A LOST relic of St Edmund of Abingdon has been returned to Sacred Heart Parish, Croydon.
A Pontifical Mass was celebrated for the return and deposition of the first-class relic of St Edmund into a reliquary at Sacred Heart Church on Friday 1 November, the Solemnity of All Saints.
Bishop Peter Elliott concelebrated the Mass with Sacred Heart parish priest Fr Len Size, Fr Paddy Duggan (former parish priest of St Edmund’s) and Fr Peter Robinson (former parish priest of St Francis de Sales’). Assistant priest Fr Simon Grainger was master of ceremonies.
In his homily, Bishop Elliott shared how the relic, a piece of bone extracted from St Edmund’s forearm, was kept at St Edmund’s Church, Croydon, but was removed and nearly lost forever when the church was demolished in the 1990s.
The relic was donated to the parish by Lord Lewis Clifford, 12th Baron of Chudleigh, Devon, who lived in Wonga Park with his Australian-born wife Mary Knox, and died in 1964.
Lord Clifford’s ancestors were ‘Recusants’ or ‘Papists’, meaning they remained Catholics and refused to conform to the Church of England after the Reformation, despite the threat of persecution and death for practising the Catholic faith.
Bishop Elliott said the Recusants cherished the relics of saints and martyrs, and carefully preserved relics or rescued them from desecration.
‘This explains why the Cliffords had the relic of St Edmund in their care. It is believed to have been retrieved from his tomb in the Abbey of Pontigny, France, when it was opened in 1849,’ he said.
‘However, this relic which came to rest in St Edmund’s Church was removed when the church was demolished and replaced by this new church of the Sacred Heart. The relic was lost and nearly discarded, but by divine providence and, I believe, through the prayers of the saint, it was retrieved and identified.’
Bishop Elliott explained to the congregation that relics ‘intensify our awareness of the communion of saints’.
‘They help us remember heroic Christians with gratitude. They help us to strengthen our faith through following the example of a saint. These sacred fragments from a past earthly life help us to look forward in hope of an eternal life.’
He said he hoped Sacred Heart Parish would honour St Edmund of Abingdon’s feast day on 16 November each year and that ‘his relic will be accorded reverence and respect in the years to come’.
Story: Rebecca Comini, Kairos Catholic Journal