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The Word on the Week

Relics Robbed

In the midst of all our woes this week three men broke into the Holy Cross Abbey in Co Tipperary and stole three relics one of which was reputed to be a piece of wood from Christ’s cross. This piece of the “true cross” was handed over by King Donal Mor O’Brien in the 12th Century and apparently survived the 17th Century when the monastery was in ruins. The two other relics were handed to the Abbey in 1977 by St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. These, along with the silver monstrance containing the wood, presumably have some value as precious metals hence the attraction to the thieves.  The Parish Priest said the local clergy and parishioners were devastated, “Even three weeks ago we had a novena here and there was a great sense of devotion to it, he said.” The garda were bewildered by the theft. “They’re not something that could be brought down any day of the week to a car boot sale” they said. The robbery was well planned, the thieves using a hammer, screwdriver and an angle-grinder to forcibly open the cabinet containing to relics. The get-away vehicle was found burned out some distance from the Abbey. What has scripture to say to all this? Surprising as it may seem when it comes to relics the bible is silent. In folklore the expression “touch wood” meaning that you hope some event may or may not happen, is an abbreviation of “touch the cross”. It is hard to get away from the fascination that religious artefacts have for people who are seeking for some source of supernatural power. Those looking for Biblical warrant can quote Acts chapter 19 verses 11/12  “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” When St Luke penned this incident its unlikely that he anticipated the global trade in relics! More likely the benefactors of the healings and deliverances realised the link to St Paul and the message he preached which always attributed the power to his triune God. On its altar the Abbey uses the words “that the cross of Christ may not be emptied of its power” which is part of the text of 1 Corinthians chapter 1 verse 17 referring, in this case to the wooden relic of the cross which has been stolen. Of course St Paul wasn’t referring to the power of the wooden cross but to the preaching of the death of Christ for sinners. He makes it plain; “but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. The power and authority lies in the once crucified now risen and reigning saviour. Put your faith in him.