Relic pilgrimage of St. Jean Vianney’s incorrupt heart to visit Portland

PORTLAND, Maine — The Shrine of Ars, France, has entrusted to the Knights of Columbus the relic of St. Jean Vianney’s incorrupt heart for a national pilgrimage in the United States and, on Tuesday, April 23, it will come to Maine.

The relic will be available for veneration at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, from 4 to 8 p.m. In Catholic tradition, a relic is an object associated with a saint that may be offered to the faithful for reverence. Since the soul of a saint is united with God in heaven, an object associated with a saint is meant to draw a person closer to God. Neither the relic nor the saint is to be worshipped.

The heart of St. Jean Vianney was taken from the saint’s body after his death in recognition of his burning love for God and humanity. It has remained intact, or incorrupt, for more than 150 years.

St. Jean Vianney, who is the patron saint of parish priests, is known for his holiness and integrity and is a model for clergy and laity alike. He was born May 8, 1786, near Lyons, France, and excelled in spiritual matters. He was made the curé (parish priest) of the village of Ars, a small farming community. As he was trying to find his way to Ars, he asked directions from a boy, after which he thanked the youth by telling him, “You have shown me the way to Ars; I will show you the way to heaven.”

St. Jean Vianney was true to his word. He was known for having a gift for teaching the faith and for spiritual direction, so much so that people from across France, including bishops, priests, and religious, would travel to see him and to seek his wisdom and guidance. Known for his wise spiritual counsel and the gift of reading hearts, he soon became a “prisoner” of the confessional, hearing confessions for up to eighteen hours a day, as people came from across Europe and beyond to see him. He also exercised great charity, building an orphanage for homeless children and receiving beggars with an open heart and hand.

He died on August 4, 1859, at the age of 73. Nearly 1,000 people attended his funeral, including the bishop and priests of the diocese. On Oct. 3, 1873, Pope Pius IX proclaimed him Venerable, and on Jan. 8, 1905, Pope Pius X beatified him. St. Jean Vianney was canonized by Pope Pius XI on May 31, 1925. In 1929, the Holy Father declared him patron of parish priests. His feast day is August 4.

All are welcome to attend “Heart of a Priest” at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on April 23. Admission is free, but the Knights of Columbus will accept donations to benefit the Shrine at Ars, France, which is renovating its facilities to provide an even deeper spiritual experience for pilgrims.

For more information, contact the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at (207) 773-7746.

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