Encountering God in saint relics: Fr. Carlos Martins’ mission to share the treasures of the Church
September 29, 2018 (LifeSiteNews)—Last week’s mission began at St Benedict’s Catholic Church, in Chesapeake, Virginia, with an overflowing congregation praying the 54-Day Rosary “Novena for Our Nation”, and the Auxilium Christianorum Prayers. Catholics from all over the Hampton Roads area—and beyond-- packed the parish, run by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, to standing room only. The reason? Over 160 Relics of the Saints—the vast majority of which were First Class (part of a saint’s body)—were brought by Fr. Carlos Martins, as part of his “Treasures of the Church” Mission.
LifeSite attended the event and spoke with Fr. Martins on his unique mission. The interview, and my final analysis are included below.
LifeSite: Father Martins, why do you believe you were called to this mission?
Fr. Martins: This calling seemed to unfold, gradually. God seemed to want this, as it was never on my radar. I converted from atheism at age 21, and went on a pilgrimage to Rome the next year. It was there, through an acquaintance of mine, that I first connected with an individual who is a subject matter expert on Relics. We developed a friendship, and—through the Vatican—I was later entrusted with some two-dozen relics. It’s interesting to note that there are very few of us—who are recognized historians/preservers and educators for these “Treasures of the Church”. In 1993, through John Paul II’s Motu Proprio “Inde a Pontificatus Nostri Initio”, the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Patrimony of the Church was formed. This was to help dioceses throughout the world inventory, preserve and archive relics, statuary and historical art of the Church—many of which had been disregarded, in disrepair, lost or even sold after the changes of the Second Vatican Council.
Young people are drawn to the solid, lasting Tradition of the Faith. They are ready to be taught by 2000 years of Faith, not just the last 60 years. That’s had its day.
What is the essential nature of this mission?
This mission takes up the cause to catechize people on relics. The goal is to give people an experience of the Living God through the sacred remains of His Saints. People experience Him, both spiritually as well as “incarnationally”—these relics are physical reminders of those that see Him, now, face to Glorious Face. They are still amongst us, these Saints. They bring healing, miracles – their presence is, essentially, evangelization.
Can you tell us of some of the relics of the Saints in your possession, that you believe are crucial to these times?
Some of the relics include some of the largest fragments of the True Cross, the Veil of Our Lady…they, all of them, are critical to these times. I have over 160 relics in this mission, and some are from obscure Saints…others, like the Apostles, St. Anthony, St Padre Pio—they are well known. I’ll tell those who come tonight, “make this a relational experience”. I ask each person to be open to being “touched” or called by a particular Saint. You might think—oh, of course the highest number of such calls must come from Our Lady or from the True Cross—but no, you’d be surprised.
Do you have any stories of specific graces or miracles you’ve witnessed?
One woman had a miraculous experience with Our Lady’s veil. She had terrible osteoporosis in her knees—to the point where she couldn’t kneel. She hadn’t been able to kneel for years, at Mass. She was in constant pain. However, during this occasion, she felt that she had to kneel before this relic—it was the relic of the Blessed Mother, for her, it was clear! This was a relic of the Queen of Heaven—she had to kneel! She said it caused her great pain, but after she did this—and reverenced the relic, she stood up without aid. She had no pain, whatsoever. She was healed, completely—the osteoporosis never returned.
Another woman approached me, and had told me that although she was happy to have attended, she didn’t attend for herself. She was attending for her husband—asking healing for him. He had survived a stroke two years before, but it had left him paralyzed and bedridden. She had to take care of everything for him. I advised her to touch her rosary to every relic (making it, in turn, a third class relic), and then go home and touch him. She did that. She contacted me a few days later with this story: She had a routine of care for him, where she would wake up early and eat breakfast, and then take in his breakfast after. The morning after she had touched him with her rosary, she was doing just that, when up comes her husband—walking into the kitchen, grabbing a cup of coffee, and walking out again. She said it didn’t actually click with her, at first…that he wasn’t supposed to be able to do any of that. He hadn’t for months. But there he was, walking in as he used to. She screamed…and that was when HE figured it out…that he was miraculously walking, where he was never supposed to have, again.
Do you see a growing number of young people at your missions?
Yes! Young people are looking for meaning. Some—many—are practicing Catholics, and for them, anything that has to do with Tradition of the Church, they are immediately drawn to, are interested in. The climate, today, is so different than it was even ten years ago. Now, young people are drawn to the solid, lasting Tradition of the Faith. They are ready to be taught by 2000 years of Faith, not just the last 60 years. That’s had its day.
The biggest discovery for me, for anyone coming to this mission, is that our Faith is experiential, it’s “incarnational”. So many either think the Faith is cerebral or simply emotional—maybe in a good way, there, of the heart. There is a third component, however. God reveals Himself through matter, to us. He wants us to have a very real experience of Him. The Saints are, in fact, incarnate in Christ—they are His limbs, His Body. As St Paul wrote, they—in their lives—“made up for what was lacking in the sufferings of Christ.” They are examples for us…that we all are called to this. They lived here, and their bodies rest here—but their souls, once connected to that material body, now see God, face to Glorious Face. Their relics are a foretaste of the promise of the Resurrection of the Body. These relics are part of their future Glorified Bodies, and we are able to experience them, now.
Fr. Martins spoke for over an hour, on the graces one would receive from God, meeting Him in an “experiential” way, through the lives of His Saints. “God,” he said, “Is the Perfect Gentleman.” He always reaches out to us, but we must be willing to receive His Graces. He spoke on “handcuffs” that people often have, which limits their ability to be open to grace, including refusal to attend Sunday Mass, refusal to frequent Confession and refusal to forgive. He spoke of the life of St. Maria Goretti with such a passion, that I witnessed many attendees in tears. Hundreds of people reverenced the relics, proceeding his talks. I was, personally, blessed and deeply moved with the chance to encounter a first class relic of one of my favorite Saints—St Thomas More. As More was beheaded by King Henry VIII, and his body buried in an unmarked grave, encountering a First Class relic of his is incredibly rare. In fact, Fr. Martins mentioned that the Catholic Church only retains one vertebra of this blessed Saint, although his skull is reportedly interned with his daughter—in what is now an Anglican church near Canterbury, England.