“Faith is physical,” whispered Father Fergus, a Franciscan monk, as he looks over the sanctuary of the Holy Sepulcher Church in Jerusalem. Below were the faithful, shuffling in a ritual circle.
The grotto at the core of this church, thick with incense and prayers, is believed to be the site of Jesus’s crucifixion and burial. After His death, the Apostles traveled to share the gospel; two thousand years later, pilgrims track their footsteps, haunting the caves where the Apostles met in secret to share their rebellious religion. Over 200,000 people a year trace the Way of St. James across France and Spain.
Bus loads of the devout visit the shore in southern India where St. Thomas first landed to convert early Brahmans. People wait in line for hours to glimpse the room where Mother Mary ended her days. That the faithful find crumbled remains and a possibly apocryphal story of ancient presence does not deter them. Did Apostles walk here? Is this relic St. Thomas’s finger bone, Mary Magdalene’s skull? It doesn’t matter. The objects and places are made sacred by the presence of those who believe.
Faith is physical.