Hundreds of Catholic people in Saskatoon flocked to Cathedral of the Holy Family on Thursday to be in the presence of a revered relic.
The 465-year-old mummified forearm of St. Francis Xavier, the patron saint of missions, stopped in Saskatoon during a rare Canada-wide tour.
The hand that baptized thousands drew worshippers of all ages to the cathedral, from groups of high school students to elderly people of faith.
“It feels really overwhelming, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Daphne Jalique said. “The next time I’d be able to see that is if I go to Rome myself.”
The Saskatoon resident said her and other people of faith could feel the presence of the saint and it meant a lot to her.
“I’ve been going through things right now, and him being here helped me reflect,” she said. “A relic to pray onto is really comforting, to know somebody is listening to you and can be with you no matter what happens in your life.”
The Catholic faith is known for preserving the body parts of saints and apostles, often giving them prominence in terms of reverence and prayer.
The forearm of St. Francis Xavier is normally on display on an altar in the Church of the Gesu in Rome.
However, it embarked on a pilgrimage to Canada for a faith and education tour at the request of Canada’s Archbishop Irénée.
Catholic high school students were given private sessions with the mummified remains through the morning, where they were taught about the history and given an opportunity to pray before it.
The relic was opened to public viewing at noon when dozens of people knelt before the arm and prayed.
Angele Regnier, co-founder of Catholic Christian Outreach, said it’s comparable to how the Stanley Cup is viewed by hockey fans.
“When we encounter the Stanley Cup in that way, there’s just all the memories of the victories and men that played those games that comes rushing back,” she said.
“For us as Catholics, it’s kind of a similar thing that when we touch the relics … we have an encounter that’s really tangible and meaningful.”
One man who came to see the arm with his wife, but didn’t provide a name, said it’s an ethereal experience.
“The arm isn’t special,” he said. “What’s special is what you feel in your heart in the moment.”
The forearm of St. Francis Xavier is set to be displayed in Regina at the Campion College Chapel at the University of Regina on Friday and at the Resurrection Roman Catholic Parish Saturday.