Skip to comments.Sainted priest’s heart - Thousands await chance to see incorrupt relic
Posted on 10/14/2006 1:30:41 PM PDT by AlaninSA
MERRICK, N.Y. (CNS) More than 5,000 people entered Cure of Ars Church in Merrick Oct. 7-9 to pray before St. John Vianney's heart, and the pastor expected thousands more by Oct. 11, when the incorrupt relic of the sainted 19th-century French priest would end its visit and be taken to Boston.
St. John (Jean-Marie Baptiste) Vianney, who died in 1859, is widely known to Catholics as the Cure (parish priest) of Ars. He won over the hearts of his villagers in France by visiting with them, teaching them about God and reconciling people to the Lord in the confessional.
This was the first time that his heart has been brought to the United States. It is usually kept in the basilica in Ars near the incorrupt miraculously undecayed body of the saint.
Pilgrims who wanted to see the relic waited in a long line leading up to the church entrance. After kneeling before the heart in prayer, many stayed to go to confession. In his life St. John Vianney often heard confessions for 16 to 18 hours a day.
Some of those waiting in line described an overwhelming need to see a real miracle. Others said it was a historic moment. And still others many seminarians and priests came to thank the Cure of Ars, patron saint of parish priests, for answered prayers during times they struggled with their vocation or ministry.
"I came here to see a miracle," said Laura Musto, 46, of St. Mary of the Isle Church in Long Beach, referring to the incorrupt heart. "And we need miracles in today's world."
"I came to see the heart of a saint," said Maria Gilmore, 82, of Sacred Heart Church in North Merrick. "I thought everyone turned to dust but I guess not."
"We came here on a minipilgrimage to be close to his heart, to have a moment of intimacy with the saint," said Charlie Gallagher, 23, a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Washington who was joined by two classmates, Ted Hegnauer and Rick Nichols.
"This relic represents who St. John Vianney was and who we aspire to be. When I kneel before the heart, I will ask St. John Vianney to replace my heart with his heart so I can emulate him," Gallagher told The Long Island Catholic, newspaper of the Rockville Centre Diocese.
Patricia Couglin was surprised when her three grandchildren Kim, 11, Mike, 13, and Peter DeMeo, 16 wanted to venerate the heart with her.
"This is pretty cool," said Peter. He was wearing a "hoodie," or hooded sweatshirt, had iPod headphones in his ears and mentioned that he loved science and magic tricks. "It's something you don't hear about every day, that a heart is that old and still preserved," he said.
"I was surprised they wanted to come," said Couglin, who teaches math at Holy Family parish school in Hicksville. "I thought they'd be watching cartoons. ... As a grandmother, I was really impressed. When we get there, we'll say some prayers and I hope they go to confession."
Each day of its five-day stay in Merrick, four Knights of Columbus carried the relic into the church on a platform topped by a golden canopy. Other Knights, in full regalia with swords drawn, lined the aisles to form an honor guard as the relic passed.
A constant at each Mass and devotional event was a contingent from France that included Bishop Guy Bagnard of Belley-Ars and the pastor of Cure of Ars Parish, Father Charles Mangano. The parish the first church in the United States to be named for the French priest after he was proclaimed a saint in 1925 celebrated its 80th anniversary Oct. 8.
"This is a homecoming for St. John Vianney," said Father Mangano at the anniversary Mass. "I believe with all my heart that the heart coming here was the plan of God and the desire of St. John Vianney."
"I take no credit for bringing it here," Father Mangano said. "I did not even come up with the idea." A fellow priest made the suggestion "like a lightning bolt that interrupted our conversation" he said. Father Mangano then asked Bishop Bagnard if the heart could visit the parish. Two weeks later, when the visit was approved, "I cried," he said.
"Why did God choose to preserve St. John Vianney's body?" he asked the congregation. "He chose to leave evidence for my sake, for your sake. This is a small example of God's power that may hint at our own preservation of souls that we cannot see."
"What did you come to see?" Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre asked more than 250 priests, seminarians and deacons who gathered for Mass and veneration of the relic Oct. 9, a day reserved for them. "One whose life affirms yours ... a man who followed Christ the high priest like you do."
St. John Vianney was once dismissed from the seminary because of his difficulties with academic studies. But he persevered and was ordained in 1815. Three years later he was named pastor in Ars, a tiny village near Lyon.
Within a few years he transformed the religious life of the village, and his fame as a preacher, confessor and spiritual counselor soon spread throughout France and around the world.
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Pong! I went there with some friends on October 7. I'm glad I did.
A catechumen from the Presbyterian persuasion asked me how a handerkchief from St. Paul could have a miraculous effect and why the bones of a saint might have a miraculous effect? He thought there was perhaps some gnostic or scientific answer that could be given to his inquiry. I'd love to know and I'm sure it has nothing to do with matter: as if there were some radioactive residue leaking out of a relic.
Secondary causes. Why not through the heart of St. John Vianney? Pray for my son good St. John Vianney that he might have a Holy vocation to the priesthood and a light unto sainthood.
Sometimes God chooses to work through matter - in Sacraments, sacramentals, statues, medals, religious art, relics of the saints. A good biblical example of this is when Jesus used His own saliva to make mud, which He used to cure the blind man.
God works miracles through the intercession of the saints, and sometimes through their relics, to honor the particular saint, and for us to honor the saint as well. The glory always reflects back to God, and our devotion to the saint honors Him, because it is due to the grace of God that the saint enjoys his or her present status.
I have a first class relic of St. John Vianney. I feel so privileged by God to have in my possession a part of one of His dearest friends. Sometimes, I hold it and pray to St. John, and sometimes I bless myself with it.
In certain ways, the Catholic faith is so concrete, so outward sign-ish, and so very intimate. :o)
I was there. = )
I've seen the photos, and I have trouble getting beyond the EEWWW reflex.
I thought I would feel that way too, until I knelt before some of the reliquarys in Poland and other Eastern European sites on my pilgrimage. When I realized that this was really a part of the saint's body and that I was seeing it with my own eyes AND HEART by whole viewpoint changed.
my whole viewpoint changed.
No Magic in Sacraments
The sacraments (and, derivatively, sacramentals and relics) dont compel God to work in a certain way. Their use depends on God, who established their efficacy, so their effects are divine, not natural, in their origin. It is God who sanctions the use of relics; it is not a matter of men "overpowering" God through their own powers or the powers of nature, which is what magic amounts to.
When Jesus healed the blind man in John 9:1-7, did the Lord use magic mud and spittle? Was it actually a magic potion he mixed in the clay, or was it simply that Jesus saw fit to use matter in association with the conferral of his grace? The Lord is no dualist. He made matter, he loves matter, and he had no qualms about becoming matter himself to accomplish our redemption.
In the next sentence Brewer casts ridicule on relics by referring to Luthers comment, but the rejoinder should have been obvious to him. Apart from the fact that there are more than twelve apostles mentioned in the Bible (there are at least sixteen, counting Paul, Barnabas, James the Just, and Matthias), there is no reason to think that the whole of a saints skeleton must be kept in one reliquary. In fact, from what we know about the way early Christians preserved the bones of those killed during the persecutions, that would be unusual. More commonly, the saints bones were divided up, so various communities could have a portion of his relics: the skull here, a hand there, other bones elsewhere. So it would be proper for several cities to claim to have the relics of a single saint.
Ten-Ton Truck or Warship?
Now for the classic argument. As Brewer phrases it, if all the alleged pieces of the True Cross were gathered together, "it would take a ten-ton truck to carry them." Thats a modern way to put the charge. It used to be said the pieces would be enough to build a warship, but warships arent made out of wood any longer.
Either way, the charge is nonsense. In 1870 a Frenchman, Rohault de Fleury, catalogued all the relics of the True Cross, including relics that were said to have existed but were lost. He measured the existing relics and estimated the volume of the missing ones. Then he added up the figures and discovered that the fragments, if glued together, would not have made up more than one-third of a cross. The scandal wasnt that there was too much wood. The scandal was that most of the True Cross, after being unearthed in Jerusalem in the fourth century, was lost again!
Brewers next charge is this: "It is clear that most relics are frauds." It isnt clear at all. Certainly nothing he said indicates that. Have there been any frauds? Sure. But in most cases, relics are either known to be genuine or there is some reason to think they may be genuine, even if complete proof is impossible.
Take the famous Shroud of Turin, which scientists have been examining for some years. The scientists admit their experiments cannot establish that the Shroud is the actual burial cloth of Christthey admit that is impossiblebut they also say they might be able to eliminate the possibility of forgery. That is, they apparently are demonstrating that the Shroud was a burial cloth that was wrapped around someone who was crucified in the same manner as Christ, perhaps at about the same time he was crucified (there is considerable dispute about the age of the Shroud, and the carbon-14 tests that have been performed on the Shroud have been defective), and in the same area he was crucified.
Most relics cannot be fakes because most relics are the bones of ordinary saints of history who were well known and whose remains were never lost in the first place.
The Church has never pronounced that any particular reliceven that of the crossis genuine. But, the Church does approve of honor being given to the relics that can with reasonable probability be considered authentic.
Is There Room for Doubt?
Will there always be room for doubt for those who seek it? Sure. And if that is the case with the Shroud of Turin, it is more the case with most other relics.
The skeptic will always be able to say, "This might not have been so-and-sos," or "You might be mistaken," and wed have to admit thats true. There might have been a mistake, or fakes might have been substituted for the real relics.
We evaluate relics the same way we evaluate the bona fides of anything else. Did George Washington really sleep in a particular bed? We have to do some detective work to find out. We may never know for sure. We may have to rely on probabilities. On the other hand, we might have incontrovertible proof, that could be disbelieved only by the skeptic who insists George Washington never existed at all.
Its the same with relics. Some are beyond doubt. Others are so highly probable that it would be rash to doubt. Others are merely probable. And some, yes, are improbable (though we wouldnt want to toss out even most of those, in case we err and toss out something that really is a relic).
Finally, Brewer claims that "there is nothing in the Bible that supports the veneration of relics, even if they are genuine." Again, not so.
One of the most moving accounts of the veneration of relics is that of the very body of Christ itself. Rather than leaving his body on the cross, to be taken down and disposed of by the Romans (as was the customary practice), Joseph of Arimathea courageously interceded with Pilate for Christs body (Mark 15:43, John 19:38). He donated his own, newly hewn tomb as Christs resting place (Matt. 27:60). Nicodemus came and donated over a hundred pounds of spices to wrap inside Jesus grave clothes (John 19:39), that amount of spices being used only for the most honored dead. And after he was buried, the women went to reverently visit the tomb (Matt. 28:1) and to further anoint Christs body with spices even though it had already been sealed inside the tomb (Mark 16:1, Luke 24:1). These acts of reverence were more than just the usual courtesy shown to the remains of the dead; they were special respect shown to the body of a most holy manin this case, the holiest man who has ever lived, for he was God Incarnate.
Relics in Early Christianity
The veneration of relics is seen explicitly as early as the account of Polycarps martyrdom written by the Smyrnaeans in A.D. 156. In it, the Christians describe the events following his burning at the stake: "We took up his bones, which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place, where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy and to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom."
In speaking of the veneration of relics in the early Church, the anti-Catholic historian Adolph Harnack writes, ". . . [N]o Church doctor of repute restricted it. All of them rather, even the Cappadocians, countenanced it. The numerous miracles which were wrought by bones and relics seemed to confirm their worship. The Church therefore would not give up the practice, although a violent attack was made upon it by a few cultured heathens and besides by the Manichaeans" (Harnack, History of Dogma, tr., IV, 313).
In the fourth century the great biblical scholar, Jerome, declared, "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" (Ad Riparium, i, P.L., XXII, 907). `
Relics in Scripture
Keep in mind what the Church says about relics. It doesnt say there is some magical power in them. There is nothing in the relic itself, whether a bone of the apostle Peter or water from Lourdes, that has any curative ability. The Church just says that relics may be the occasion of Gods miracles, and in this the Church follows Scripture.
The use of the bones of Elisha brought a dead man to life: "So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Elisha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood on his feet" (2 Kgs. 13:20-21). This is an unequivocal biblical example of a miracle being performed by God through contact with the relics of a saint!
Similar are the cases of the woman cured of a hemorrhage by touching the hem of Christs cloak (Matt. 9:20-22) and the sick who were healed when Peters shadow passed over them (Acts 5:14-16). "And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them" (Acts 19:11-12).
If these arent examples of the use of relics, what are? In the case of Elisha, a Lazarus-like return from the dead was brought about through the prophets bones. In the New Testament cases, physical things (the cloak, the shadow, handkerchiefs and aprons) were used to effect cures. There is a perfect congruity between present-day Catholic practice and ancient practice. If you reject all Catholic relics today as frauds, you should also reject these biblical accounts as frauds.
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BTTT on the Memorial of St. John Mary Vianney, August 4, 2007!
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