The relics of St. Augustine (left) and St. Nicholas of Tolentino were received by Ilocos Diocese on Sept. 15. (Photo courtesy of Ilocos Diocese)
A diocese in the Philippines has received the first-class relics of Augustinian Saints Augustine of Hippo and Nicholas of Tolentino to be venerated by churchgoers in parishes named after them.
Laoag Diocese in Ilocos province, north of Manila, said the revered gifts, which were received on Sept. 15, would be enshrined in Paoay and San Nicolas parishes so that churchgoers would have the chance to see the bone fragments of their patron saints.
It also said the relics came from an anonymous donor.
“These relics date back to 430 AD. These are not easy to obtain, especially since they are first-class relics, meaning they came from the remains of holy people,” the diocese said in a statement.
Relics are objects or remains esteemed and venerated because of their association with saints or holy people. There are three kinds of relics in the Catholic Church.
First-class relics are the physical remains of a saint. Second-class relics are objects owned by saints. Third-class relics are objects that had been in physical contact with first or second-class relics.
Laoag Diocese said churchgoers should feel hopeful amid the coronavirus pandemic because the relics should remind them of the lives of the two saints.
“We have in our midst the sacred remains of Saints Augustine and Nicholas. They did not live an easy or painless life. But their faith did not waver because of God’s divine grace and inspiration,” the diocese said.
St. Augustine was a philosopher and Christian convert who wrote a book titled Confessions, an autobiography of the immoral and sinful life he lived before his conversion.
St, Nicolas of Tolentino was a mystic and pastor who tended the poor and criminals in Italy. It is also believed he received a vision of purgatory.
Laoag Diocese said the relics would remind churchgoers of their Augustinian roots and mission.
“Our diocese was founded by Augustinian friars. That is why many of our parishes were named after Augustinian saints. St. Augustin and St. Nicholas were among them,” said Bishop Renato Mayugba of Laoag.
Bishop Mayugba said the Augustinian presence started in the Philippines as early as 1565 when Spanish explorer Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, representing King Philip II of Spain, arrived on the island of Cebu.
“The Augustinians were the first apostles of the Catholic faith in the Philippines. Augustinian Father Andres de Urdaneta was sent by the king to the Philippines, together with other Augustinians from Mexico,” he said.
Bishop Mayugba said the first church in the Philippines was built by the Augustinians on bamboo stilts.
“Through these bamboo-made churches, many of the natives [Filipinos] were baptized,” he added.
“We have received the faith through the many zealous and holy Augustinians who planted the faith in this land some 500 years ago. Through these sacred relics, may we be reminded that we too have a mission to spread the Gospel in all places.”