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BOSTON -- The relic of the incorrupt heart of St. John Vianney began its four-stop journey through the archdiocese on April 30, as part of its U.S. tour sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.
Brian Caulfield, a Knight of Columbus from the fraternity's supreme headquarters, is one of the five knights traveling with the relic.
Speaking to the Pilot on April 30, he said they try to estimate the size of the crowd at each event. So far, he said, the relic has drawn approximately 140,000 people in 32 states.
Because St. John Vianney was known for hearing confessions, the Sacrament of Reconciliation was to be offered wherever the relic was displayed during hours of veneration.
On April 30, the relic was on display for veneration at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, and Vicar General Bishop Peter Uglietto celebrated Mass in the presence of the relic that evening.
In his homily, Bishop Uglietto spoke about the events in the life of Jean Vianney, who is also known by his anglicized name, St. John Vianney.
He was born in Lyons, France, in 1786. When he was growing up, the anti-clericalism of the French Revolution forced priests and religious to work in secret.
"Young John looked upon these servants of God as his heroes," Bishop Uglietto said.
St. John Vianney was ordained to the priesthood in 1815 and assigned to the village of Ars, near Lyon. There, he found most of his people were either ignorant or indifferent to religion. He prayed for their conversion and became renowned as a confessor.
Bishop Uglietto said that the saint once wrote, "Private prayer is like straw scattered here and there. If you set it on fire, it makes a lot of little flames. But if you gather these straws into a bundle and light them, you get a mighty fire, rising in a column to the sky. Public prayer is like that."
Commenting on this, Bishop Uglietto said, "St. John (Vianney) understood the power of prayer in community. He understood the beauty and effectiveness of the Holy Mass. St. John Vianney, the Church honors as a great but simple man, is an inspiration to any who aspire to serve God in the most obscure but meaningful way. We are privileged to have his relic in our midst today."
Speaking to the Pilot after the Mass, Father Paul Soper, the archdiocese's secretary for evangelization and discipleship, said, "For me, one of the most impressive things to see was through the course of the day, starting at 3:00 this afternoon, about half of the folks coming up to venerate the relic have been young adults. Now, we're the city of Boston, this is a city of young adults, but our young adults are here, they're worshiping the Lord, they are participating in devotions, they are in love with the Lord and his Church, and that's such an uplifting thing for all of us to see."
Father Soper said that veneration of the relic "connects us to our Catholic brothers and sisters all around the world."
"In these days of sadness and persecution, and the disaster in Paris with Notre Dame, and all these difficult things for the worldwide Catholic Church, it is so beautiful for us to be participating in something right now that puts us in solidarity with all of our brothers and sisters all around the world," he said.
One person who came to venerate the relic was Inma Albero, a member of the Missio ad Gentes of Cambridge, a group of seven families who evangelize in Cambridge. She said they came to ask for "special graces for our mission."
"We are here asking, 'Help us to evangelize, help us to convert, help us to be holy like him,'" she told the Pilot.
On May 1, the relic was displayed for veneration in the Bethany Chapel inside the Pastoral Center in Braintree from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. It was brought to the John Paul II Shrine of Divine Mercy in Salem from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. It was to be at Blessed Sacrament Church in Walpole on May 2 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.