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The relic pilgrimage is a gift for the Church in Canada at the close of our 150th anniversary year, bringing the famous relic of St. Francis Xavier to North America for the first time in generations. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to venerate the incorrupt first class relic of one of the greatest missionaries and evangelists since St. Paul the Apostle.

We anticipate three particular extraordinary graces in this pilgrimage, all related to the charisms of St. Francis Xavier: (1) conversion of souls; (2) the raising up of missionary disciples who are abandoned to God’s will; and (3) healing. Our prayer is that—through this relic pilgrimage—you will have the unique opportunity to personally encounter the tender heart of Jesus.

The Archdiocese of Ottawa, the Jesuits in Canada and Catholic Christian Outreach are collaborating to deliver this incredible opportunity to all Canadians. We’ve partnered so that many people will have the chance to encounter Jesus and be inspired to work together for the renewal of the world. There will be events in 14 Canadian cities throughout January. The public page for pilgrimage details is cco.ca/relic.

 

Schedule

This relic pilgrimage will visit 14 cities across Canada, where the relic will be available for veneration.  

January 03Québec City
January 05St John's
January 07Halifax
January 08Antigonish
January 10Kingston
January 12-14Toronto
January 16Winnipeg
January 18Saskatoon
January 20Regina
January 21-22Calgary
January 24-25Vancouver
January 27Victoria
January 29-30Montréal
February 01-03Ottawa

 

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Introduction to St. Francis Xavier

St. Francis Xavier is considered by many to be the greatest evangelizer since St. Paul. St. Francis Xavier was born in 1506 into Spanish nobility. In 1525, he went to study at the University of Paris where he excelled as an athlete and was very popular among his peers.

His roommate was the older St. Ignatius Loyola, whom he initially despised but who eventually became his mentor in faith. St. Ignatius facilitated St. Francis Xavier’s deeper conversion and his call to the priesthood. They, and a handful of friends, were inspired to found a new religious order: the Society of Jesus.

In 1540, at a moment’s notice, St. Francis Xavier was asked to replace another Jesuit on mission to Asia. He did not hesitate to follow God’s will. He had a charism of languages and could miraculously converse in the native language of those to whom he went. It was important to him that local disciples were raised up and equipped to continue ministering and evangelizing others in the region.

On December 3, 1552, St. Francis Xavier died in Shangchuan Island, within sight of his next mission, mainland China. He was only 46 years old.

 

What is significant about this relic?

This relic is the right forearm and hand of St. Francis Xavier. It is estimated he baptized more than 100,000 people with this arm. This relic remains in a reliquary in Rome at the Jesuit mother church, the Church of the Gesù. The remainder of his body is entombed in Goa, India.

His arm, as well as the rest of his body, is incorrupt. Saints are referred to as incorrupt when their body, miraculously, does not experience natural decay. It has been 465 years since his death.

Why venerate relics?

The veneration of relics is a longstanding practice inside and outside the Catholic Church. Within Christianity, the practice rests on the belief that God came to humanity in the flesh, namely in the physical person of Jesus of Nazareth. Important sacraments of the faith also include water, wine and bread—physical elements that take on spiritual, supernatural value and characteristics. Similarly, the relics of saints provide for a tangible experience of God’s graces. As well, Catholics believe that saints can intercede for humanity, given their proximity to God in what is commonly referred to as the “Communion of Saints” or the Mystical Body of Christ.

There are analogies to this in our human experience. When we have lost a loved one, going to their places and touching their favourite things evoke reverence, affection and connection to them.

The relics of saints provide an incarnational experience of God’s graces. As Catholics, we believe that, in the Communion of Saints, we can turn to the saints to pray on our behalf. There are various levels of relics:

  1. Body/bones of a saint (first class)
  2. Objects/clothing that belonged to a saint (second class)
  3. Objects that touch a first-class relic (third class)

Relics, in a tangible way, provide an opportunity for a special connection with that saint because their body matters to God and someday will be reunited with their soul.

We do not worship, we do not adore, for fear that we should bow down to the creature rather than to the Creator, but we venerate the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore Him whose martyrs they are.”
—St. Jerome

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Media Contact/ Information:

For images, interviews or additional facts or insights related to the relics, please contact Vicki McEachern at vicki.mceachern@cco.ca or 613 736 1999.