Fittingly, a little known treasure trove of religious history made its debut on All Saints’ Day: relics of saints and martyrs that have resided under the main altar in the Province Center Chapel for more than 60 years.
Br. Donald Houde, CSV, the unofficial curator for the Viatorian religious art collection — and sacristan — uncovered the relics and set out to document and share them. They are believed to have been given as gifts to early provincials, who began preserving them in the main and side altars when the current Province Center opened in 1951.
At last count, there are more than 50, and they range from those of Fr. Louis Querbes, founder of the Viatorians, to St. Viator and Bishop Just, as well as more well known saints, including St. Theresa the Little Flower, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. John Vianney, just to name a few.
Before All Saints’ Day Mass, Br. Houde began displaying some of the relics in their standing reliquaries on a side altar of the main chapel. Plans are in the works to include a book, documenting the individual relics and their corresponding saints.
Br. Houde is working with Associate Joan Sweeney, the Viatorian archivist, deciding how to share them with the wider community.
The tradition of altars containing relics goes back to the earliest days of the church, and while the Eucharist encased in the tabernacle remains the focal point of the Province Center Chapel, the relics serve as an extension of the saints and of their unconditional lives of love and service.
During his homily today, Fr. Simon Lefebvre, CSV, said that God created everyone with the opportunity to become a saint. He defined the saints as being filled with the sanctity of God and sharing in God’s life through the sacraments.
“If we repent our sins and seek purity of heart,” Fr. Lefebvre said, “who can refuse us?”