposition with a 60-minute presentation that provides the catechetical and spiritual basis for the Walk with the Saints (time of veneration) that follows.
Last December, St. Peter Parish in Greeley was one of the parishes that hosted the exhibit.
The display of relics and its effect on our parishioners was inspiring, said Father Matthew Hartley, parish administrator. There were over 550 people in attendance, some waited close to an hour to get into the room to venerate the relics.
He heard many people say the display made the communion of saints more real to them. God worked many healings that night, Father Hartley added.
Father Martins is grateful for the opportunity to visit the archdiocese again.
(Last December) the crowds were enormous and spoke of the desire the people have for formation in true and proper devotion to the saints, he said. It was edifying to see peoples hunger for God and for connection with his holy ones.
Treasures of the Church will visit several sites in the archdiocese (see box for details). Additional presentations may be added. There is no charge for the event.
For more information, call the host organization or visit www.treasuresofthechurch.com.
March 25, 2 p.m., bilingual
Queen of Peace Parish, Denver
March 26, 6:30 p.m.
Holy Family High School, Broomfield
March 27, 6:30 p.m.
John II Paul Center, Denver, Bonfils Hall
March 28, 6:30 p.m.
Christ the King Parish, Denver
March 29, 6:30 p.m.
Bishop Machebeuf High School, Denver
March 30, 7 p.m.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Fort Collins
March 31, 7 p.m.
St. Mary, Greeley
April 1, 1:30 p.m. & 6:30 p.m.
Blessed Sacrament, Denver
I'll bet he's even got the tail that belonged to the donkey Jesus rode...
They can't believe that there is a 'medieval circus act,' running around with human bones, in this day and age, Fr. Martin joked.
Yes we can and we do...They got elephants there as well???
You can't go to heaven by refusing to participate in the sacraments and live your Catholic identity. You just can't.
You can't go to heaven by refusing the Catholic religion but you can certainly go to heaven while refusing the Catholic religion...
Wow - really? That’s your response? How about some actual dialogue, telling me where I’m mistaken? I’m a sold out, born again believer in my Lord Jesus Christ, and I assume you’re a believer as well. Let’s talk about basis of belief, things which are important to the faith and why, rather than making ad hominem attacks.
I was one of the parishioners who acted as Guardians, just to keep an eye on things and provide a permanent presence in the room while literally hundreds of people came through.
Of course that meant I couldn't wander among the relics as long as I wanted, but after my watch was up I was able to visit and read and take photographs and pray.
It was almost overwhelming to be in the room with the relics of so many saints. Particularly noteworthy were St. Anthony of Padua (to whom I have a special devotion), St. Thomas More, St. Gertrude the Great, St. Therese, St. John Vianney and his favorite saint St. Philomena, St. Dominic, and St. Luke. There was also a very well-attributed fragment of the Cross.
I would say that it is well worth a visit if it comes to your area. They allow cameras and are perfectly amenable to your touching your rosary or holy cards to the reliquaries!
The relics of the saints are a time-honored tradition that goes back at least (to my knowledge) to the martyrdom of the saints under the Roman emperors -- when St. Polycarp was burned at the stake around A.D. 165, his followers gathered up his bones as "more precious than gold or precious stones". Fast forward to King Charles I's execution at Whitehall -- bystanders blotted up his blood with handkerchiefs and preserved them. Certain High Anglican quarters revere him as King Charles the Martyr, and miracles have been attributed to his relics, but he's never been canonized in the Catholic church. :-D Then of course there are all the Victorians with their locks of the late lamented's hair woven into mourning brooches, etc.
Point is, souvenirs, even souvenirs that moderns see as rather grisly, are focal points for devotion, affection, and even prayers and pleas for help. Catholic doctrine does not attribute any quasi-magical powers to the relics themselves. Rather, the bodies of the saints are temples of the Holy Spirit and to be bodily resurrected on the Last Day, so they are worthy of honor and respect -- but any miracles attributed to them are due to the Holy Spirit working by and through means of the saint.
After all, God did not simply will redemption, which he could have done purely through divine power without any physical manifestation. Instead, since humans are both body and spirit, He chose to work through the physical - healing with mud, instituting bread and wine as His body and blood, and dying upon the Cross. "But that you may believe that the Son of Man hath the power to forgive sins, take up thy bed and walk!"
Think of a relic as a prism or magnifying glass through which the Light shines . . . if that helps, or not if it doesn't.
In Israel I have seen Christians of all denominations moved beyond tears by the proximity to Nativity, the Via Delarosa, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Not because of any intrinsic property, but because they are an intense physical reminder of the live and ministry of Jesus. Does that sadden you too?
No, because it isn’t associated with manifestations. A completely different scenario
That, my FRiend, is an excellent explanation. Thank you for enlightening me.
My pleasure. :-). We converts have usually thought about these things more - not having been brought up in them. And also of course because conversion is not something people do on the spur of the moment, but only after a lot of reading and thinking about just this sort of question (and of course a lot of prayer!)
Are you contending that the Church teaches that these objects are substantially empowered?
st Jude the apostle was there and st augustines mother and etc etc. Two thousand years worth of dozens Of relics.
St Catherine of Siena church in Kennesaw.
Less “contending” than voicing what my impression has been over many years of hearing San Antonio Catholics talk about icons, objects of veneration, etc. Now, there may be some “curandero” stuff mixed in there, given the religious history of this area, but that’s certainly the impression I have gotten.
I would have thought you intelligent and educated enough to know that the practices of some Catholics do not represent the teachings of the Church any more than the thousands of Protestants in prison for rape, murder and sex crimes represent the teachings of Protestantism.
Hey, I think I saw some of that junk in the window of the local Catholic book store.
Heck, I can just buy my own, and have my “encounter”.
For all the protestations, you're adapting the tactics and language, practically verbatim.
Pardon me, but I expect hilarity will eventually ensue.
Fr. Frankie's Free Will Traveling Frescoes & Flagellation Show, Now With New & Improved Bones, anyone?
If I don’t know there are different views within Catholicism, I can’t very well distinguish among them. The snarky comment really doesn’t further the conversation in a positive way, NL. My apologies for treading on such a sensitive topic for you.