REFUGIO – When Helen, the mother of the emperor Constantine, visited Jerusalem in AD 326, she found that many holy sites had been covered with pagan monuments, according to history and archaeology.
Those pagan monuments had stood the previous 180 years, according to the Catholic bishop of Jerusalem, Macarius, and Catholics shied away from these places because of the false idols.
Helen found a marble monument to the pagan goddess Venus over Calvary, where Christ had been crucified.
Helen ordered the pagan monuments torn down and cleared from the holy sites in Jerusalem, including the one over Calvary.
After excavations from the site had been made, three crosses were discovered. They were believed to be the crosses of Jesus Christ, St. Dismas and St. Gestas, who were crucified side by side.
A writing also was discovered—the writing that had been nailed to Christ’s cross. But which cross was His was unknown until a miracle healing happened with one of them.
Since that time, Helen was credited with finding the True Cross of Jesus, according to Catholic tradition.
And small fragments—splinters— of that cross have been spread among Catholic churches throughout the world.
With about 270,200 Catholic parishes over the world, it is without doubt that many of these “splinters,” called relics, are frauds.
But some are authenticated by the Catholic Church, as is the one in Our Lady of Refugio Catholic Church in Refugio.
The True Cross relic in Our Lady of Refuge is inside a monstrance on the altar to the right of the main altar.
The Rev. Philip Panackal, pastor of the church, said the relic is the only one he knows of in the Corpus Christi Diosese.
“Our is the only parish having a relic. If there are any other parishes, let’s see them,” he said.
The relic came with a certificate signed by the Postulator General Bernadine of Siena, Italy.
The relic was brought to Refugio from Rome in 1954.
“It is assumed that the relic was brought here during Monsignor William Oberste’s tenure as Our Lady Of Refuge’s pastor.
Oberste, who traveled a lot, was pastor from 1933 to 1969.
The relic’s certificate in Latin was translated by Father Philip, who said the relic was not shown for the longest time, and it remained in an envelope in the church safe.
But it was placed in the monstrance on Feb. 26.
Father Philip said only on Good Friday is the relic venerated. Veneration means the relic is recognized, respected and revered.
Father Philip likened those who disbelieve in the True Cross relic to Thomas the Apostle’s doubting.
He said the Apostle Thomas sought signs and wonders because he did not believe in the resurrection of Christ.
Quoting John 20:29, Father Philip related the words of Jesus: “Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed. Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.”
Father Philip said a true believer is one who believes in Jesus Christ without any signs or wonders.
But he said Jesus also wanted to see how Thomas and humans could grow spiritually.
He said Jesus was both human and divine.
“He came into the history as a human, but he also is divine. Therefore there will be miracles, signs and wonders,” Father Philip said.
“The relic is the human history side,” he added
“The word of God was made flesh, and He dwelt among us—that was called ‘Christmas.’” Father Philip said.
“There are people who don’t believe the existence of God because they can’t see,” he said.
He said there will be those who do not believe the relic is a fragment of the True Cross, as well.
“Jesus redeemed humankind through His sacrifice. There will be signs and wonders, but you should not expect them,” he said.
However, ironically, you can always expect signs, wonders and miracles because Jesus is divine.
“You cannot deny the existence of God—the stars, the universe and everything: Who created it?” Father Philip asked.
“Everything that we see is a creation of God.”