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How relics became meaningful

Relic-for-webFor most of my life I wasn’t much into relics. The idea of having a bone chip of a saint or cloth touched to the body of a holy person didn’t hold a great deal of meaning for me. In fact, the relic of Saint Paula given to my parents by the Franciscan sisters who ran the Catholic hospital where I was born got lost in the shuffle at some point in my life. I just didn’t give relics much of a thought…..until my mother died!

My brother and I were sorting through her things, deciding what to do with various items. Immediately I knew I wanted something she’d worn; something that had been close to her body, something she treasured. And so I have her favorite gold medal – she’d purchased it on her one and only trip to Italy. My dad and I waited patiently as she carefully deliberated between several styles while trying to communicate with the store owner. When I wear it I’m transported back to the tiny shop in Rome and the wonderful trip we enjoyed together. When I take it from my drawer to put it on I remember seeing the medal on her no matter the outfit she was wearing, no matter the occasion. It seemed to go perfectly with sweats or with her cashmere jacket. It meant so much to her and because of that, it now means so much to me. It’s a relic and I love it. I love her. I feel close to her when I wear it.

Relic-1-for-web

Sister Paula wears this relic in honor of her mother.

I took some other things during those days of cleaning and sorting – a few of her favorite Christmas tree ornaments, some articles of clothing, a couple cookbooks, even her cake tester! Some may say they’re just “things”, but to me they’re so much more. They’re relics – precious items, reminders of her, even inspirational. Relics are usually described as “a part of a deceased holy person’s body or belongings kept as an object of reverence.” My mother was a holy person; always giving of herself to family, and neighbors alike. (Her giving usually took the form of cooking or baking food !) She was generous, kind, self-giving, and something of a perfectionist!

There’s another Mother in my life – Mother Theodore Guerin. I have one of her relics as well and to me it’s precious, a reminder of her, even inspirational. She was a holy person; always giving of herself. She too was generous, kind, self-giving and something of a perfectionist!

So, for the first half of my life I wasn’t much into relics but for the second half there is new meaning. I’m hanging on to them!

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Sister Paula Damiano

Sister Paula has been a Sister of Providence since 1967. She has ministered as a teacher, director of vocations, pastoral associate and as a General Councilor for the Sisters of Providence. She currently ministers as director of programs and retreats at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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7 Comments

  1. Jeanette Mader Hall on March 4, 2015 at 8:13 am

    Sister Paula,
    Beautiful tribute of your love for both of your mothers and the explanation
    and rational for relics is so clear and meaningful. Thanks!

  2. Donna Butler on March 4, 2015 at 8:48 am

    Paula,
    What a wonderful and meaningful reflection!

  3. S. Editha on March 4, 2015 at 9:06 am

    I always like your down-to-earth reflections. This is another great one! Thanks, Paula.

    Editha

  4. Jennifer Calvert on March 4, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    Sister – what a heartfelt story. Prior to becoming a Providence Associate, I often coined the term “memento” for what your story teaches is really a “relic.” I must share that with the passing of S. J. Valentino, (I was blessed by her in so many ways), but probably none more than this am, when a Dear Sister with a Huge heart returned a “relic” that I had given to Sister Joanna commemorating her birthday/retirement just last week. I will look at it often, for it has found a home in my office. Whenever I glance it, I will think fondly of the influence she has left with me, as well as the pioneering way she brought MOC to healthcare in a whole new way. Your story – well, it came at precisely the right time – I used to call that coincidence, now I call that providence. Thanks for sharing your beautiful story and for making me realize it is not so silly to cherish relics we relate to those we love:)

  5. Marsha Speth, SP on March 4, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    Thank you, Paula, for making this wonderful connection!

  6. Cindy Hux Martin on March 6, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    Sr. Paula what a WONDERFUL reflection. As a mother, this is the greatest honor you could give your mother. I know as I review my “exit plan” and reflect on my use of the time God has given me on this earth; the impact you have on your children is your prized glory!!! Your mother has to be raidiating in heaven knowing that you have such vivid memories of a part of her…that is the meaning of a mother’s existence. Thank you so much for your heartfelt reflection!!!

  7. Maureen Voll on March 6, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    Sister Paula. This was so beautiful. I have relics from my grandma, and they do bring her closer to me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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