Friday, March 25, 2016

Third Class Relics

It's Good Friday and I wanted to do...something.   I wanted my kids to experience something of Good Friday, for something of the bones of our faith to resonate in their bones.

I'd hit upon the insane notion, I wanted us to walk through a door of mercy.  This is the Jubilee year of Mercy and all across the world, there are Holy Doors.  If you walk through them, and get to confession and communion, (plus a few prayers), you obtain a plenary indulgence.  What a way to get to Easter!   I've tried to do indulgences in the past, to have all our sins remitted, not just forgiven, but also removed from what we would owe for our transgressions.   Somehow, I never quite make it.

I googled Holy Doors.  One of my kids wanted to go to confession.   The Basilica offered confession from 10 to 6.  We could go through the Holy Door.  We could go to confession.  We could pray for the Pope's intentions and on Easter, receive communion.  We would get everyone in the family an indulgence.   As a bonus, we could see the relics of the passion of our Lord.

The Basilica website indicated there would be 1st class Relics to venerate.  We would see a piece of the one True Cross, found by Saint Helen.  We would see a piece of the spikes that pierced our Lord.  We would see a thorn from the crown, relics from Saint Peter and Saint Paul and a fragment from the veil of the Blessed Mother.  

In the crypt church of the Basilica, the line for confession and for the relics stretched out the length of the church, and wound around.   We waited.  The kids squirmed, struggled, and my having not eaten didn't help with the issue of patience.   We waited.  We waited.  We waited.  We did bathroom breaks and afterwards, scrounged for things we could touch to the relics.   I touched my wedding ring to the spot separated by the glass, where on the other side was a fragment of the one True Cross and foolishly put it back on my finger instead of the chain where I normally wore it.  It fit my finger.

Five minutes later, my finger was pink.  We scrambled to the cafeteria where I bought m&m's for those not fasting.   My daughter had quit the line for confession, as she was told, it would be two more hours.  I felt defeated, and I couldn't get my ring off my finger.   We left to go to the car, with me feeling ever more certain, if I didn't need a plenary indulgence before, I needed it now.   In the car, I gobbed my daughter's hand lotion on my finger and pulled and twisted.  My finger looked red now.

My son asked what would happen if we didn't get it off.   My overly helpful older daughter explained in more detail than I could stomach, what would happen.  I needed help.  I'd seen the sign for the entrance to the Little Sisters of the Poor.  I drove back to it and knocked on the door.  They looked at my finger, heard my story, and called a nurse.  

Daisy, (God bless her), talked me through her gentle pulling of the ring.  The irony of it being March 25th, the day Tolkien chose for the destruction of the one ring, was not lost on me.  I hoped it wouldn't be the day my wedding ring became a relic and then had to be destroyed.

My daughter who didn't make it to confession, sensing my stress level, decided to lead us in the rosary.  It made the trip bearable, because I felt so defeated by all of it.

It took the whole drive home for my finger to return to normal.   The ring is once again on the chain on my neck.  It touched a relic, ergo it is a relic itself.   Looking at my finger, the ring left a mark. I can't help but think about the thorn and the particle of the spike and the cross.  Relics aren't neat little holy trinkets, they're raw pieces of real life, real experiences of suffering rendered meaningful by how the person who endured it, faced it.

All I felt I'd proven, was how much I needed more time in this life, in this Lent, to get ready for Easter.

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