I AM TOUCHING THE SAINT
Fr. Luciano Pescatore comes from Apula. At present he is a parish priest in a church in Montenero di Bisaccia (the region of Molise). He has an unusual profession – he prepares relics of the beatified and saints, among the others, of John Paul II.
ALEKSANDRA ZAPOTOCZNY: – What does one feel during preparations of relics?
FR. LUCIANO PESCATORE: – This is a moment when I always light a candle and a do a cross sign, and for a while I meditate and reflect on what holiness is. It is so every time, as at this moment I have a contact with the saints. First I bless a reliquary into which I am supposed to put relics and then the prepared whole. I say a prayer through the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima and John Paul II, as blessing of the reliquary is planned. When I am preparing relics of John Paul II, it seems to me as if I was hugging the very Holy Father and I always feel fear when I am cutting some material stained with the pope’s blood, I am afraid not to destroy it or not to do a harm to the pope.
– How did it happen that Priest began preparing relics?
– When I was a student I often observed a father in the monastery, who prepared relics. I was 24 years old then and when I did not have to take an exam, and wanted to relax, I used to help him. After some time I became a professional in it.
– What are the stages of preparation work of relics of John Paul II?
– I am preparing relics of hair and blood with which the material is stained. This is the robe of the pope, which was stained during the assassination on 13 May 1981. First I prepared a reliquary with a part of the material stained with blood of the time of the pope’s stay in hospital. So, I am cutting this material to put it into small containers for relics and I decorate them. Every time relic must have a seal from wax which proves its authenticity.
– What is essential in preparing the relics?
– What one needs is patience and precision. I remember that on the day of electing Francis a pope, I was preparing relics of a saint woman and when I jumped up in joy, a piece of a small bone part fell out of my hand….Certainly, I kept it as a souvenir of that day. That event showed me that one must always be concentrated. An unusual difficulty appears in the cross – cutting bones or even a body. Also preparing relics of hair requires a lot of effort, as hairs must be arranged and glued one by one, whereas they ‘run away’, so it is difficult to gather them and it needs a lot of time. The ‘tools’ which I use to arrange relics are a toothpick, tweezers, glue, a pin and decorative paper.
– What do decorations accompanying relics mean?
– We want to keep a souvenir which is valuable to us in a specially prepared place. By decorating relics we show our respect to them. A flower can be interpreted as the symbol of the paradise or as the very saint who is such a flower for us.
– What should we remember when looking at a relic?
– A relic cannot become a kind of an amulet, something magic to defend oneself. Observing what appears on websites, that is, various sales of relics, I realize that the Church should teach believers all the time what value relics have and show their essence. As St. Bazyli the Great said, when touching relics of a saint, we participate in God’s grace which is a palpable testimony of God’s presence. Worshipping the saints through their relics, we ask for faith of those great saints. Miracles are done not by the saints but by God. People’s religiousness is strong. People kiss relics, asking the saints for their intercession and the Gospel says about it, by showing us a bleeding woman who wants to touch Jesus’ robe and get healthy. This touch is important for people; however we do not kiss relics but a saint. When I read a book by archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki who wrote that the Holy Father sometimes kissed relics of the saints every day, my heart ‘opened up’ to this news…..
– John Paul II is very dear to Priest…
– When I was a seminary student, I had crisis a few times to reject my road of life. I had three dreams about the Pope. We were sitting together on the roof of a monastery, and he was telling me the sentence a few times: ‘You are exaggerating, you are exaggerating’. Certainly, it was my imagination. Today, preparing his relics, I am happy that I can be so close to him.
I had an occasion to participate in the Holy Mass in a private chapel, still being a student. It was just before Christmas, on 23 December 1996. I remember his look which was penetrating the inside of the soul. During his whole pontificate what impressed me was his steadfast faith and how he was experiencing his suffering. They compose the greatness of this pope….I have a cuff of a shirt of John Paul II, I always keep it in a breviary. I received this souvenir when the Pope was still alive, and I could worship him during his life. One becomes a saint not on the day of his death but when still being alive.
The interview comes from the publication: ‘Forbidden relics? Unusual souvenirs of Christianity’ (Publishing House of St. Stanisław BM, Kraków 2016), which was presented during the 20th International Books Fair in Kraków: 27-30 October 2016.