Thousands Venerate St. John Vianney Relic On ‘Heart of a Priest’ Tour in Archdiocese

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The incorrupt heart of France’s St. John Marie Vianney captured the hearts of thousands of faithful who venerated the first-class relic of the patron of parish priests at its three stops in the archdiocese April 4-8.

Cardinal Dolan celebrated the 10:15 a.m. Mass on April 7 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where the relic of the 19th-century priest—who was known as the Curé of Ars and who heard confessions for up to 18 hours a day—had been displayed since the previous day.

He anticipated “a magnificent and providential outpouring of grace and mercy and spiritual renewal” upon the archdiocese.

New York became the 29th state to participate in the national pilgrimage of the major relic, which began in November and is sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.

Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, supreme chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, was among the principal concelebrants of the cathedral Mass.

The tour, titled “Heart of a Priest,” refers to the physical heart of St. John Vianney that has resisted decay for more than 150 years and to the good character that should belong to every priest.

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus, carried the reliquary containing the incorrupt heart of St. John Vianney in procession at the beginning of the Mass; it was displayed in the cathedral sanctuary throughout the liturgy.

Hugues Malandain, 46, and his wife Helen, 50, came from Connecticut to view the relic at the cathedral in the Lady Chapel behind the main altar of the cathedral before the 10:15 a.m. liturgy April 7. “It’s important for all us Catholics and Christians, everybody, to pray for the crisis in the Church currently, and to ask for his intercession in order to help the healing of the Church and the families,” said Malandain, a member of St. Mary’s parish in Norwalk, Conn.

“And he’s French and I’m French,” added Malandain, who moved from southern France to the United States 20 years ago.

The relic’s other stops in the archdiocese were St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie April 4, a venue that accommodated the faithful of Westchester County and the northern counties of the archdiocese, and drew more than 2,000 faithful, and Our Lady Star of the Sea Church on Staten Island from Sunday evening, April 7, through early Monday morning, April 8.

After the 10:15 a.m. cathedral liturgy, the relic was returned to the Lady Chapel for veneration.

Msgr. Robert Ritchie, rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, told CNY there were 2,500 people who visited the relic at the cathedral April 6, and he anticipated another 5,000 would do so before the relic was to leave the cathedral after a final opportunity for veneration following the 5:30 p.m. Mass April 7.

The rector was honored to welcome the relic to the cathedral at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, to carry it to its place for veneration, and to pray before it for the saint’s intercession that his priesthood of 47 years continues to be blessed.

Heather Yi, 40, of St. Ann parish in Hoboken, N.J., accompanied her daughter Jocelyn, 5, and her father-in-law and mother-in-law to view and venerate the relic at the cathedral after the cardinal’s Mass. “We always want to expose her to the wonders of the Catholic Church, at any age,” she said of young Jocelyn.

Jocelyn sweetly shared that she had prayed “for my family” while viewing the relic.

Bertino C. Correa, 48, grand knight of the Knights of Columbus St. Joseph-St. Mary Immaculate Council 16467 on Staten Island, accompanied his and wife Carolina’s two children to view and venerate the relic after the cardinal’s Mass at the Cathedral. Members of St. Joseph and St. Mary Immaculate parish on Staten Island, they also planned to visit the relic at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church on Staten Island that evening.

“It’s an honor to be part of all of this,” Correa said.

Sebastian Correa, 12, said the heart “was something very special for us as Catholics.” Before the relic, he prayed his for his family, and for he and his sister to do well in school.

“I thought it was great coming here,” added 8-year-old Victoria Correa.

The relic was transported from the cathedral to Our Lady Star of the Sea Church on Staten Island before the end of the 7 p.m. Mass there April 7, where it remained until 8:45 a.m. April 8.

Father Thomas Devery, pastor of Our Lady Star of the Sea parish, told CNY April 8 that he found it remarkable “just the way the people stood in awe” when the relic came into the church during the offertory. It arrived “in profound silence, and it was very moving,” he added. The church, which has a seating capacity of about 1,000, was full.

“That sense of heart speaking to heart is the thing that really got me,” Father Devery said. Observing his parishioners venerate the relic “was a great joy.”

“We had long lines until about midnight, and then I stayed up all night with the relic, and we had no less than five or six people in the church at every hour,” he said.

On Monday morning, students from the parish school also visited and venerated the relic.

Parishioners Afshin, 41, and Anastasiya Shirazi, 37, attended the 7 p.m. Mass at Our Lady Star of the Sea with their three sons: Nicholas, 11; Alexander, 7, and 2-year-old David.

“It was incredible,” Mrs. Shirazi told CNY. “It was such an honor and privilege to have the relic at our church.”

There was a lot of suspense as they awaited the arrival of the relic. “We couldn’t wait to see what it looked like, and Nicholas,” his mother said, “was especially excited, wondering if it was going to be like a big, real heart.”

After the liturgy, the family stood in line for about an hour to view the relic.

Mrs. Shirazi, who has a devotion to St. John Vianney, wanted more time with the relic, so she returned to the church at 2 a.m. and remained there until 5 a.m. At that time, her husband texted her and asked her to come home so that he could return to the church to view the relic again before work.

“The fact that we had such a big gift come to us, that’s how good God is,” she said. “It reignites the fire within you, for your faith.”

The life and sanctity of St. John Vianney “gives us all hope that even when the Church confronts crises, people of faith rise above it, and God’s grace is there to help us do that,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, in an interview with CNY before the April 7 Mass Cardinal Dolan celebrated at the cathedral.

For the faithful who were venerating the relic, Anderson said, “We ask St. John Vianney’s intercession that the laity and our priests may always be closely united in service to the Church.”

The Knights, Anderson added, “are committed to the renewal of the Church. That we have been doing for many, many years, and this is part of that process of deepening the spirituality of the faithful, lay families and our priests and religious.”

Courtesy of a loan from the Shrine of Ars, France, where the saint’s incorrupt body, including the heart, is normally on display, the heart relic of St. John Vianney will be displayed in cathedrals, churches, chapels and seminaries throughout the United States until early June. Information: kofc.org/vianney

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