Traveling with the saints: Local priest delights in unique, powerful ministry (VIDEO)

Fr. Carlos Martins' 'Treasures of the Church' ministry brings more than 160 sacred relics to parishes, schools for veneration

WAYNE — Fr. Carlos Martins, CC, spends more days traveling than he does at his home base in Detroit. 

In the past 12 months, Fr. Martins spent time in 10 countries. In 2015, he visited 54 cities in a span of just 55 days. He does it all to help people around the world encounter Christ through the relics of the saints with his ministry, Treasures of the Church.

“My suitcase always stays packed,” said Fr. Martins, a priest with the Companions of the Cross, a religious order at St. Scholastica Parish in Detroit. “But I’m a blessed individual because I get to do what I love. It’s demanding and it’s intense, but I’m exceptionally happy to be doing it.”

Treasures of the Church is a ministry of evangelization that brings Church relics to parishes around the country and the world, allowing those who might not otherwise have the chance to encounter the sacred relics of the saints. Along with first- and second-class relics of the saints, the Treasures of the Church collection includes one of the largest certified relics of the True Cross and a piece of Our Lady’s veil.

Families venerate relics as part of a Treasures of the Church exposition in this file photo. The exhibit recently stopped at two churches in the Archdiocese of Detroit, where Fr. Carlos Martins, CC, the ministry's director, is based. (Photos courtesy of Treasures of the Church)

More than 160 relics are in Fr. Martins’ custody, some of which are housed with the Holy See in Rome, and others of which have been donated to the ministry for the sake of Christian outreach. Fr. Martins obtains the relics, catalogs and prepares them for display, and repairs and reissues them as needed. He also issues relics for encasement in altars at Catholic churches.

As an atheist-turned-Catholic, Fr. Martins never imagined he would spend his days teaching people about the saints. Shortly after his conversion as an undergraduate student and his initiation into the Church, he went on a pilgrimage to Rome, where he became interested in the holy objects, given their direct association with the saints or with Jesus while on earth. 

After becoming a priest, he sought permission to begin his ministry with Treasures of the Church.

Parish pastors may request an exposition of the relics, which begins with a presentation by Fr. Martins explaining the three classes of relics and how Catholics can encounter Christ in them. After his talk, attendees are invited to venerate the relics, or simply to pray in front of those with which they feel a personal connection. 

Fr. Carlos Martins, CC, is director of Treasures of the Church.
A woman prays in front of a fragment of the veil of the Blessed Virgin Mary during an exposition of Treasures of the Church.

Relics are classified in three categories. A first-class relic is the body of a saint or fragments of bone or flesh. Second-class relics are artifacts that had close contact with the saints or with Jesus (such as an article of clothing or book). Third-class relics are items that are known to have touched a saint or have touched a first- or second-class relic. Many churches have relics built into the altar or displayed for veneration. 

After nearly every exposition, Fr. Martins says he hears from people who experienced physical healings or conversions of faith after encountering the relics. 

“Every time relics are mentioned in Scripture, there’s always a healing. Touch is the way healing comes about,” Fr. Martins said. “It’s not because the relics are ‘magic’ or because they’re powerful on their own, but because God likes to heal in the presence of relics because he’s proud of his saints. He likes to draw attention to his saints, as a parent likes to do with their children.”

Fr. Martins invites attendees to “walk with the saints” as they make their way around the tables that hold the reliquaries (the vessels that hold each relic). He invites them to find the saint who is calling to them and ask for that saint’s intercession.

“Some people experience something dramatic when they are with the relics, and others don’t, but all will experience God in a different way than they ever have before,” said Fr. Martins.

To inquire about an exposition of Treasures at the Church, to host sacred relics at your parish or to see a schedule of upcoming expositions, visit