by Chris Bodenner
A reader sends the above photo:
Here in Philadelphia, we’ve got the entire body of a saint on display. St. John Neumann is not very well-known outside of Philadelphia. He was a Redemptorist priest who became the fourth bishop of Philadelphia and is credited with founding the parochial school system and the Forty Hours devotion. During the canonization process, his body was exhumed from its resting place in the basement of St. Peter the Apostle Church and found to be in excellent condition after nearly 100 years in the ground. The basement of the church was converted into a church and shrine. There’s a side room off of the sanctuary that serves as a mini-museum to St. John Neumann and a gift shop.
I’ve been to the shrine a few times. The entire experience is equal parts fascinating and creepy. I believe in the veneration of saints, but spending time looking at a dead saint’s body feels strange.
Another dead saint:
A relic was actually one of the catalysts for my conversion from Lutheranism to Roman Catholicism. The skeleton of Saint Munditia lies in Old St. Peter’s in Munich, and it is stunning. We simply don’t have stuff like this here – I speak of North America, but particularly of Toronto, where I’m from. I first saw the relic on my first trip to Europe in the late 1990s, and it was part of my broader discovery of the spiritual richness of the Roman church. The old Protestant dig is to disparage Roman Catholicism for the smells and bells, but that’s where my journey of faith was leading me. To me, Lutheranism was dry, untethered to either a rich history (since it seemed Christianity only really began in 1517) or a larger family of faith (since each congregation is essentially independent; when visiting another congregation, you need to pre-clear having Communion with the pastor before the service). Munditia’s relic showed me not only the faith’s ancient roots, but also its physical manifestations. These people in the New Testament – they existed, and you can see their bones. You can see the bones of those who believed so strongly in Christ that they died for it. For me, who grew up in an utterly unadorned and nondescript church, it was a revelation that led to a much deeper faith.
More dead saints and readers’ thoughts on them here.