The Martyr Saints and Beatified Sister of Saint Louis, MO
To kneel there one can only hope to join their ranks someday. Truly awe inspiring.
RELICS OF SEVEN EARLY SAINTS
First-time visitors simply stop and stare, not quite believing what they see. Tucked away in a corner of a chapel are the skeletons of seven saints and martyrs from the earliest days of Christianity. Three of the saints are Romans whose remains are elaborately clothed; they are displayed in glass and wood coffins.
But they are not at some historical church in Europe. They are here. The saints have been under glass for nearly a century at the motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in south St. Louis.
Experts say it is one of the most rare collections of holy relics in the country. Many other shrines contain only small bone fragments of saints, not the entire remains.
The saints may also be one of the best-kept secrets in St. Louis because the chapel is not open to the public. The sisters frequently give tours but only upon request.
St. Aurelia, St. Discolius and St. Nerusia Euticia are the three Roman saints given a full display. The skulls, teeth and separated bones of two other early martyrs, St. Berenice and St. Berisimus, are behind two glass cases on each side of the altar. Behind closed marble doors within the altar are the skulls and bones of two more martyrs, St. Vincent and St. Aurelius. And in five glass niches along the front of the altar are single bones, each of them carefully wrapped in gauze, from 70 other saints.
Aurelia and Discolius were said to be child martyrs originally buried in the Catacombs. St. Nerusia Euticia was a young noblewoman of Rome in the second century, according to documents the sisters obtained from the Vatican. The skeletons of all three are wrapped in gauze, through which the bones can be seen in the hands and feet. They are dressed in blue-and-gold brocade Roman tunics and hair wreaths. They have wax over their faces, which gives them a doll-like appearance.
St. Berisimus is believed to have died at the age of 8 in the Coliseum during the reign of Antoninus Pius. St. Berenice was put to death by the sword. Euticia and Discolius have stone slab tombstones with their names in crudely lettered Latin that are said to have been taken from the Catacombs. The stone slabs hang next to each of their coffins.
How they came here
The story begins in 1861 with the arrival of the body of St. Aurelia. She had been in the private chapel of Pope Pius IX, and she was sent as a gift from the pope to Mother Superior St. John Facemaz. St. Aurelia rests in a glass coffin under the center of the altar. Little is known about her. According to the motherhouse records, she was a child martyr whose body was taken from the Catacombs during the term of Pope Pius IX in the 1800s. The rest of the collection was brought to St. Louis in 1878 by Mother Superior Agatha Guthrie. Mother Agatha, one of the most dynamic and popular leaders in the order's history, also was keenly interested in the lives of the church's martyrs. When she went to Rome on religious business in the fall of 1877, she met an Italian priest who was a friend of Count Nicholas Savorelli Prati, descended from an old Italian family. The Savorelli family had a chapel in Forli, Italy, which contained a rich treasury of relics taken from the Catacombs and given to the family in the early 1800s by Pope Pius VII. That was a time of anti-Catholic sentiment, especially in France, and Pius VII ordered a number of the martyrs' bodies removed for safe-keeping. In fact, the nuns' documents show that most of the martyrs at Carondelet were taken from the Catacombs on orders of Pope Pius VII in 1802 and 1803. Apparently it took some doing, but the Italian priest, Father Pietro Marchionni, convinced Count Savorelli Prati to give nine entire bodies from the chapel to Mother Agatha. When she returned to St. Louis, Mother Agatha gave a martyr's body to each of the order's provincial houses in Los Angeles, St. Paul, Minn., and Albany, N.Y. She kept the remaining six in St. Louis. with St. Aurelia, they make seven.
Relics and the church
Because there have been many cases of fraud involving relics, people might wonder if the saints at Carondelet are for real. The Sisters of St. Joseph think so, and they have the documents from the Vatican as proof.
BLESSED ROSE DUCHESNE
To read about her story.... CLICK HERE!