Thousands visit the heart of St. John Vianney

On March 19, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, the Cathedral of St. Joseph hosted the incorrupt heart of St. John Vianney, patron saint of priests.  Throughout the day, there was never a moment where the relic was not being venerated.  Throughout the day, thousands of people visited the relic. (Sara Kraft/Key photo)

By Sara Kraft

ST. JOSEPH – “It was very moving just seeing the reverence and the fire (of the laity),” explained Mark Wyble, Grand Knight of Knights of Columbus Council 571 located in St. Joseph. “The parishes in St. Joseph and beyond have come together. At least eight different states have been represented. It was just awesome.”

Thousands of people traveled to the Cathedral of St. Joseph in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph on March 19, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, to venerate the incorrupt heart of St. John Vianney. The day began with a full Cathedral for Mass at 8 a.m., attended by the faithful and Bishop LeBlond High School students in St. Joseph. The Cathedral then remained open throughout the day for confessions and visitation of the relic. The festivities concluded as Bishop Johnston led a solemn Vespers and visitors were invited to the Cathedral’s annual St. Joseph Table.

“A relic is a visible, tangible connection to the earthly temple of one whom we know to be in heaven. It serves as a sign of our spiritual communion with the saints. We don’t treat the relics superstitiously,” explained Bishop Johnston, “but as a real sign of our connection to those who belong to God in heaven and their fellowship with us on earth.”

Throughout the day, veneration of the relic was offered with lines extending to the back of the sanctuary at the Cathedral of St. Joseph all day. Hundreds of people received the sacrament of reconciliation. Bishop Johnston led evening prayer in front of the relic and was joined by numerous priests, deacons, and laity. In the twelve hours of viewing, there was not a single moment where someone was not praying in front of the relic.

St. John Vianney became known for his spiritual counsel and the gift of reading hearts. He heard confessions for up to eighteen hours a day as the pastor of Ars in France. In 1925, St. John Vianney was canonized. In 1928, he was declared the patron saint of priests by Pope Pius XI.

On Ash Wednesday, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph began a Diocesan Holy Year of Renewal to call upon the help of the Holy Spirit to help realize the mutually shared vision to be One Family: Restored in Christ-Equipped for Mission. “We have some ambitious goals that will impact the life of this local Church for many years, but we would be foolish to attempt any work without establishing it in prayer, conversion, and God’s grace,” Bishop Johnston said. The veneration of the relic was part of the scheduled prayer for the Diocesan Holy Year of Renewal.

The veneration was made possible by the generosity of the Knights of Columbus. The relic has been in the United States in the custody of the Knights of Columbus, who have been taking it around to pray since November. It will be in the United States until June. “We pray for priests, we pray for bishops, and pray for renewal in the church,” said Peter Sonski, Custodian of the Relic.

“There is a lot of anguish in the church now. There is a lot of frustration, but beneath that is a lot of hope. I am edified so many people have hope in an opportunity for renewal,” Sonski said.

It was fitting that the relics visit to St. Joseph occurred on the feast of St. Joseph. “Like the convergence of two rivers, our celebration tonight brings a convergence of two holy men, two saints of the Church,” Bishop Johnston said. Bishop Johnston explained that in rank of honor and veneration, St. Joseph is second only to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“Both St. Joseph and St. John Vianney were deeply aware they had been entrusted by God to care for something precious,” Bishop Johnston said. “So, tonight, I ask you: What has God entrusted you to care for? Or better, Who is it that God has entrusted you to care for? For each of us priests, we see that our parish, both parishioners and the other souls in our parish are entrusted to us to care for and help toward salvation. For parents, your children are not yours as possessions, but they too are simply entrusted to you by God to be cared for and helped to salvation.”

Catholics of all ages were excited to see the relic. Perhaps most striking was the large number of young families that chose to venerate the relic.

“My seven-year-old was so excited to see what a heart is going to look like,” explained Kris Daise, mom of three. “He said it was really black, it was about this big. We haven’t had a chance to go into what it means.”

“The best part of it is that it is bringing everyone together for the heart and for the church,” explained Kayla Ueligger, mother of two, ages six and three. “It helps us remember we are all part of the same church.”

“This is big,” explained Wyble about the excitement around the relic. “The education and enlightenment has been a blessing. We just got to keep the fire burning.”


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November 29, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph