This actually is a tongue-in-cheek story.
Relics believed by Catholic worshippers to be part of the skin from the cheek and two ribs of an Italian saint who founded the Franciscan order are heading to the Bronx.
The relics of St. Anthony of Padua are making the journey from Italy as part of a mission of Franciscan Friars Mario Conte and Ciprian Sava. Conte is the editor of The Messenger, a Franciscan magazine. Sava is the editor of the Romanian edition of the same publication.
The friars are coming to the tri-state area in honor of the 750th anniversary of the discovery of St. Anthony’s relics by St. Bonaventure. The relics, normally housed in the Pontifical Basilica of Saint Anthony in Padova, Italy, also include what worshippers believe is the tongue of the saint (which will not be making the trip).
They will be on display at a public veneration service in the Bronx at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21 inside St. Adalbert Church, next door to St. Crispin Friary, at 420 E. 156 St. in Melrose.
“Relics direct us towards God himself; it is he who, by the power of his grace, grants to weak human beings the courage to bear witness to him before the world,” said Pope Benedict XVI. “By inviting us to venerate the mortal remains of the martyrs and saints, the church does not forget that, in the end, these are indeed just human bones, but they are bones that belonged to individuals touched by the living power of God.”
St. Adalbert’s was chosen to display the relics because it is part of a Franciscan Friary that runs the St. Anthony Shelter, a six-story homeless shelter and soup kitchen, said Tom Miscatello, of the Franciscan Friars of the Athonian Association & Messenger of St. Anthony in Elmhurst, Queens.
“They were greatly pleased to know that they were going to a place where St. Anthony’s name was part of homeless shelter,” he said of Conte and Sava.
As part of the veneration service, there will be a holy mass, as well as a presentation of a biblical passion play “dialogue” between St. Anthony and a tyrant called Ezzelino, he said.
The cheek skin relic will be in a gold bust of St. Anthony, and the “floating” or upper, front-ribs, should be displayed correctly on the altar. Those in attendance will not only be able to observe but possibly also be able to touch the relics.
“We all know that they are simply a fossilized part of Anthony’s body, but at the same time, they are a concrete bridge, a link of love, between you and St. Anthony,” said Conte.
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3393