Hundreds Of Worshippers Honor Relic Of John Paul II
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — Hundreds of people came to Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church on Wednesday evening to view a relic left from the late Pope John Paul II — now a saint in the canon of the Roman Catholic Church.
The relic — a vial of the late pope’s blood borrowed from the Vatican — is currently traveling with a group representing the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, from Miami.
Sister Maria Jose Socias, a nun with Pierced Hearts, explained that the relic came to Winchester via a connection between Pierced Hearts and a Sacred Heart of Jesus parishioner, whom Socias referred to as “one of [Pierced Hearts’] lay associates.”
Socias said the relic came to America in the first place because of a special request made by Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, who expressed their desire to take the relic around the United States.
After a brief stop at Christendom College in Front Royal on Wednesday afternoon, the Winchester stop was the last on the tour, with the relic returning to Rome today.
Other stops have included parishes in Florida and California.
A mass was held at 5:30 p.m. at the church, which was followed by a praying of the Rosary and a veneration of the relic.
Parishioners were allowed to approach the relic, touch it with their hands, and press special possessions — like rosaries and rings — against it.
Father Brendan Bartlett, parochial vicar at Sacred Heart, said during the Mass that to have the late pope’s blood in the church allowed parishioners to come into contact with the saint physically as well as spiritually.
Bartlett spoke about Pope John Paul II’s influence on contemporary Catholicism, particularly highlighting his experiences in Nazi-occupied Poland — where the late pope was born and lived.
“He saw first-hand what man’s inhumanity to man looked like,” Bartlett said. “He recognized the inherent dignity in every human person.”
After the Mass, Bartlett said veneration of the relic celebrates the Catholic belief that all people are made in God’s image, and that all people can aspire to sainthood as the late pope did.
“God became man and when he became man, he sanctified human nature,” Bartlett said. “He became flesh and blood.”
He likened the viewing of a Catholic relic to going to a museum to see a professional football jersey worn in a Super Bowl, or going to Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis — as a way to have a physical connection to a historic event or person.
Socias and Bartlett both noted that Catholics do not worship relics, but honor them.
Bartlett said that veneration of relics help Catholics to come closer to the saints, who can be asked to intercede — or, pray directly to God — on their behalf.
Socias said that saints, who the church authoritatively says are in heaven, are considered peers in the faith, and role models to give Catholics an example of how “to live the gospel authentically.”
“We do not worship the saints,” Socias said. “We pay them homage and give them honor, the same way you would honor the president of the United States.”
Bartlett also noted how special it was that the relic came to Winchester, which he jokingly referred to as “the redheaded stepchild of the diocese [of Arlington]…away from the big city.”
“You wouldn’t expect the relic to end up here,” he said, noting that it might be easier to imagine the relic being shown in Washington, D.C.
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