The arm of St. Francis Xavier is expected to draw big crowds when the sacred Catholic relic’s tour brings it to Halifax on Sunday and Antigonish on Monday.
The pilgrimage to bring the hand and forearm to 15 Canadian communities is organized by the Archdiocese of Ottawa, the Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) organization and the Jesuits religious order. The journey began in Ottawa with a celebration to close the Canada 150 year of celebrations, then moved to Quebec City earlier this week and continued to St. John’s, N.L., on Friday.
Angele Regnier, co-founder of CCO, said organizers were surprised by the number of people who have come to see the arm so far.
“Our first stop was in Ottawa with our university students,” Regnier said in a telephone interview Friday from St. John’s. “That was the big kickoff. . . . The young people were really moved to be able to be venerating the relic of St. Francis Xavier, who they can really identify with because he himself was the typical university student who partied and did sports and was not necessarily into his faith but became alive in it.”
Regnier said around 1,500 people came out in Quebec City, well beyond the 100 to 200 they expected.
As of mid-afternoon on Friday in St. John’s, the numbers again swelled, with 300 attending mass and more at the veneration.
“The lineup just doesn’t
stop,” she said. “I suspect there’s going to be 1,000 or more here in St.
She now feels there will be more people coming to see the arm in Halifax.
“It’s easier for people from outer regions to come in to Halifax,” she said. “It’s a Sunday, so people are free. I would suspect there’s going to be quite a bit of activity that Sunday in Halifax.”
Organizers plan to fly to Halifax with the relic on Saturday. On Sunday it will be at St. Mary’s Basilica on Spring Garden Road.
The schedule includes the morning mass at 10:30 a.m., public veneration from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., mass at 5 p.m., public veneration from 6-10 p.m. and then the closing prayer, the Litany of St.
On Monday, the relic will be at the chapel at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish. The schedule includes public veneration from 1-6:30 p.m., beginning with a discussion of the life of St.
Francis Xavier and the three graces, evening mass at 6:30, public veneration from 7-8, and then the closing prayer.
The schedule is also posted at www.cco.ca/relic.
People should be prepared for long lines and their time with the relic will be limited to five seconds.
“Experiencing the relic of a saint doesn’t happen very often,” Regnier said. “(And) this relic in particular is not a travelling relic.
It’s normally in its spot in Rome in the mother church of the Jesuits.
It’s at a prominent altar. It very rarely gets released, so that’s another really important reason why there will be interest and why he’s so important.”
St. Francis Xavier and St. Therese of Lisieux are patron saints of the CCO, which is a student movement founded in 1988.
According to the St. Francis Xavier Relic Pilgrim Guide, the saint, born in Spain in 1506, went on to found the Jesuit order with St. Ignatius Loyola and a group of companions. He baptized more than 100,000 people with his right arm. The relic has not decayed since his death in 1552.
From Nova Scotia, it will go on to Kingston, Toronto, Mississauga, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria, Montreal and Ottawa.