Portolá 250 – Sacred Relics - Catholic Action For Faith and Family

Portolá 250 – Sacred Relics

Bringing Treasures of the Church to the Faithful

We are blessed, as we proceed in our pilgrimage, to carry with us throughout California some of the most cherished treasures of the Catholic Church: sacred relics. More specifically, a reliquary containing several special relics has been entrusted to Catholic Action for Faith and Family to share with the faithful in churches and amidst other devotional activities.

I was touched as I observed the reactions of those who lined up to venerate the reliquary which keeps the sacred relics. It was like a soothing balm for the pilgrims and visitors, which helped to create such a solemn yet joyous environment and lingering sense of reverence whereby they desired to remain for hours.

Photo credit: David Maung

It is no wonder, for if you were in the presence of a minute fragment from the Crown of Thorns worn by Our Lord, a piece of cloth from the veil of Our Blessed Mother Mary, a piece of cloth from the cloak of St. Joseph, and three relics of St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, wouldn’t you feel the same?

As you may know, a first-class relic is part of a saint’s body, such as a bone, while a second-class relic is a fragment of something used by the saint during their lifetime, such as a piece of their clothing.

These material remnants of the saints and their instruments are reminders that these people lived, worked, and practiced virtue in this world like you and me. And we pray before their relics to ask their intercession in our lives and to follow their virtuous and worthy example.

For instance, the three relics of Saint John Vianney that Catholic Action holds in the reliquary alongside the Crown of Thorns and the pieces of cloth from the veil of Our Lady and the cloak of Saint Joseph, are visual reminders of his humanity and his saintliness. The first relic is a piece of cloth from his clothing; the second is a piece of cloth bloodstained from when he was dying; the third is a piece of his bedsheet that was set on fire by the devil, who besieged him for spending much time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, practicing unwavering mortification, and for his dedication to helping countless people confess and convert.

Worthy Knight Joe Serrano stood for an hour presenting the reliquary with reverence. Photo credit: David Maung

Yes, saints are real people like you and me. They are known for practicing virtue to a heroic degree and are formally pronounced by the pope to be in Heaven. For us, they are the ultimate role models. This is why we are encouraged to read about the lives of saints so that we can follow their example.

Just as in sports, military, and film people admire and imitate others who excel in their role, we Catholics look to imitate saints and see them as a source of inspiration for ourselves to become saints. And in the same way a person is pleased to have memorabilia from their role model, such as a football used or signed by their favorite quarterback, or a guitar used by a famous performer they admire, relics of the saints are in modern terms sacred memorabilia. We do not adore them as we would Our Lord, but we honor and revere them.

We realize what we have before us is very special and can help us to meditate and pray, realizing their heavenly connections.

You are welcome to come forth to see and pray before the relics during the Portolá 250 Pilgrimage. Click here to find the schedule of events.


Sincerely in Christ and Our Lady,

James Aitchison


“Always go forward and never turn back.”

~ St. Junípero Serra


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