Relic of St. John Baptist de la Salle

This saint is often depicted with “stretched right arm with finger pointing up, instructing two children standing near him”. He died in 1719 and was made a saint by Leo XIII on the 24th of May 1900.

My recent blog reminded me of another interesting relic I saw last year. Around June when I went to see it in Lipa. The relic belongs to San Juan Bautista de La Salle. It’s the saint’s arm bone, sealed in a reliquary adorned with images of bronze angels on each corner.

The French known as the patron saint of all teachers established the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. Its arrival in the country was accorded with military honors which was interesting as there are not that many country that welcomes relics this way.

The teaching congregation St. John started has grown like no other in the world. A good example is the St. Josephs Institute, founded in 1852, one of the oldest educational institution in Singapore (it predates our La Salle University, which was established in 1905). Singapore’s Art Museum has taken over the old baroque chapel and school of the La Sallian brothers. The institution has since moved but has remains as one of the best schools in the country.The La Sallian school in Kuala Lumpur, which I was fortunate to see back in 2010, was established in the early 1900’s. All of these educational institutions are testament to the La Sallian brothers missionary work for education around Asia.

If you’re not Catholic the subject of relics wouldn’t really interest you. You might even find it strange. It really is a Ripley’s Believe it or not encounter for most the people I know. But Catholics always had this tradition. Relics provides that spiritual connection for most of us. The word “relic” came from the Latin reliquiae, literally means, “remains”. In the case for Catholics – that’s bones, flesh and body parts! we really took it to a whole new level!

Relics unfortunately are also being traded over the internet. I checked ebay a few days ago and was shocked to see what Catholics would refer to as first class relics on sale.

Speaking of education, I could only imagine what we would have today if it were not for the religious orders. History for many means great heroes and battles. Religious history, especially its contributions, is often gloss over. In Philippine history, the only mention of the religious and missionaries in standard history text are the stereotypical abusive friars. Which of course, does not do justice, to either their cultural contribution or the religion they bequeathed the nation. Their track record in developing agriculture is among the greatest event in our modern history, and yet it is hardly ever mentioned. Add to this is their contribution in the arts and in education. It was the historian Pio Andrade that advised me “to be cautious in assessing friar history… you might uncover them to be heroes”. I say, that these men deserves a second look – especially for us Catholics – much of what we celebrate and consider Filipino culture was formed and influenced by what they brought to our shores.

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2 responses to “Relic of St. John Baptist de la Salle

  • Bogs

    I did not know that trading/selling of (saints) relics are still going on to this day. They used to do this in the middle ages and even promoted non-saint relics as being the real thing. I guess it’s the same with antique santo images, most specially ivory ones.

    • De AnDA

      Funny. I was checking eBay policies on relics just the other night. They have restrictions. As long as it’s not a human part. Most that I saw were 3rd class types.There’s a black market out there. Like what you said this has been going on for ages. There’s no way this can be controlled. Anyway, amazing is what kind of relics you could find out there. Imagine, a hair from San Judas Thadeus! That’s just incredible, man.

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