This weekend saw a celebration of historic proportions here at the parish: the reinterment of our two saints, Magnus and Bonosa. St. Martin’s has been home to the full skeletal remains of two third century Roman martyrs since 1901. Their resting places – underneath the two side altars in the front of the church – were in need of repair and therefore the relics needed to be moved to complete that work. The opportunity was taken (with appropriate ecclesiastical approbation) to remove them from their reliquary cases and to undertake a study of the relics themselves.
Professor Phillip DiBlasi from the University of Louisville graciously agreed to do the work. His findings were remarkable. He was able to determine such things as approximate age, stature, and ethnicity. He was even able to tell that Bonosa was right handed. His findings were entirely consistent with the story surrounding their identities and martyrdom. While the parish has in its possession the usual ecclesiastical documents associated with relics attesting to their authenticity – and there never existed any doubt as to their authenticity – several fascinating details of their individual lives were able to be discerned by the careful visual inspection of the relics by an archeologist such as Professor DiBlasi, who also did a careful cataloguing of the remains for future posterity. Additionally, under the supervision of parishioner Dr. Michael Macfarlane, the skull of St. Bonosa was transported under close security to one of the downtown hospitals where it was examined by means of a CT scan. It is hoped that sometime in the future this CT scan will allow us to complete a forensic facial reconstruction of St. Bonosa, thus revealing her actual facial appearance. Additional donations of funds will be necessary to complete this task, however.
With the work completed, the task of returning the saints to their resting places in the newly repaired reliquaries remained. This was done on Sunday at the parish’s noon Extraordinary Form Mass. A procession with the relics to the sanctuary was followed by a solemn high Mass and then the reinterment in the side altars. The church was filled to capacity (approximately 750 – 800 people) as both parishioners and curious visitors gathered in the church from far and wide. The parish choir provided the beautiful Mass setting of Josquin’s Missa Pange Lingua, and a special schola formed by alumni of the former St. Thomas Seminary in Louisville provided the beautifully chanted propers. A parishioner, who is an excellent seamstress, completed a new solemn set of vestments in gold for the occasion, and these were used for the first time at the Mass. The same parishioner constructed the new robes that are now used to dress the saints in their reliquaries, and the trims on the new set of vestments match those used on the new robes. Holy cards of the two saints containing third class relics (small pieces of their former robes) were distributed to the faithful, who venerated the relics at the conclusion of the Mass.