St. John Paul II Parish in Lake View received a first class relic of their patron, the 264th pope. The parish held a special Mass to install the relic on May 3. The small drop of blood will be on permanent display in the vigil chapel room for veneration.
"John Paul lived in many of our lifetimes," said Father Peter Karalus, pastor, during the Mass. "I remember as a Catholic schoolboy at St. John Kanty, a strong Polish community, the day that John Paul was elected, the first non-Italian elected pope, let alone a Pole. That community was never the same."
The previous week during an orientation for parishioners, one nugget of information discovered was that the first Mass on their worship site, then Our Lady of Perpetual Help, was celebrated on Oct. 22, 1922. Oct. 22 would later become St. John Paul's feast day. "I don't know if that's coincidence. I call it the Holy Spirit," said Father Karalus.
First class relics are the physical remains of a Catholic saint, usually a drop of blood, lock of hair or bone fragment. They cannot be bought or sold, but can be requested from the custodian of the saint, who could be the promoter of the cause or local bishop. Basically, you have to know a guy.
St. John Paul II Parish received its relic after a conversation between Father Karalus and Father Joseph Kloss, when he served as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Bowmansville. Father Karalus spoke at a Sacred Heart novena in Bowmansville a couple years ago, and Father Kloss offered to pick up a relic during a pilgrimage to Poland. Father Karalus has an official Vatican document indicating that it is an authentic relic.
"I believe it's the blood that they probably withdrew from John Paul when he was ill in the weeks before he died. Supposedly the story is, in case he needed a transfusion they withdrew some blood. Obviously, he passed away, so they had the blood for relics," Father Karalus said.
The relic had been used during feast days, but was not on permanent display until a proper reliquary could be found. A Polish artist designed the shrine that depicts John Paul's hands, papal cross and coat of arms. Swiatek Studios created a relief sculpture of John Paul that now serves as a backdrop for the reliquery.
Father Karalus explained his feelings on the reverence Catholics place on the blood and bones of saints. It proves that a high level of holiness can be obtained by everyone in these modern times.
"It reminds us that saints are human, that saints are flesh and bone. With great faith they have been able to achieve heaven. It's a goal for all of us. We're just like them. We're human just like John Paul was, like St. Peter and St. Francis. It reminds us that saints are not these angelic figures, but that they were men and women who had the same struggles with sinfulness, issues of faith, and the Church has found these people to be holy and we declare them to be saints in heaven," he said. "I think we have this image of saints being these people who walked on clouds. No, they're humans."
Having seen St. John Paul II hosting several World Youth Days and meeting him in a private audience in May 2003, Father Karalus holds the first Polish pope in high regard.
"I'm a priest of the John Paul II generation," he said. "I was in grade school when John Paul was elected pope and I was ordained a priest when he was still the pope, so he has been that voice of faith, that witness of discipleship. You can say, yes, John Paul was the bishop of Rome and pope, but he was also a priest. He was part of my inspiration to hear that call to priesthood. I look back and think of the courageous voice that John Paul was in being a voice for life, being a voice that led us to the third millennium, being that voice that was not afraid to combat communism. I don't think of the John Paul that was sick. I think of a John Paul who was young and robust and vibrant and courageous and clear calling the Church to holiness."