Catholic saints forever serve as examples of faith. Their lives were rooted in Christ: all that He taught and all that He ultimately sacrificed for the world. As such, history has shown that the saints did the same. 

The relics of these saints and martyrs serve as tangible connections to them. Millions throughout the world revere what they owned and touched. But the actual body parts, known as first-class relics, are held in greatest esteem. 

Thanks to a generous parishioner, the Diocese now holds a first-class relic of the man who, more than anyone, was instrumental in establishing Catholicism in California: St. Junipero Serra. The origins of the Diocese and the foundation of the Catholic way in Orange County are a result of his extraordinary work. St. Serra founded nine of the 21 Catholic missions in what was known as Alta California. One of these, Mission San Juan Capistrano, is home to the Serra Chapel, built in 1783. 

“It’s the only surviving chapel where St. Serra celebrated mass,” says Lesa Truxaw, director of the Diocese’s Office for Worship. “The Mission is obviously a significant place in local Catholic history.” 

The revamped Christ Cathedral’s 14,000-pound stone altar will soon be home to St. Serra’s relic, along with the relics of others. 

“The relics will be placed in the altar during Christ Cathedral’s dedication Mass, just before the altar is anointed,” Truxaw says. (The Mass will be an important element of the Cathedral’s dedication, to take place on July 17.) “Each of the relics will have its own ‘mini-case.’ They’ll all be placed in one cedar box that will be installed in the reliquary attached to the altar. 

“While many churches have relics,” Truxaw adds, “what’s significant about the St. Serra relic is its historical nature, and the fact that we have the relics of martyrs. That’s unusual.” 

Before being permanently placed in Christ Cathedral’s altar, the relics will go on a local pilgrimage to all of the Diocese’s parishes. 

To acknowledge St. Serra’s influence, particularly in Orange County, Bishop Kevin Vann has made St. Serra’s July 1 memorial (Serra’s birthday) “obligatory.” 

“Not all memorials are obligatory,” Truxaw says. “Bishop Vann decided to do this because of the importance of St. Serra in local Catholic history.” 

Full story at OC Catholic.