Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Rare opportunity to see relic: Large crowds gather to see relic of St. Francis Xavier at St. Francis Xavier University

January 8th, 2018
People line up for the rare opportunity to see relic of St. Francis Xavier

Standing inside the University Chapel at St. Francis Xavier University on Jan. 8, second year StFX student Matthew Crowell of Truro, NS pauses for a moment to describe his reaction to seeing and touching the glass-enclosed relic of the forearm of famous missionary saint, St. Francis Xavier—the university’s patron saint.

“It was very peaceful. I was clear-minded when I saw it,” said the human kinetics student.

“Something like this coming from Rome is very special. I can’t believe it’s the actual relic of St. Francis Xavier.”

Seeing the forearm of the Catholic saint at St. Francis Xavier University, the university that bears his names, makes the experience even more special, he said.

The major relic is on campus as part of a 14-city pilgrimage across Canada, organized by the Archdiocese of Ottawa, the Canadian Jesuits and Catholic Christian Outreach, a national university student movement.

“I am so overjoyed to be here with you at StFX,” Angèle Regnier, co-founder of Catholic Christian Outreach said to a large crowd gathered at the University Chapel awaiting the start of public veneration.

“This is an extraordinary privilege,” Ms. Regnier said as she explained the relic is normally on display at the mother church in Rome on a prominent, ornate altar. “You’d never think it would be removed.”

Permanently displayed at the Church of the Gesù in Rome, organizers believe this is the first time the relic has been on Canadian soil. His body, which is buried in Goa, India, as well as the relic of his arm, are incorrupt—they have not experienced natural decay since his death in 1552, says a press release from organizers who expect close to 100,000 people will visit the various events across the country—the same number of people it is believed Francis baptized with his right arm and hand.

Relic of St. Francis Xavier pictured in a photo from Catholic Christian Outreach

“Saint Francis Xavier is one of the most revered saints of all time,” Terrence Prendergast, SJ, Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa, said in the release. “He was a man of extraordinary courage and faith who shared the Gospel message of Jesus with thousands across southeast Asia, Goa and India.”

“So many people have an affinity to him, and none more than StFX,” Ms. Regnier said in her remarks at the chapel, noting that while travelling in Canada, the relic will mainly visit places connected with the Canadian Jesuits and Catholic Christian Outreach. “You are the only exception.”

She says this is an exceptional opportunity to sit with a relic. “Appreciate all of your time. This is holy ground.”

While in Canada, the relic is scheduled to visit Ottawa, Québec City, St. John’s, Halifax, Antigonish, Kingston, Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria and Montréal. The veneration of relics, the release says, is a longstanding practice inside and outside the Catholic Church.

In conjunction with the arrival of the relic at StFX, Medieval Cultures at X also organized a panel discussion on the topic of medieval relics, a central feature in Christian religious and social life. Speakers included Dr. Donna Trembinski, Dr. Cory Rushton, and Dr. Sharon Gregory. 

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