Response to relic of St. Francis Xavier proves young faith is strong


National Post, 12 January 2018

It should not surprise that when important relics from Christian history are taken on pilgrimage, the response is both numerically impressive and profoundly moving

The relics of holy people — parts of the body after death, items used during life — are a fundamental part of mankind’s religious imagination. One of the world’s most remarkable Christian relics, the right forearm and hand of St. Francis Xavier, the great 16th-century Jesuit missionary, is on a pilgrimage across Canada this month.

We hosted the relic in Kingston, Ont., this week, with thousands venerating the relic in our cathedral, after the students at the chaplaincy on campus completed an all-night prayer vigil in the presence of the relic. No doubt the enormous number that came by day were the fruit of the prayer by night.

English Canada’s religious culture is largely shaped by a Protestantism that does not emphasize the relics of the saints. In a secular culture that does not recognize saints, their relics hold no interest.

But it is humanly impossible for a culture to exist without relics.

Even those who turn murderously against God need their relics. The communists drenched the soil of Russia with the blood of tens of thousands of priests, burned their churches and attempted to abolish their faith, only to install in the Kremlin their own unholy sepulchre, with Vladimir Lenin still on display for his dwindling faithful. The real holy sepulchre in Jerusalem is, of course, empty, which makes all the difference.

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