The article of the month

The Communion of Saints by Father James M. Sullivan, o.p.

Pilgrimage to Saint Peters Basilica


The relics of the saints have always occupied a prominent place in the life of the Church. Somehow their tangibility reminds us of our spirituality, that this world will end and even that the next world will never end. As one might imagine, Saint Peter’s Basilica possesses a vast collection of relics, and some of these have been there for centuries, long before the present basilica was constructed. Some of the relics are of more recent popes, such as Saint Paul VI, Saint John Paul II, and Saint John XXIII, but also early popes like Saint Leo the Great and Saint Gregory the Great. Under dedicated side altars are also Saint Josaphat, Saint Pius X, Saints Simon and Jude, and, of course, Saint Peter himself, whose tomb is directly beneath the papal altar.

Each November 1, on All Saints’ Day, we are reminded that our call to holiness is answered with both our bodies and our souls. Our veneration of the relic of a saint is meant to form within ourselves a greater desire to serve the Lord with our whole mind, body, soul, and strength. The spirit may be always willing the good, but the flesh is weak and inclined to sin. While the souls of all the saints are truly in heaven, their bodies remain here on earth until that last day when body and soul are reunited forever. We pray for a greater unity within ourselves so that the good we desire is the good we do—all by the grace of God.


Father James M. Sullivan, o.p., is a spiritual director at Saint John’s

Seminary in Brighton, Mass.