Relics of Pope John Paul II, Other Saints Stored at Reliquarium in Marikina
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Outside it looks like an ordinary two-storey apartment among rows of similar structures where a middle-class family lives. But once you open the gate, images of saints are displayed at what is supposed to be the garage, including the image of the Blessed Ivan Merz, known as the “Apostle of the Youth.”
The Blessed Ivan Merz Center along Narra St. in Marikina Heights is not a typical apartment or home since it houses the relics of saints and other holy people. The relics are housed inside an air-conditioned room, which has also been converted into a chapel where devotees can visit the relics and pray at the same time.
Among the relics here include a piece of wood made into cross where Jesus Christ was nailed, bones of St. John Paul II, pieces of hair of Mother Theresa, among others.
“We have more than one thousand relics here,” said Kevin Ison, administrator of the reliquarium known as the Blessed Ivan Merz Center in an interview inside the chapel.
“Some of these relics were from Rome, ang iba ay galing sa mga nagsarang monasteryo at simbahan na ibinigay dito imbis na mapunta sa mga antique shops at private collectors.”
The center writes the administrators of those monasteries and churches that are about to be closed and ask for the relics to be donated here. Others just send the relics over to the center here in Marikina.
First Class Relics
“Kami ang sumusulat sa kanila para hingin ang mga relics. Malalaman naman namin kung sino ang mga magsasara na monasteries at churches. Iyong iba, sila na mismo ang naka-discover sa amin through their contacts in Rome. So sila na ang nagpapadala ng relics para mapangalagaan namin dito,” Kevin added.
Kevin said there are three types or orders of relics, human parts and objects that have direct association with saints and Jesus Christ. The first type is known as first class relics. These are the parts of the body of the saints such as bones, hairs, blood. The second type is called second class relics referring to objects or items used by these holy people such as clothes, chairs, books. The third type is known as third class relics, which are objects touched to a first or second class relics.
“Halos lahat ng nandito sa center ay mga first class relics. Mga bahagi ng katawan tulad ng buto, buhok at dugo,” said Kevin.
The Center for the Blessed Ivan Merz was established in the Philippines 15 years ago. It used to be just an office whose primary aim was to promote Blessed Ivan Merz and to tour the relics on its possession. There was no chapel then.
When people began asking where they could visit the relics when they were not on tour, the administrators decided to put up the Blessed Ivan Merz Center first on Araneta Avenue, which was later moved to its present address in Marikina Heights in Marikina City beginning the fourth quarter of 2017.
The house where the center is currently located was donated by the parents of one of the administrators, said Kevin.
“Mga fourth quarter last year, we decided na lumipat na dito sa Marikina. Una, wala ng rent na babayaran. Itong building ay owned by the parents ng kasama namin. His parents decided to give this to the Ivan Merz Center,” he said.
The center and reliquarium was formally opened on March 3 this year. It was blessed by Bishop Francis de Leon, he said.
Apostle of the Youth
But who is Blessed Ivan Merz?
Surprisingly, he was not a priest.
Kevin said he was a Croatian and used to be soldier who fought during the First World War. After the war, he studied in Vienna and in Paris and then taught French language and literature at the University of Zagreb, where he received his doctorate in Philosophy. He remained a layman but took a perpetual vow of chastity and devoted his free time to the Church. He taught, spoke and wrote to evangelize young Croatians.
The Blessed Ivan Merzh, who died on May 10, 1928 at the age of 32, worked for liturgical renewal and helped institute Catholic Action in Croatia. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on June 23, 2003 and declared him as the Apostle of the Youth.
In the Philippines, he was discovered by Dave Dela Cruz, who was then a student of liturgy, when he was doing a research.
“One of his research papers was about Blessed Ivan. Wala siyang makitang documents on liturgy na sinulat ng isang layman at hindi pari. Si Blessed Ivan lang ang may liturgy ng simbahan na hindi pari, na hindi seminarista,” said Kevin.
After doing his research, Dave, who is now the director and vice postulator of the center, communicated with people in Croatia, where he was invited to visit. Then he went to Rome to study further. It was in Rome where he met people who later on donated relics to the Philippines. When he came back to the Philippines, he helped put up the center.
The center holds healing masses every second Saturday of the month at 5pm. Its chapel is also open to those who want to visit and venerate the relics as well as to pray.
The center also sells religious items such as rosaries, images of saints, incense, vestments for priests to raise funds.
For those who want to visit the Blessed Ivan Merz Center, it is located at Unit 2 Grand Villas Executive Homes, No. 79 Narra St., Marikina Heights in Marikina City. You can call its mobile number +639-561-253-804. The center is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 7pm. It is closed on Mondays.
Check out its Facebook page at -- https://www.facebook.com/ivanmerzcenter/
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