SEATTLE - Thousands of people visited St. Benedict Church in Seattle March 9 to venerate a major relic of St. John Vianney’s incorrupt heart, part of a U.S. tour organized by the Knights of Columbus.
The day at the Wallingford parish began at 9 a.m. with Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg celebrating a Mass that was attended by more than 400 people, said Marti Lundberg, St. Benedict’s pastoral coordinator.
“It was standing room only,” she said.
Lundberg estimated that more than 3,000 people visited the relic throughout the day, with the line of people wanting to pray in front of the relic stretching from the front of the church to the back.
Communal prayers offered during the day included the Liturgy of the Hours, the rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet. The relic was available until 9 p.m.
The tour of the relic began in November 2018, with St. Benedict Church among the 87 stops being made before the pilgrimage concludes in May 2019.
St. John Vianney is the patron saint of priests, and St. Benedict’s hosts Vianney House, where men can live while discerning a vocation to the priesthood, Lundberg explained.
The relic was entrusted to the Knights of Columbus by the St. Jean Vianney Shrine in Ars, France.
The Seattle visit was part of a Pacific Northwest swing that included stops at Mount Angel Abbey in St. Benedict, Oregon, The Grotto and St. Mary’s Cathedral in Portland and Bishop White Seminary and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in Spokane.
What is a relic and why do we venerate them?
A relic is something connected with a saint or blessed, including a part of their body (e.g., hair or a piece of bone), their clothing, or an object that the person used or touched.
The veneration of relics is an ancient custom dating back to the reverence shown at the graves of martyrs beginning in the second century A.D.
Just as people are drawn closer to God through the lives of holy people, so too the Catholic Church believes that God continues his work even after their deaths. Relics remind people of the saints’ holiness and their cooperation in God’s work as the willing instruments through which God accomplishes his will in the world.
Veneration of relics is intended to inspire the faithful to seek the prayers of that saint and to beg, by God’s grace, to live similarly faith-filled lives. It is also a profession of belief in the Catholic doctrines of eternal life, the resurrection of the body, reverence for the bodies of the living and the dead, the special intercessory power of saints, and the communion of saints.