Thousands of Calgary’s faithful flocked to St. Albert the Great Church in McKenzie Towne on Sunday for the rare opportunity to see a 465-year-old relic.
Devotees shed tears and prayed as they lined up for the opportunity to touch the glass encasing the arm of St. Francis Xavier, a missionary that blessed thousands around the world in the 1500s.
Dynae Stamp said she was thankful for the opportunity to share this experience with her two young daughters.
“It just makes it so real. This person existed and shared his love for God all over the world,” she said.
The canonized saint’s forearm has been making its way across Canada, although it’s usually on display in Rome. The rest of the saint’s body is entombed in Goa, India.
Father John O’Brien is a member of the Society of Jesus, the same order that St. Francis belonged to.
“For Catholics, our spirituality is very physical, very tangible,” he said, explaining that the veneration of relics is a concrete way for devotees to experience their faith, like the sacraments of holy water, or the wine and bread of communion.
Calgary is the fourth city he’s visited with the relic.
“It’s very inspiring to say the least, I’m moved at every city,” he said.
Calgary’s Bishop William McGratten said he was heartened to see so many young people at the event.
He said it’s incredible that in a way, the saint is still on a mission nearly half-a-millennium later.
“He sort of represents this missionary spirit or impulse that Pope Francis is calling for,” he said.
“That’s what St. Francis Xavier did, not without many struggles and obstacles. We all face these adversaries, these struggles in our life and in our faith.”
The forearm will be on display again on Monday at the St. Michael Catholic Community Church from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m., before it makes its way to Vancouver.