Celebrate Saint Marcellus
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
One of the really wacky and cool things that Catholics do that sets them apart from other Christians is that they venerate the actual bones of saints. Emphasizing the physicality of the body of the saint reminds the community that the glory of God is not beyond history, but among us and ever present in the lives of those around us. Veneration of relics, as the bones are called, is part of a tradition which dates back to the early days of Catholicism.
Beginning in the second century, Eucharist was celebrated at the graves of martyrs on their feast days. Eventually churches were built over the graves of martyrs and from this practice the tradition of placing relics beneath a church's altar emerged. By the sixth century martyrs' bones were required to be placed in the altar stone.
In 1847, Father Sorin arranged to have the bones of Saint Marcellus sent to Notre Dame for the altar stone in the Bascillica. Marcellus, a Roman centurion, was martyred in 298 A.D. for refusing to worship the false gods of the Empire. At the emperor's birthday party, he refused to participate in offering sacrifices to the gods and threw down his military arms in front of the Legion. "I serve Jesus Christ the everlasting King," he said. "If such be the conditions of service that men are compelled to sacrifice to the gods and emperors, then behold, I throw away the staff and belt; I renounce the standards and refuse to serve."
While imprisoned, he was interrogated by his commander regarding the reason for his rebellion. Marcellus answered him, "I am a Christian, and I am unable to adhere to the military oath of allegiance, but rather serve Jesus Christ, the Son of the almighty God the Father."
Marcellus was executed for his resistance on Oct. 30th, 1,701 years ago. Today, there will be a memorial mass to celebrate the life and death of Saint Marcellus at 5:15 in the Basillica with Rev. Michael J. Baxter, C.S.C. presiding. We gather to remember the corageous life of a man who said, "It is not fitting for a Christian man who serves Christ the Lord to serve human powers." We gather to remind ourselves of the times when we have put human powers above our God, and to recommit ourselves to live our lives as if Christ were truly king.
October 28, 1999
All Viewpoint Stories for Friday, October 29, 1999