All Saints Feature: Saints in Rome and Beyond by Fr. Dan Thelen

Sister JulieAnn Sheahan

October 30, 2023

As we celebrate All Saints feast, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity spotlight Fr. Dan Thelen’s book Saints in Rome and Beyond. Father is a priest for the Diocese of La Crosse and is pastor of St. John Parish, Marshfield, Wisconsin. Fr. Thelen is also on the team for Chalice of Mercy, a Catholic mission to Ukraine.

“Within Christian tradition the veneration of relics has happened quite naturally. From the first few moments of Christian history, as the three Marys looked on with surprise upon the empty tomb of Christ, to the most recent martyr, who in their own way suffers and joins him or herself to Christ’s passion, the church has always shown a great desire to provide special dignity to the dead and proper veneration and respect for their remains. The Liturgy in a special way unites the most august celebration of the Eucharist with the memorials of the saints. This not only reflects the eternal union that Christ desires for each of us in heaven but it also expresses the incredible love that God has for his creation. This work attempts to tap into this marvelous reality. By focusing primarily upon the saints of the Roman Catholic Liturgical Calendar it is hoped that the pilgrim may in a unique way participate in the Divine Liturgy by visiting the shrines of the saints on their feast days.” Purchase the book here.

What led you to write a book on Saints?

“During my formation in Rome from 2011-2015 I was inspired by the opportunity to pray in the same churches and walk on the same streets as the saints. The book came from a desire to help fellow pilgrims connect with the lives of the saints while on visit to Rome. It was my goal also to highlight the saints from the Roman Calendar, thus allowing the reader to better know the saints celebrated throughout the liturgical year.”

Who do you consider to be the most honored Saints of Rome?

“I would say St Peter and St Paul are the most honored in Rome. However, I have a special fondness for St Lawrence, as this is my middle name. The Romans have many sites and churches honoring St Lawrence as he is also greatly beloved.”

How did the practice of relics come about in your own life?

“I personally had a special grace with a relic while on retreat in Winona, MN. This unanticipated grace planted within me a devotion to the saints and to relics. The very bone fragment that is honored in a reliquary will one day be in the presence of God following the Parousia. Material items such as oil, bread, and wine are used by God to communicate supernatural realities, he does something similar through relics.”

What is the purpose of relics?

“Relics in my opinion and supported by church teaching are meant for public veneration. Relics are a gift to all generations. Relics are a touchpoint with a saint. Saints have conformed themselves to Christ. Through relics God continues to communicate grace to his faithful. Relics speak strongly to the body-soul unity, a unity which is temporarily severed by death, but meant to be re-united fully for all eternity.”

Why are the Saints important in our lives especially as one discerns one’s call from God?

“Saints have conformed themselves to an image of Christ. Every saint is unique, but every saint is also a model of Christ. Saints are also approachable. Holiness is not a separation from others but a separation from sin. Saints are so close to us. They pray for us and intercede for us. They show us the path to Christ.”

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