Today my parish hosted a visit by relics of St. Jude the Apostle. This was my first encounter with a reliquary and I was not sure what to expect. Plans were in place for large crowds, but since it was on display from 1 to 10 pm, I timed my visit for what I presumed to be a lull at 2, presumably after the opening rush of pilgrims had left.
In the event, there was not much of a line, though there were quite a few people there, praying in adoration or awaiting Reconciliation. Thus, my daughter and I were able to move at a steady pace through the improvised lanes in the sanctuary and up to the reliquary itself, which was protected by a glass and wood case.
I was not sure what to expect when I put forth my hand to touch the glass, and I am still struggling to describe the sensation. It was like a chill, but not cold or sharp, nor was it warm. It left my slightly dazed as I touched our household holy water fount to the glass and made my way to a pew to pray and regain my composure. With prayers completed, we left. My daughter said she felt a sense of euphoria and a surge of energy.
When we got home, the "second shift" left with my wife taking another daughter (we were babysitting the grandchildren), and they each felt something different.
As a convert to Catholicism, I found the veneration of relics difficult to accept and more than a little macabre, but as the day approached, I resigned myself to accept the Church's teachings and roll with it. Too many people today consider themselves the final authority on everything, and refuse to humble themselves before the wisdom of their ancestors. I've criticized this before, and did not want to make myself a hypocrite.
I will say that it was meaningful, profoundly spiritual and I am glad I went. I'm beginning to understand why people become pilgrims, seek out holy relics and devote their lives to their study and veneration.