GLENDALE -- Holy relics have been venerated throughout church history, but there have been misunderstandings about their power and authenticity. Now, relics belonging to Tom Serafin are on display at Forest Lawn Memorial Museum in Glendale.
The collection features hundreds of relics, including a tooth of Joseph
of Arimathea and a piece of the cross on which Christ was crucified. It's
on display until Jan. 27, 2002.
Serafin, a studio photographer in Los Angeles, has been acquiring relics
for more than 10 years and has more than 1,200 in his collection -- all
of them authenticated by the Vatican. His organization, Saints Alive,
is dedicated to the preservation and public veneration of authentically
documented relics. Relics are "mementos of people who stayed the course
-- people who accepted martyrdom, people who would rather be put to death
than give up Christ," Serafin said. They come in three classes:
* 1st Class: The bodies of saintly persons or any of their integrant parts,
such as limbs, ashes and bones.
* 2nd Class: Objects that have come in physical contact with living saints
and are thereby sanctified.
* 3rd Class: Bits of cloth that have been touched by an actual 1st or
2nd class relic.
There's no intrinsic power in the relics themselves, Serafin said. A relic
is not a talisman. He pointed to a story of Jesus, found in Mark 5, as
an example. Jesus was walking through a crowd when a woman who had suffered
from years of bleeding touched his cloak, hoping to be healed by the garment.
She was healed, but not because of the cloak.
"Daughter, your faith has healed you," Jesus said to her.
As for the veneration of relics, Serafin said some people mistake veneration
for worship. But "worship is meant for God," Serafin said. Venerating
an object means to give respect to it because it belonged to someone special,
"If your dad had a big, old, soft sweater he used to wear when watching
TV on the sofa, and he passed away, you sure wouldn't cut it up and go
wax the car," Serafin said.
The saints, who were normal people noted for their devotion to God, give
believers hope as they struggle through life. Their relics are evidence
of the continuity of Christian people, past, present and future -- what
the historic creeds call the communion of saints, according to Saints
The proof of a relic's authenticity would make skeptics cringe because
it comes down to church tradition and faith. The church authenticates
relics, providing a document that says where the relic is from, its class,
and who confected and authenticated it.
Just like the story of Jesus with the bleeding woman, authenticity also
comes down to faith. Saints Alive literature says the historical authentication
of relics is not about proof or science, but about passion:
"The passion that you have for the lives and legends of the saints is
the most important evidence to their validity."
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: "Manger to Martyr -- Veneration of Relics."
WHERE: Forest Lawn Museum, 1712 S. Glendale Ave.
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, through Jan. 27.
COST: Admission is free.
INFO: For more information, call Forest Lawn Museum at (800) 204-3131
ext. 4781, or log on to the web site at: www.forestlawn.com.