The Relics Project

The words Jesus spoke to Zaccheus passed through my mind that Passion Sunday. “Today, I must stay at your house.”

Welcome to Part 26 of a weekly series on the formation journey of Josh, a first-year novice at the Marian House of Studies in Washington, D.C. 

Start at the beginning here.

Father Jim was hanging out with me in the dining room on Friday evening when he asked, “Would you mind doing a little job tomorrow, wrapping up the relics project?”

Especially when I trust someone pretty well, I ordinarily favor a simple, honest response without wasting time thinking it over first. 

So, I answered, “Bother.”

Father Jim paused, taken off-guard. Carefully, he asked, “Do you have other plans?”

I thought for a moment. Then, I said, “No.”

He grinned broadly. “That’s what we like to hear!”

Room for the relics
The next day, as I had foreseen when I had said, “Bother,” I worked all through the morning and deep into the afternoon on the relics project. It involved adjusting alphabetical lists of relics that we have in our possession and replacing labels in our books and on the backs of the relics. It required a lot of printing, laminating, cutting, and computer work. 

Father Jim and other novices also worked much of the day on other projects. Eventually Fr. Jim came into my office and admitted that he hadn’t expected this project to require so much work.

“I didn’t mean to take your whole day,” he told me. “If you want to wait on the rest of the work until Monday, you can.”

I immediately decided to take him up on that offer. 

I mentioned, “I use my desk in my room to hold my work stuff, like the name-labels for doors that I did for Fr. David. Is it okay if I keep these relics in my room over the weekend?”

They were all on a tray, which was convenient for carrying them around.

Father Jim hesitated, and, at first, he looked like he was going to say, “No.” 

But then, his head slightly cocked as though listening to some quiet voice, he said, “Sure, that’s fine.”

So, I brought the relics up into my room and placed them all on my desk: 39 relics.

It was Saturday. The next day would be Passion Sunday. 

One of the relics I placed on my desk was a vessel containing a couple of tiny, Church-authenticated fragments of the True Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The True Cross comes home
Weeks ago, the Lord seemed to speak to me through St. Faustina’s Diary when I read His words, "My great delight is to unite Myself with souls" (1385).

This coming of Jesus’ Cross felt like a very special expression of Jesus’ desire to unite Himself with me, to weave His life and mine together, His sufferings and my sufferings. 

I’d been praying for the Lord to use novitiate to deepen the foundations of my faith and of my whole spiritual life. He used His Cross to do that. 

It was obvious to me that Divine Providence deliberately arranged for fragments of the True Cross to be in my room for Passion Sunday. It could not be a coincidence that this tremendous gift fell into my lap right in time for the appropriate liturgical moment, and during novitiate, the spiritual period when the foundations of one’s future in religious life are laid. 

“Deepen my faith,” I would sometimes pray. 

I believe that, in the future, I’ll be tempted and tried, so I’ve been praying for deeper, stronger spiritual foundations for my faith. 

The Lord was answering those prayers.

On the afternoon of Passion Sunday, during some quiet time, I read a little from one of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books, Prince Caspian. The main characters return to the magical world of Narnia, having been away for hundreds of years, and find ancient treasures at their old, ruined castle of Cair Paravel. 

This bit of Lewis’ story seemed to me to be directly related to what I was experiencing in my own room. Jesus’ True Cross is a great, ancient treasure, and it compellingly put me in direct contact with Jesus’ world 2,000 years ago. 

Under my roof
The words Jesus spoke to Zaccheus passed through my mind that Passion Sunday. “Today, I must stay at your house.” 

Here was His Cross under my roof, on the day His Passion is publicly commemorated throughout the Church. 

Gazing at the tiny wooden fragments, I found myself imagining Jesus living and breathing, encountering the world around Him. I saw Him giving to me this most critical part of His world on the day that commemorates His divine love and anguish on this very wood: Passion Sunday. 

Through Providence, Jesus was reaffirming for me the heart of our faith: That He died on the Cross to save us. 

But not just “us” in some vague, impersonal sense. 

This message was deeply personal. 

I felt that all the crosses I’ve carried in life were truly being united with His Cross and that He was strengthening me to bear many more crosses in the future. 

It was as if He were saying to my heart, “Through this Cross, I save you.”

Previous entry

Is God calling you to be a priest? Or do you know someone who would make an ideal priest? Contact us!


You might also like...

On Dec. 8, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (a Holy Day of Obligation), God’s greatest act of mercy for any human being — God preserved Mary, His mother, from inheriting any stain of original sin.

"In a fit of madness, I started running," Br. Josh, MIC, recalls. But when his brother seminarians suggest training for a marathon, thoughts of horrible suffering and misery blazed through his mind...

Brother Josh, MIC, sat down quietly on his bed and prayed, “If you want, Beloved, I would run an ultramarathon for you.” Then, he forgot about his off-the-cuff prayer.