Articles

We Took Up His Bones: The Significance of Venerating Relics

Recently I took up the task of re-organizing cupboards, drawers, and files at home. Some of the things I do not use daily but consider important enough to keep offer a bittersweet mixture of memories. More sweet than bitter now are items that remind me of my father, who died fifteen years ago this month. The surprise discovery was a hastily sketched diagram of my father’s family tree. It is in my handwriting so I must have asked him to tell me all he could remember some time before he died. Although I was ruthless in discarding things I no longer needed, I carefully slid this paper back into the folder with a plan to transcribe the diagram into an electronic format for preservation. Otherwise, I revisited items that I know very well: dad’s silver pen, his harmonica, a cardigan. I don’t bring them out too often because although they carry the fondest memories they also evoke the strongest longing. Focusing on items that belonged to a loved one we miss is a powerful act of devotion. When I hold dad’s pen I recall the vigour reflected in his handwriting. When I pick up the harmonica I hear not only the music but also the joyful laughter that accompanied those occasions when he played. When I wear the cardigan, I almost feel his arms around me. These somatic, physical reminders are usually a comfort though sometimes too much to bear. More than a memory in and of themselves, the items convey the actions, personality, and relationships of the person we love, inviting us to experience that love again and to continue sharing that love in the world. For the same reason, Catholics venerate the relics of the saints.

 “The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church’s sacramental life.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1674). One of the earliest examples of the veneration of relics comes from the second century after the Bishop of Smyrna, St. Polycarp, suffered martyrdom by burning at the stake. The Church of Smyrna wrote a letter to the rest of the Church describing the events surrounding the martyrdom. Near the end of the letter, the authors explain the dual purpose of veneration of the body: commemoration of the one who has died and training for those who continue to live the faith. 

And so we afterwards took up his bones which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place; where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy, and to celebrate the birth-day of his martyrdom for the commemoration of those that have already fought in the contest, and of the training and preparation of those that shall do so hereafter. (The Martyrdom of Polycarp, trans. J. G. Lightfoot, accessed January 10, 2018).

Consider that the martyrs are those who suffered bodily and lost their life in the flesh on account of their faith in Christ. Therefore, it is not incidental that the faithful of Smyrna venerated not an abstract symbol of their Bishop but the remains of his physical body, which was the vehicle for his witness to the faith. God works through the instruments of the saints on earth and so the relic of a saint does not have magical power but is a sign of God’s work. By venerating the relic, we show that God’s work in the saint’s life of holiness is to continue in the world through us.

Our faith is incarnational; our salvation rests upon God taking human flesh, followed by the suffering and death of that flesh, and its resurrection on the third day. The veneration of a bodily relic may seem gruesome considering that we rightly concentrate on loving life, saving lives, and protecting life. However, if we pause to consider with the eyes of faith, we realise that the crucifixion was gruesome and the mortal body does die. But the gruesome aspect is only half the picture. The eyes of faith also see the glory of the resurrection. At the end of the Nicene Creed we profess that we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. We profess our belief not only in Jesus’ resurrection but also our belief that “God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus’s Resurrection.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 997). The bodily relic of a saint that strikes us as gruesome is in actuality a reminder of the dignity due to all human bodies. As St. Paul taught, the body, a temple of the Holy Spirit, is relevant even after death.

What of the commandment to worship God alone? Devotional practices, such as the veneration of relics, must be properly understood and be experienced as an extension of the liturgical life of the Church so that they advance the knowledge of the mystery of Christ and do not become permeated by superstition (cf. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 13). Classical theology makes a distinction between adoration (latria) and veneration (dulia). Adoration is worship due to God as the Creator. Veneration is a sign of reverence or respect shown to a created person. Our religious practice reflects this distinction. The gesture of genuflection is a sign of adoration and is therefore reserved for God alone in the Most Blessed Sacrament and for the Holy Cross from the solemn adoration during Good Friday until the beginning of the Easter Vigil. Only God is to be adored so it is not appropriate to genuflect towards a relic of a saint. To show respect to the saint for his or her holy life in a gesture of veneration, you might bow your head, kiss, or touch the relic or case in which the relic is held (called a reliquary). Relics are often born in procession, shown to the sick or the dying, and an impetus for asking the intercession of the saint for healing. If the faithful are blessed with the relic, they should kneel during that blessing.

It may be difficult to look with bodily eyes on the forearm of St. Francis Xavier that you are invited to venerate in our diocese on January 21 or 22, 2018. Yet, in the same way as the items used by my father inspire me through their physical qualities to experience and take up the inner qualities of his love, so the bodily relics of the saints, gazed upon with the eyes of faith, invite us to recognize God’s work in the saint’s holy life and to continue that work in our own lives. 

By Dr. Simone Brosig
Director of Liturgy, Diocese of Calgary

Related Offices Office of Liturgy
Related Themes Devotions

Celebrate Christmas


The Christmas season celebrates the mystery of the Incarnation and the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the world: past, present and future.

The mystery and feast of Christmas (the Nativity of the Lord) is second only to Easter in the liturgical life of the Church. The first week of the season is the octave of Christmas which closes on the feast of the Mother of God (Jan 1).  Some cultures preserve the traditions of “Twelve Days” for the celebration, extending Christmas Day through Epiphany.  

ASPECTS OF THE SEASON

Christmas is a season of feasts. Some are celebrations of various aspects of the mystery of the Nativity, while others are feasts in their own right that are as old as or older than the Christmas feast itself. Unlike the days immediately after Easter (the octave or eight days), the period after Christmas sees the inclusion of many and varied celebrations.

These feasts reflect on various facets of the Christmas event. 

  • Holy Innocents: reflecting Matthew 2.13-18, December 28th.
  • Holy Family: on the Sunday after Christmas or December 30th. The newest of the seasonal feasts, included in the calendar in 1921.
  • Solemnity of Mary: January 1st has supported a varied number of titles including the civil New Year. It has commemorated the Circumcision (and Naming) of Jesus and been simply the “Octave Day” of Christmas. The celebration of Mary brings the day to the earliest of her titles and the oldest feast in honour of the Mother of God. Holy Name of Jesus: 
  • January 3rd Epiphany: a feast from the Eastern Churches and the original Eastern celebration of Christ’s birth.  It now commemorates the “manifestation” of Christ to the nations and is kept on January 6th or the Sunday after January 1st. The liturgical texts centre on the magi, but include as well references to Jesus’ baptism and his first miracle at Cana as images of his appearance to the world, event that are celebrated specifically later on. 
  • Baptism of the Lord: Jesus begins his saving work; the Sunday (or Monday) after Epiphany.

Canada’s two Holydays of Obligation (December 25th and January 1st) are observed during the Christmas season.

Text: Celebrating the Season of Christmas, National Liturgy Office, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Related Offices Office of Liturgy
Related Themes Christmas

Rejoice in God's Mercy: Resources

This initiative consists of all parishes in the diocese offering the sacrament of Reconciliation on all the Wednesdays of Advent and Lent from 7:30-8:30pm in addition to other scheduled times for Reconciliation at your parish.

Below are bulletin reflections for Rejoice in God’s Mercy, the diocesan renewal of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Please insert these reflections into your parish bulletin each Sunday from Feb 11 to Palm Sunday. 

  • Note that Some parishes may need to extend the time to accommodate the number of penitents or speak about the initiative in advance to encourage parishioners to take advantage of the earlier dates. Make Reconciliation available at your parish on Wednesdays February 21, 28; March 7, 14, 21 & 28, from 7:30 – 8:30pm. 

You might like to use this paragraph to advertise the initiative in your parish bulletin:

The Diocese of Calgary invites you to experience the peace, love, and joy brought by participating in the sacrament of reconciliation. In addition to the regular parish schedule, the sacrament of Reconciliation will be available at parishes throughout the Diocese of Calgary all the Wednesdays of Lent from 7:30 – 8:30pm.

Electronic materials will also come to your parish by email and are available below.

In Christ,

The Office of Liturgy
The Diocesan Liturgical Commission


Bulletin Reflection:

In addition to the regular parish schedule, the sacrament of Reconciliation will be available at parishes throughout the Diocese of Calgary all the Wednesdays of Lent from 7:30-8:30 p.m.

February 11, 6th Sunday of ordinary time

Catholics celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation because we recognise that sometimes we fail to do as we ought and because we believe in God’s mercy and forgiveness. Action: Share your faith in God’s mercy with others and let them know that it is available for them also. 

February 18: Lent I

As we begin Lent, the desert is not a place for us to fear, but a place of encountering the Holy Spirit. The Spirit can reveal what binds us, as well as what steals from our freedom to be the person God created us to be.  Action: Throughout the forty days of Lent, pray to the Holy Spirit to advocate for you and free you from whatever keeps you from greater intimacy with God. 

February 25: Lent II

While Peter tells Jesus “it’s good to be here”, he is also genuinely terrified. The work of a Christian calls for our courage, trust, and faith.  The challenges of Christian living bring us out of complacency and into authentic discipleship where we encounter Christ in one another. Action: Go outside of your comfort zone. Ask the Holy Spirit to identify Christ to you in people you may have overlooked. 

MARCH 4: LENT III

Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. He quickly responds to the appalling acts taking place in the temple with holy audacity, righteous anger, and consuming zeal. Just as Jesus clears the temple, if we are living temples of the Holy Spirit, we can also ask what abominations are taking place in us. Action: Pray to the Holy Spirit to identify what needs to change in your life. Dare to ask God for help and mercy. 

MARCH 11: LENT IV

The image of the crucifix is itself a prayer for many Catholics. We are encouraged to rest our eyes upon the crucifix and see the One, who has created all things. As you ponder the meaning of the Cross, above all consider this: God chose that His only Son suffer upon the Cross that we might be healed. Action: Spend time in quiet in front of a cross or crucifix. Observe how this contemplation affects you. 

MARCH 18: LENT V

A seed must die to produce new life. In dying to self we choose to trust and to exercise faith, hope and love. These virtues lead us into intimate contact with God and transform us into new life in the image of Christ. Action: What can you do to die to self during this week of Lent? Which virtues will help you to glorify God in this way? 

PALM SUNDAY

With Passion Sunday we begin the final week of Lent and prepare ourselves to celebrate the Paschal Triduum. Rejoice in God’s Mercy has aimed to invite you to participate more readily and more easily in the sacrament of Reconciliation. Most parishes have a regularly scheduled time for Reconciliation throughout the year or by appointment. Jesus never said it would be easy to follow him but he also gave us this sacrament to help us own up to our failings, receive his strength, and start anew. Action: Take concrete steps to make the sacrament of Reconciliation an integral part of your life as a disciple of Christ. 


Graphic Resources:

  • Facebook Banner 1, click here
  • Facebook Banner 2, click HERE
  • Poster, click here
  • Bulletin/web image 1, click HERE
  • Bulletin/web image 2, click HERE
Related Offices Office of Liturgy Related Programs Rejoice in God's Mercy
Related Themes Reconciliation Advent Parish Life

Liturgy Planning Forms

Please see below the documents you need to submit for liturgies celebrated by Bishop William McGrattan.

  1. Liturgical Planning Form
    Please fill and return this form to the Office of Liturgy no later than two weeks prior to the celebration. Submit via e-mail to liturgy@calgarydiocese.ca
  2. Prayers of the Faithful Template 

Do not hesitate to contact Simone (403-218-5524)  or Lia (403-218-5511)  in the Office of Liturgy if you have any questions regarding your upcoming liturgy or about completing the form. 

Related Offices Office of Liturgy
Related Themes Liturgy Liturgical Celebration

Diocesan Liturgical Calendar

  • Below is the list of diocesan liturgical calendar of Bishop William T. McGrattan. Unless otherwise noted, the liturgies or prayers are led by Bishop McGrattan. Note that the schedule is subject to change. If you have any questions, please contact the Office of Liturgy at 403-218-5511 or 403-218-5524, or e-mail liturgy@calgarydiocese.ca 

January 2018

  • January 18 - Week of Prayer of Christian Unity - Ambrose University at 11 AM. 
  • January 19 - School Blessing - Guardian Angels School (CCSD). Fr. Jerome Lavigne presiding.
  • January 21 - Relic Pilgrimage of St. Francis Xavier - Mass and Sung Vespers at St. Albert the Great.
  • January 22 - School Blessing - Apostles of Jesus (CCSD). Fr. Jerome Lavigne presiding.
  • January 25 - School Blessing - Holy Child (CCSD). Fr. Jerome Lavigne presiding.
  • January 25 - Week of Prayer of Christian Unity - St. Joseph's Church, Calgary at 7 PM. Fr. Yaroslaw Dziuba presiding.
  • January 28 - Parish Closing - Our Lady of the Rockies, Canmore.

February 2018 

  • February 17 - Rite of Election - St. Mary's Cathedral, Calgary at 7:30 PM
  • February 18 - Mass for Mark Drapal's Admission to the Ministry of Acolyte, St. Cecilia, Calgary at 9 AM.
  • February 18 - Rite of Election - St. Mary's Cathedral, Calgary at 3:30 PM 
  • February 20 - Faith Day - Christ the Redeemer School Disrict

March 2018

  • March 20 - 20th Anniversary of St. Albert the Great, Calgary
  • March 24 - Mass for the Acies Legion of Mary - St. Patrick, Calgary
  • March 25 - Palm Sunday Mass - St. Mary's Cathedral, Calgary
  • March 26 - Chrism Mass at 7:30 PM - St. Mary's Cathedral, Calgary
  • March 27 - Mass for Noli Timere Youth Group at St. Mary's University, Calgary
  • March 29 - Holy Thursday at 7 PM - St. Mary's Cathedral, Calgary
  • March 30 - The Outdoor Way of the Cross at St. Mary's Cathedral, Calgary 
  • March 30 - Good Friday at 3 PM - St. Mary's Cathedral, Calgary
  • March 31 - Easter Vigil at 8 PM - St. Mary's Cathedral, Calgary

April 2018

  • April 1 - Easter Sunday at St. Mary's Cathedral, Calgary
  • April 3 - L'Arche Easter Prayer Service, Calgary
  • April 4 - Mass at the Man of the Shroud Exhibition - St. Peter's Church, Calgary
  • April 7 - Confirmation Mass - St. Augustine/St. Joseph (Taber/Vauxhall)
  • April 8 - Divine Mercy Sunday Mass - Holy Spirit Parish, Calgary
  • April 11 - Mass - St. Mary's University, Calgary
  • April 12 - Institution of Acolyte for Permanent Deacons - St. Albert the Great, Calgary
  • April 14 - Confirmation Mass - St. Albert the Great, Calgary
  • April 14 - Confirmation Mass - St. Mary's Cathedral, Calgary
  • April 15 - Confirmation Mass - Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Calgary
  • April 15 - Confirmation Mass - St. Albert the Great, Calgary
  • April 17 - Confirmation Mass - Ascension, Calgary (at St. Luke's Calgary)
  • April 20 - Confrmation Mass - St. Joseph's, Calgary
  • April 21 - Confirmation Mass - St. Peter's, Calgary
  • April 22 - Confirmation Mass - St. Mary's, Cochrane
  • April 25 - Confirmation Mass - St. Bonaventure, Calgary
  • April 27 - Confirmation Mass - All Saints Parish, Lethbridge
  • April 28 - Confirmation Mass - Sacred Heart Parish, Strathmore
  • April 28 - Confirmation Mass - St. Paul's, Airdrie & St. Agnes, Carstairs
  • April 29 - Confirmation Mass - Sacred Heart, Calgary
  • April 29 - Confirmation Mass - St. Thomas More, Calgary
  • April 30 - Mass for CCSSA

May 2018

  • May 27 - Feed the Hungry Blessing - Feed the Hungry Garden

JUNE 2018

  • June 10 - Renewal of Promises - Permanent Diaconate - St. Mary's Cathedral
  • June 29 - Ordination of Derek Remus to the Priesthood at 7 PM - St. Mary's Cathedral

JULY 2018

  • July 1 - Consecration of Canada (All Parishes)

AUGUST 2018

  • TBD - CRSD Opening - St. James, Okotoks
  • TBD - CCSD Opening - BMO Centre

SEPTEMBER 2018

  • TBD  - Franco Sud Opening - FCJ Centre
  • TBD  - Priests' Jubilee - St. Anthony
  • TBD - StMUC Opening - St. Mary's University
  • TBD - UofC Opening - St. Pius X
  • Sep 28 - One Rock - St. Michael's, Calgary
  • Sep 29 - One Rock - St. Micahel's, Calgary

OCTOBER 2018

  • TBD - White Mass - St. Anthony, Calgary
  • TBD - Blue Mass - St. Cecilia, Calgary

NOVEMBER 2018

  • TBD - Miscarriage Liturgy - Sacred Heart, Calgary
  • TBD - CCSD Faith Day - BMO Centre
  • Nov 17 - Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate - 7:30 PM St. Mary's Cathedral
  • TBD - KofC Memorial - St. Luke's, Calgary
  • TBD - Red Mass - St. Mary's Cathedral, Calgary
  • TBD - CWL 75th Anniversary - St. James, Okotoks
  • Rejoice in God's Mercy - each Wednesday of Advent 2018

DECEMBER 2018

  • TBD - StMUC Patron Day Mass - St. Mary's University
  • Dec 24 - Christmas Mass - St. Mary's Cathedral

JANUARY 2019

  • Jan 13 - Migrant & Refugee Mass - Holy Spirit Parish (to be confirmed) and all parishes

FEBRUARY 2019

MARCH 2019

  • Rejoice in God's Mercy - each Wednesday of Lent 2018
  • Mar 6 - Ash Wednesday - St. Mary's Cathedral
  • Mar 9 - Rite of Election - St. Mary's Cathedral
  • Mar 10 - Rite of Election - St. Mary's Cathedral

APRIL 2019

  • TBD - StMUC end of term Mass - St. Mary's University
  • Apr 15 - Chrism Mass - 7:30 PM St. Mary's Cathedral
  • April 17 - Holy Thursday - St. Mary's Cathedral
  • April 18 - Good Friday  - St. Mary's Cathedral
  • April 19 - Easter Vigil  - St. Mary's Cathedral
  • April 20 - Easter Sunday - St. Mary's Cathedral 

Related Offices Office of Liturgy
Related Themes Diocesan Event Diocesan Celebration
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