Last week on the anniversary of 9/11 I watched a TV program about the World Trade Center. The program focused on the recovery of some personal effects from the ruins that were later returned to the families of some of the victims.
These families had such an unbearable sorrow--and to make it worse in most cases they didn't even have the closure of getting back the bodies of their loved ones. Among the stories was that of Michelle Henrique, a 27-year-old who worked on the 97th floor of one of the towers. She was a Catholic who was involved with her parish church and had run some charity events sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. Her fiancee was planning to propose to her on her birthday that December. Although her body was never found, amazingly her credit card survived and it was brought back to her parents. It was still intact although bent and damaged from the rubble. That credit card was the last link connecting her to her family in her last moments. It's something they will always cherish.
It got me thinking that that's what relics are all about. The Church has always revered the memories of its saints and heroes, and relics are a way of preserving that link. Something that belonged to that person, or a bit of bone preserved from a body, connects us to that person in some way. We don't honor the object itself for what it is, but because it became special in some way since it belonged to someone we love.
Modern-day relics: a credit card, a fireman's helmet salvaged from the rubble, a paper or photo. Some will get put in museums so people not yet born will one day look at them and feel some kind of connection with what happend on 9/11.