Nov. 12th: Hawaiian Catholic Herald: The Diocese of Honolulu has a “traveling relic” of St. Damien, available for veneration wherever it is welcome. "We are putting the word out to bishops,” Bishop Larry Silva said. The relic is made up of bone fragments shed from another relic, a talus (ankle) bone now on permanent display in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace. Bishop Silva said he was planning to send an e-mail message this month to every bishop in the country to tell them that the traveling relic is available for veneration in their dioceses.
Typically, the relic of a saint would be put on display in a church or chapel for the faithful to approach it, view it, perhaps touch the box it is in, and pray in its presence. The bishop has assigned Sacred Hearts Father Paul Zaccone as the person who “will normally be the one to take the relic to its various locations.” “He will be prepared to give talks and to lead prayers, if desired,” the bishop explained in an e-mail message. Father Zaccone will also arrange for any accompanying literature, art and religious objects that would supplement the display of the relic, the bishop said.
The relic is owned by the Diocese of Honolulu. Bishop Silva said that he would consider future requests directly from individual parishes, convents, monasteries or other church entities. The diocesan Office of Worship would handle requests. The bone fragments are held in a 6-inch by 9-inch by 4-inch reliquary of polished monkeypod wood, and are visible behind a thick oval glass window on the lid. The box is secured by a brass Louis Vuitton padlock made in Paris. It is carried in a donated 16-inch long black leather bag by Prada. The reliquary was made by two Makawao, Maui, craftsmen, Edwin Ferreira and Allan Marciel. The wood comes from a 100-year-old tree Father Damien planted on topside Molokai near the church he built in Kaluaaha, Our Lady of Seven Sorrows.
The traveling relic has already been on the road. When the bishop and Father Peter Dumag visited Hawaii’s seven seminarians at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon for two days in October, they brought the relic along. It was incorporated into the student and faculty evening prayers. The relic is now in Wisconsin, at Sacred Heart Seminary in Hales Corners, where two other Hawaii seminarians are studying. It was carried there by Father Thomas Knoebel, the seminary vice rector who was returning to Hales Corners after spending several months in Honolulu. Seminarian Nick Brown will bring the relic back to Hawaii.
According to the bishop, the transportation costs of the traveling relic will be the responsibility of the diocese or other entity that requests it. This includes coach class airfare, ground transportation, and room and board for the person accompanying the relic. The relic will always be hand-carried, the bishop said, never mailed or checked in as luggage. “The Transportation Security Administration supervisor at the Honolulu International Airport has given approval for the relic to pass through security,” Bishop Silva said. “Should any agent question it, they can be referred to TSA in Honolulu.”
The original talus bone that is the source of this relic had been in the possession of the Sacred Hearts Congregation in Belgium ever since it was unintentionally separated from the rest of Father Damien’s remains when his casket was opened there in 1956 and his bones catalogued, separated and stored in a dozen zinc boxes before being returned to his tomb. That bone, sealed under glass in a small wooden reliquary made in Belgium, was presented to Bishop Silva by the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts in the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome on Oct. 12, 2009, the day after Father Damien’s canonization in St. Peter’s Basilica by Pope Benedict XVI.
While the relic was transported around the islands for veneration last year following the canonization, small pieces of it began to fall off. The bishop had a forensic specialist chemically coat the bone so it would not shed any more pieces, and the loose fragments were collected for the second relic. Yet another St. Damien relic, the remains of his right hand, lies in the priest’s original grave alongside St. Philomena Church in Kalawao, Molokai, where he was buried in 1889. Father Damien’s body was exhumed in 1936 and carried to his home country of Belgium at the request of the Belgian government. The bones of the priest’s right hand were returned to Hawaii during his beatification ceremony in Brussels, Belgium, in 1995.
By Patrick Downes Hawaii Catholic Herald