About 350 people filled St. Mary’s Cathedral in Winnipeg Tuesday to view the relic of St. Francis Xavier — the severed right forearm, to be specific, said to have baptized tens of thousands of Catholic converts.
Both the faithful and the curious descended on the church as the 465-year-old relic stopped there on Tuesday, part of a cross-country tour expected to be attended by 75,000 Canadians when all is said and done.
“I think the people come to an event like this expecting to have a spiritual experience,” said Father John O’Brien. “It’s very Catholic to have a spiritual experience through tangible things, and there’s nothing more tangible than the bones of a saint.”
While this kind of tour is common in Europe and other parts of the world, it’s rare in North America, O’Brien said.
“The figures of the saints kind of loom large. They’re remembered, and they represent deep, deep spiritual experiences that Catholics have had over the centuries.
“They bring their prayers, they bring their dreams, petitions, desires forward to God, but it’s an opportunity.”
Participants took part in a service before getting in line for a close look at the relic.
“I’d like a closer experience with the Lord,” said a woman in line who identified herself as Catherine. “It’s nice to see the church filled and people singing with great heart, and it’s very interesting.”
Catherine travelled from Garson, Man. to get up close to the relic: “We’re all part of God’s creation and that’s our ultimate goal, so here we are.”
Karen Mendoza called her encounter with the relic “a great blessing.”
“It will help me enrich my faith with the Lord. [I asked St. Francis] to [help] persevere in my life, because as an immigrant, I have a lot of struggles in life and I asked him to give me the blessings that I need.”
The forearm is carried…