In the Middle Ages, so many churches claimed to have a piece of the True Cross that John Calvin is famously said to have remarked:
"There is no abbey so poor as not to have a specimen. In brief, if all the pieces that could be found were collected together, they would make a big ship-load. Yet the Gospel testifies that a single man was able to carry it."
In Mémoire sur les instruments de la Passion, Charles Rohault de Fleury responded with this 1870 study of these relics. He drew up a catalog of all known relics of the True Cross and measured them. He also calculated the volume of the True Cross as 0.178 cubic meters. So when he put it together, he had only 0.004 cubic meters, leaving a volume of .0174 cubic meters unaccounted for.
I took the piece to Tom Koley to examine it.
Tom is the owner of Koley's, a family business that has made church metalware and altarware since 1919. I explained that St. Columbkille has this, piece and I'd like to open it up and get a better sense of it.
Tom said, "So you want me to open this?"
"Yes," I replied.
Tom turned it over in his hands as he examined it. Looking up he asked, "So you want me to open it?"
"Yes," I answered.
Tom continued to examine it. Then he looked at me tensely and asked, "So you would like me to open this up?"
"Yes," I replied a third time and wondered if he would continue to ask.
He said, this looks much more like it should. While the large container looks very new, the container inside looks much older. He explained that the loop on the top shows that this was originally made to be on a chain and worn around the neck.
As Tom looked at the back he saw "820" stamped on the back. First of all, that means that the holder was made of 820 parts per thousand of sterling silver. Secondly, that tells us that it was made in Europe where that is the standard. (900 parts per thousand is the standard in the United States.)
Tom removed the back of that to show the wax seal and the "red strings."
The wax is sealed by the Cardinal who acknowledged the authenticity of this relic. It also covers some delicate red strings. Because they are delicate, if any of them are broken, the Church would no longer attest that it really is authentic.
I brought the relic to the next Pastoral Council meeting and told them what I had discovered. The Pastoral Council has recommended that this relic of the True Cross, as well as a relic of St. Columbkille, be placed in a display box and installed in the Adoration Chapel. We'll be looking to do that sometime after the parish completes our Source and Summit Campaign.