Father regularly gets calls about taking on the furnishings of churches that are closing. Sometimes the altars are not usable but they still contain the relics of martyrs. He asked us to convert them to Animensions or Antimens (without table). This relic goes under the altar cloth for Masses that must be offered outside of a church; in homes, on the road, when going on mission trips, when the furnace in the Canadian church isn't working, on the battle front.
Father used red sealing wax, like you would find on the back of a fancy invitation, to encase the relics. They’re about the size of a penny and they have a really nice liturgical seal pressed into the wax. Then Karen sewed these into small pockets and attached them to rectangles of carefully hemstitched linen. Then the linen was saturated with beeswax to protect it, since you shouldn’t run these through the wash when they get soiled. The sealing wax does have a higher melting point than the beeswax so we didn’t run into any problems using a hair dryer to work the beeswax into the linen, but we were careful to not push our luck with it. We melted the wax first in a double boiler and painted it on the linen. Then we placed it on blotter paper and heated it with the hair dryer. It worked like a charm and smelled heavenly.
Because they are meant to go on the road, they needed good envelopes, so we made them out of leather, lined with silk and stiffened with a piece of matboard. We made simple dorset buttons to close them.
I don’t know of any other project we’ve done that has such an overwhelming aura of sacredness to it. We talked more quietly while we worked. Because, martyr. You’re intimately chummed up with someone who gave his or her life for the church, creating a shroud for some of their remains. It was very intense working on these.
Interestingly, as I was downloading these photos I came across a folder of the girl’s pilgrimage photos. It contained shots of one of these in action. It’s nice to see it in use on a joyful occasion – often not the case with these.