Photo above: Pope Francis inside the alleged “Holy House of Loreto”
Welcome to this week’s edition of “Throwback Thursday.” For today’s installment, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on July 31st, 2015 and has been revised.
As early-Christianity became increasingly institutionalized and began to adopt many of the elements of paganism, there was a frenzied race to acquire items mentioned in the Bible, including the alleged personal effects of Jesus and his family. Centuries before scientific authentication, churches vied against each other for the most spectacular “relics.” Making their appearance, sometimes at multiple sites, were pieces of the “true cross,” the crown of thorns, the water pots of Cana, the crib of Jesus, the baby clothes of Jesus, Jesus’s foreskin, Joseph’s carpenter tools, the cup used at the Last Supper, the empty purse of Judas, Pilate’s basin, nails from the cross, Mary’s breast milk, etc., etc. The focus of Catholicism has always been on the created rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25).
Perhaps the most audacious claim for a relic (besides Jesus’s “Holy Prepuce,” i.e., foreskin) is the alleged Holy House of Nazareth located inside the Basilica at Loreto, Italy. Catholic tradition claims Mary grew up in this small 13′ by 31′ stone house and that Jesus was raised in it, also. According to Catholic tradition, angels carried the house from Nazareth in Palestine to Tersatto, Croatia in 1291. Not content with that site, the angels moved the house to Recanti, Italy and finally to Loreto in 1295.
Lest anyone think the grizzled Catholic hierarchy just winks at this ridiculous myth, popes “saint” John XXIII, Benedict XVI and Francis (above photo) have visited the house, signifying their stamp of approval.
Catholic friends, accepting Jesus Christ as one’s personal Savior by faith alone is the thing, NOT collecting and venerating bogus religious relics!
Postscript 1: Modern Catholic revisionists understood the sheer ridiculousness of the Holy House of Loreto myth and have concocted a more plausible explanation, positing that a mysterious aristocratic family, the “Angelos,” sponsored the physical relocation of the house from Palestine to Europe, which gradually gave rise to the popular myth of “angels” flying the house over the Mediterranean.
Postscript 2: I noticed that our library recently acquired “The Miraculous Flying House of Loreto: Spreading Catholicism in the Early Modern World” (2019) by Karin Vélez. I put a hold on this book and will be reading it soon.
Below is a six-minute video providing some of the faux history of the “Holy House.”
In Roman Catholic churches, there is a series of fourteen images hanging on the walls, either as paintings or wooden or stone relief carvings, usually spaced apart between the church’s windows. These “stations of the cross” allegedly depict scenes from the “passion” of Jesus; i.e., events He endured on the day of His crucifixion. It was once a very popular Catholic “devotion” to “pray the stations of the cross,” which entailed walking to each station inside the church and praying the prescribed rote prayer. This devotion was especially popular during Lent and still has its devotees. Oftentimes, a priest will lead a group in praying the stations, which usually takes around thirty to forty-five minutes. The Roman church teaches that those who pray all fourteen stations in succession will receive a “plenary” indulgence. A plenary indulgence is the alleged removal of all temporal punishment that remains after confession that must otherwise be expiated in purgatory.
Nine of the stations of the cross depict Biblical content, but stations 3, 4, 6, 7, and 9 commemorate events not mentioned in the Bible:
Jesus is condemned to death.
Jesus is given His cross.
Jesus falls down for the first time.
Jesus meets His mother Mary.
Simon of Cyrene is forced to carry the cross.
Veronica wipes blood off of Jesus’ face.
Jesus falls down for the second time.
Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.
Jesus falls down for the third time.
Jesus is stripped of His clothing.
Jesus is nailed to the cross.
Jesus dies on the cross.
Jesus’ body is removed from the cross.
Jesus’ body is placed in the tomb.
For today, let’s focus on station number six; “Veronica wipes blood off of Jesus’ face.” There is no mention in the Gospel accounts of a woman wiping Jesus’ face as He carried His cross from Jerusalem to Calvary/Golgotha. This was an extra-Biblical tradition that grew in popularity over the centuries.
“According to Church tradition, Veronica was moved with sympathy when she saw Jesus carrying his cross to Golgotha and gave him her veil that he might wipe his forehead. Jesus accepted the offering, held it to his face, and then handed it back to her—the image of his face miraculously impressed upon it. This piece of cloth became known as the Veil of Veronica.” – from Wikipedia.
This mythical Veronica was eventually canonized as a saint in 1885. Several Catholic churches claimed to possess the original Veil of Veronica. One such veil was displayed at the first St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. References are made to the faux veil relic located at St. Peter’s in historical documents beginning in 1199. Some Catholic writers claim that the relic was either destroyed or stolen during the Sack of Rome in 1527, however, a cloth purported to be the Veil of Veronica is displayed every year at St. Peter’s during Lent although the faux image of Jesus’ face is no longer distinguishable.
Let’s dig a little bit deeper into this Veil of Veronica tradition. Upon closer examination, we find that the name, “Veronica,” is actually derived from the Latin words, verum (true) and icon (image). Veronica means “true image.” Get it? What we have here is the alleged “true image” of Jesus’ face on a cloth eventually being adopted as the name of the anonymous woman of Jerusalem who allegedly wiped Jesus’ face! There was no saint “Veronica”! Yes, it’s all a sham legitimized under the cloak of Catholic tradition.
This baseless myth of the Veil of Veronica is just one of thousands of examples of how Catholicism became wrapped around the axle with its innumerable traditions and fables, yet misses the simple Good News! of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.
Most everyone is familiar with the bogus “Shroud of Turin,” the alleged burial shroud of Jesus displayed at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy. But few are aware of the extremely large number of other purported “relics” throughout Roman Catholicism. Catholics define relics as the body parts or personal effects of canonized “saints” and even the alleged body parts and personal effects of Jesus Christ, including his infant foreskin and crib!
Catholics of yesteryear made difficult pilgrimages to often faraway churches that displayed a relic in hopes of receiving answers to prayer, physical healings, or indulgences from time spent suffering in purgatory. Unscrupulous relics merchants made fortunes hand-over-fist during the Middle Ages as churches competed against each other for a chance to attract pilgrims and their money. Given the proliferation of these faux artifacts, multiple churches boasted of having the same exact relics. One might think such pilgrimages are a thing of the past, but news sources still report on Catholics thronging to traveling exhibits of relics in the U.S. and Canada.
A short time ago, I was reading a book about the First Vatican Council (1869-70), which mentioned the exhibit of Jesus’ alleged seamless tunic:
“In 1844, in response to critics of a large and well-publicized group of German pilgrims that converged on Trier to view and venerate the famous relic there – the robe supposedly worn by Christ just before his crucifixion…” – p.71, “Vatican I: The Council and the Making of the Ultramontane Church,” by John W. O’Malley
Hmm. Interesting. I’ve heard about many of Romanism’s bogus relics before, but not this seamless tunic. We read about Jesus’ seamless tunic in Scripture:
“23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24 so they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.’ This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, ‘They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.’ So the soldiers did these things.” – John 19:23-24
The history of the tunic of Trier, Germany goes back no farther than 1196 when it was first displayed at the High Cathedral of Saint Peter in that city. Church officials claimed the tunic had been originally recovered by Roman Emperor Constantine’s mother, Helen, on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 326-28. Many other such relics are attributed to Helen’s trip. She would have needed a modern Hong Kong ocean container vessel to transport all the artifacts back to Rome that are credited to her.
The previous reference to the event at Trier in 1844 led me to some interesting historical information. Following the anti-religious excesses of the Enlightenment, many European Catholics welcomed a return to pious religious superstition including pilgrimages to churches with relics. Such pilgrimages were the “rock concerts” of their day and emotions ran high. The tunic at Trier was displayed to the public only at lengthy intervals, so when the bishop of Trier, Wilhelm Arnoldi, announced in 1844 that the tunic would be put on display for public viewing, a half-a-million excited German Catholics responded by thronging to the city for a chance to catch a glimpse of the “holy” relic. The 19th-century religious “be-in” was of Woodstock-like proportions. The “happening” was subsequently exploited for political purposes. Catholic author and activist, Joseph Gorres, “portrayed the event as a manifestation of the collective power of Catholics in Germany, a warning to the Prussian state not to take that power lightly” (p.71, “Vatican I: The Council and the Making of the Ultramontane Church”). In reaction to the religious mass hysteria and excesses of the fervent pilgrims at Trier, less superstitious, sober German Catholics founded a more stoic sect called the New Catholics (see link below).
Beginning in 1959, the Catholics of Trier began inviting the Protestants of the area to join them in the Pilgrimage of the Holy Robe. The bogus “seamless tunic” of Trier is now promoted as an ecumenical symbol for the eventual reunification of all Protestants with the Catholic church. To date, the seamless tunic has not undergone scientific testing to verify its age.
Postscript: While visiting Germany and our German daughter-in-law and grandson at their home near Ramstein AFB in 2007, my wife and I were contemplating a few side-trips. Our son’s German father-in-law suggested we visit the city of Trier, about 70 miles away, although he didn’t elaborate on why Trier would be a good destination. With our rented car, we set out for the city not knowing what to expect. When we arrived at the outskirts, it didn’t look like much. I wondered out loud somewhat frustratingly why he had directed us there? Fortunately, I soon spotted a sign pointing to the city center and drove in that direction. Wow! Were we ever surprised! The center of the city was FILLED with ancient Roman buildings and ruins! We learned later that Trier served as the capital of the northern territories of the Western Roman Empire for over 400 years. In our walk through the city center, we saw the exterior of the High Cathedral of Saint Peter, where the alleged tunic is stored, but I had no desire to go inside.
Centuries ago, it was very popular for Roman Catholics to make pilgrimages to designated “holy” sites and shrines as part of a spiritual/penitential exercise or in an effort to obtain indulgences to shorten time spent in Purgatory after death. Catholic churches across Europe competed with each other to obtain the best “relics” (body parts or personal effects of “saints”) in order to attract potential pilgrims. The pilgrimage busine$$ is definitely not what it used to be, but devotees still flock to various sites.
I’ve previously posted a number of messages regarding the strange, ongoing legal tug-of-war over the corpse of former archbishop, Fulton J. Sheen. Sheen was one of the first Catholics to use the new media of radio and television to propagate the Catholic religion and became a national celebrity in the 50s and 60s. Sheen died in 1979 and is on the fast-track to sainthood because of his celebrity except for one huge snag. As we see in the recent news article below, the dioceses of Peoria, Illinois and New York City continue to fight over the final “resting place” of Sheen’s remains. He was born in El Paso, Illinois near Peoria but earned his great fame in New York as auxiliary bishop from 1951 to 1966. Both dioceses desperately want to be “home” to the crypt of this soon-to-be-canonized saint, but the Vatican won’t canonize Sheen until his “resting place’ is settled once and for all. They surely don’t want the negative publicity that would follow if he were canonized in the middle of this squabble.
None of this has anything to do with Christianity.
“Holy” sites and relics impart no blessings.
Natural man glories in the creature rather than the Creator. Can anyone imagine a passage in the New Testament in which two churches were fighting over the remains of a deceased believer? The veneration/worship of Sheen’s earthly remains is idolatry.
According to the New Testament, saints are all those who accept Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone, NOT some subgroup of super-sanctified “holy” people.
Sheen proclaimed Catholicism’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit rather than the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” – 1 John 5:20-21
I was perusing through Catholic news over the weekend and came across the articles far below, which mention the tour of a “relic” of “saint” Francis Xavier, specifically his right arm (see photo above), across Canada this month. Xavier was a co-founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), which was created in 1534 to counter the growing Reformation movement in Europe. Xavier spent the years 1541 to 1552 in India and the Far East, converting tens of thousands of souls to Catholicism’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit. Today he is one of Catholicism’s most celebrated “saints.”
The church defines a relic as “a piece of the body of a saint, an item owned or used by the saint, or an object which has been touched to the tomb of a saint.”
The Catholic church has been collecting relics of “saints” for centuries. Catholics are encouraged to make pilgrimages to sites where relics are displayed in order to venerate and pray to the saint.
The purpose of relics, according to the church, are to “remind (Catholics) of the holiness of a saint and his cooperation in God’s work. At the same time, relics inspire (Catholics) to ask for the prayers of that saint and to beg the grace of God to live the same kind of faith-filled live.”
None of the above is Scriptural. We are to pray to God alone. There’s not one instance in the New Testament when a believer prayed to a dead believer or venerated one of their body parts or personal belongings. Praying to dead people and worshiping aka “venerating” their body parts is blasphemy. See the article, “How should a Christian view relics?,” here.
Xavier’s right arm will be presented for veneration/worship at 26 churches in 15 Canadian cities from Wednesday, January 3rd to Friday, February 2nd.
Not to beat a dead horse, but I wonder what Stephen J. Nichols of Ligonier Ministries thinks about the tour of Xavier’s right arm across Canada? Nichols betrayed the Gospel of grace when he included Xavier as one of the 26 “Heroes of the Faith” in his children’s book, “The Church History ABCs: Augustine and 25 Other Heroes of the Faith.” See here.
Catholic friend, praying to dead saints or their body parts won’t save you. Repent of your sins and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone. He is the only way to Heaven.
I was a member of the Roman Catholic church beginning in 1956, when I was baptized as an infant, until 1983 when I left the church and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. As a young person, I can remember the rampant superstition and the reports of supernatural phenomena that were rife in the church. We constantly heard tales of eucharistic hosts bleeding and statues of saints either moving, weeping, or bleeding. The nuns at our grammar school loved to pass along these tales to their young charges.
As I was scanning the news the other day, I came across the report below. The body of saint Inocencia is on display at the cathedral of Guadalajara in Mexico. The story goes that 300 years ago, Inocencia was stabbed to death by her father because she disobeyed his order not to join the Catholic church. Like many Catholic saints, Inocencia’s corpse went on display to attract pilgrims who were eager to pray to the saint and contribute monetary offerings. Only Inocencia’s mummified hands are exposed. The rest of her body is covered with a wax casing.
In the 40-second video above, a recent visitor to the relic supposedly records the saint’s eyes opening. Take a look. How do we explain this? Well, it’s either video tricks or demonic activity. In the past, I used to completely dismiss such Catholic miracles as religious hysteria, but the Bible says the evil one is capable of impressive signs and wonders.
“The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders.” – 2 Thessalonians 2:9
How can we be confident that all of the supernatural phenomena that bolsters Catholic superstition and idolatry can either be attributed to religious hysteria or demonic activity? I think I just answered my own question.
I was watching an episode of The Borgias on Netflix yesterday and reference was made to the “Holy Lance” of Saint Longinus, which sparked my curiosity.
Clerics of the increasingly institutionalized church competed with each other to stock their churches with famous relics connected to the New Testament. There were churches claiming to have splinters of Jesus’s cross, thorns from His crown, vials of His blood, and even His infant foreskin. Great powers were attributed to these relics and credulous pilgrims flocked to see them and receive blessings.
One of the more famous relics to appear was the “Holy Lance” of Saint Longinus. Catholic tradition has it that Longinus was the Roman soldier who pierced the side of the crucified Jesus’ body with a lance to verify His death and eventually converted to Christianity. See here for more information. The Vatican claims it has the genuine lance in its possession at St. Peter’s Basilica but like all of the relics associated with Christ, there are several other versions in existence, each one claimed to be the original by its possessor.
This is all sheer nonsense my friends. The Roman soldier who lanced the body of Jesus was not named Longinus. The “Holy Lance” in the Vatican is a fake as are all the other alleged “relics” associated with Jesus. The institutionalized church turned simple, saving faith in Jesus Christ into superstition and idolatrous worship of physical objects.
Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and come out of superstition and gross fraud. Seek an evangelical church in your area that preaches God’s Word without compromise and worships the Lord in spirit and in truth.
“(Hezekiah) removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan.” – 2 Kings 18:4
St. Anthony’s Chapel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania boasts that it has 5000 religious relics, the largest collection of relics in the world outside of Rome. Included in the collection are alleged splinters from Jesus’ cross, a fragment of the column of His flagellation, a stone from the Garden of Gethsemane, a nail that held Christ to the cross, material from Jesus, Mary and Joseph’s clothing, and a piece of bone from each of the twelve apostles.
Read how “father” Suitbert Mollinger amassed the collection in the story below.
The word “relic” comes from the Latin, “reliquus,” meaning “left behind.” The Catholic church teaches “relics do not have power in and of themselves,” but God works miracles in the presence of saints’ bodies/bodyparts or their material possessions or items they came in contact with even after their deaths. Catholics “venerate” relics while praying for physical healings or blessings.
There was considerable traffic in relics throughout Europe in the Middle Ages as churches competed for these highly prized religious souvenirs. Unscrupulous merchants and dealers were more than happy to satisfy the demand. There is certainly no evidence for the authenticity of many Catholic relics including some of the more outlandish ones like those mentioned above as well as claims to the thorns from Jesus’ crown, Mary’s breast milk, Jesus’ umbilical cord and foreskin, and the house Jesus grew up in.
Everyone must accept Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith. Venerating/worshipping material objects is idolatry. If I had the ENTIRE cross that Jesus died on standing in my backyard it would not do me any good.
“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.” – John 6:63
“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” – Romans 1:25
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” – John 4:23-24
Only 17 stops remain on the St. Maria Goretti tour. The bones of the revered “saint” continue to make the rounds of American Catholic parishes. “Saint” Maria will be flying back to Italy on November 13th. See my earlier write-up here.
Catholics are taught the veneration of the relics of “saints” will result in blessings and answers to prayer. Of course, there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in Scripture to suggest God desires anyone to pray to dead people’s bones. In contrast, God’s Word distinctly warns against praying to the dead:
“When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?” – Isaiah 18:19
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” Matthew 23:17
Flee from man-made religious traditions and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior.
The Catholic church has announced the body of “saint” Maria Goretti will soon be touring the U.S. There are currently forty-seven tour stops scheduled in 25 Catholic dioceses spanning 18 states.
Maria Goretti was a young, Italian Catholic girl who was fatally stabbed after resisting a rape attempt. She survived long enough to forgive her attacker and died in 1902 at the age of 11. She was canonized in 1950, becoming Catholicism’s youngest “saint.”
Catholicism teaches miracles, favors, and healings are possible through the intercession of a “saint” and the “veneration” of his or her “relics.” Appeals are made to Acts 19:11-12 where handkerchiefs and aprons touched by Paul were used to heal the sick.
Most Evangelicals would consider the Catholic practice of venerating dead bodies or body parts to be unscriptural vestiges of medieval superstition. Why not go directly to the Lord for all spiritual and physical needs? But the Catholic system is based precisely on the mediation of the church – through its priests, sacraments, saints, Mary, etc., etc. Catholics are taught the church is the channel of God’s sacramental grace and they must then “cooperate” with that grace in order to merit their salvation.
Maria Goretti is very popular among Catholics these days and the church venerates her as the “Patroness of Mercy,” “Patroness of Purity,” and “Model of Chastity.” But not everyone agrees that Maria is a helpful role-model for women. Women’s advocates deplore the clerical misogynist concept popularized by the Maria Goretti legacy that death is a more honorable alternative than the “loss of sexual purity.”
I’m so grateful to the Lord that He freed me from the chains of Catholic ritual, superstition, and legalism. Praise the Lord for salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ ALONE! The ONLY purity I can boast about is the purity of Jesus Christ, my sinless Lord and Savior.
Above: “Saint” Maria Goretti with compulsory “halo.”
Some Catholics visiting Maria’s “relics” normally displayed in a basilica south of Rome mistakenly believe her body is “incorruptible” like some other “saints.” But what they see is a wax statue containing the majority of her bones. Her right arm, the most treasured “relic” because it was used to “defend her purity,” was given to the church of her small hometown.
“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” – Romans 1:25.
“As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.” – Acts 10:25-26.