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Editor and Contributing Writer

Featured Photograph: A shoulder to shoulder crowd views relics of the Catholic Church on display Monday in the Opelousas Catholic Gymnasium. (Photograph by Freddie Herpin.)

It might seem unusual that a former atheist now travels the world accompanied and displaying the relics of Roman Catholic Saints.

Actually the arrangement is quite the opposite, says Father Carlos Martins, now a Companions of the Cross priest who preaches a message of redemption and forgiveness, which includes a chance for individuals to receive a hands-on experience with his Treasures of the Church Exposition.

Martins told a Monday night audience of about 400 at St. Landry Catholic Church that perhaps the Saints relics’ exposition  which many of them later experienced later at the Opelousas Catholic gymnasium, might eventually help solidify their religious beliefs and remove obstacles impeding their salvation.

Those who wedged onto the gymnasium floor were able to view and handle 155 relics that Church officials have validated once belonged or came in contact with Saints such as John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene, Augustine, Francis Assisi and several popes.

Some of the Catholic Relics on Display at Opelousas Catholic on Monday Evening. (Photograph by Freddie Herpin.)

Also included among the exhibits contained in metal reliquaries were pieces of the cross used to crucify Jesus and remnants from the veil of his mother Mary, Martins said.

Some who viewed the traveling exhibition placed the reliquaries on their foreheads, cradled the vessels with their rosaries, prayer cards and scapulars, while others crossed themselves with the items or kneeled before them in silent prayers.

Items related to the Saints also apparently traveled quickly through cyberspace, as they were often photographed with mobile phones.

In a brief St. Landry Now interview, Martins estimated that he travels 50,000 miles annually across the United State and foreign countries, with the relics boxed in plastic containers and transported usually by van for the next presentation.

Martins said he wasn’t surprised by the large turnout, but he added that it was less than some for some similar relics’ demonstrations he has hosted elsewhere in Louisiana churches.

 Relics presented for viewing Monday night, included fragments from bodies of some saints, and items that were touched or came in close contact with the saints.

Father Neil Petit, pastor of St. Landry Catholic Church, said he had heard of the traveling relics’ experience, but had never seen it firsthand.

“It’s pretty impressive, hearing the stories of all these saints and whose intercessions along with those from the Holy Spirit, speak for themselves. Our turnout here was great,” Petit said during a separate interview.

Petit said the hands-on experience of having individuals view the relics, shows that as the Church documents the Holy Spirit worked through the lives of the saints, that the Holy Spirit can also touch the living believers.

Martins who became a priest after 26 years as an atheist, told those during his lecture inside the Church that he has witnessed a previously paralyzed man walk after the man attended a Treasures of the Church presentation, while in another relics viewing, a young girl showed no signs of her former stomach cancer symptoms.

Displaying the relics publicly Martins said, enables worshippers to see for themselves, what he called the treasures of the church.

Martins said his role with the church is more of an itinerant ministry, which allows him to show others that faith is meant to be a shared experience. The relics Martin said have enabled him to accomplish that aspect of his priesthood for the past 20 years.

The idea of salvation through true forgiveness Martin said is exemplified by the story of Maria Goretti of Italy, who became a Saint in 1950.

Martin recalled Goretti’s story, in which the Church says that she forgave her assailant, a neighbor who fatally stabbed her multiple times after at age 12, she rejected his crude advances.