Special to The B.C. Catholic
COQUITLAM—Snow was falling as All Saints Parish in Coquitlam began to fill with pilgrims on Thursday afternoon.
The surprise did not dampen the spirits and curiosities of those who came to see the right arm of St. Francis Xavier, some of whom travelled from as far as Kelowna or Quesnel for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
For Maria Lim, a parishioner of St. Clare’s parish in Coquitlam, her moment with the relic was a reminder of God’s constant presence and healing in her life.
“It was a very short moment … but it was also a very full moment of peace,” Lim said of her time venerating the relic.
Six years prior, Lim had lost her daughter due to a heart problem. In such a difficult and tragic time in her life, she said that her strong faith in God helped her survive it. “It reminded me that we can never take anything for granted. Life is a precious gift from God,” said Lim.
“As I was walking in here, all I could think was that I know (God is) there, I know he’s always there. And just having the relic right there in front of me, and having that moment of silence of peace just brought that all back to me.”
Many parish and student volunteers, Knights of Columbus, and Catholic Christian Outreach staff aided approximately 4,400 pilgrims through the process. Pilgrims were given a booklet that included information on the life of St. Francis Xavier and information on relics in the Catholic tradition.
There was also a strong emphasis on the three graces that every person could potentially receive: deeper personal conversion, missionary abandonment to God’s will, and healing.
“Peace” was a word that many used to describe their experience after venerating the relic. One of the student volunteers, Maria Krump, was incredibly moved by the stories and experiences that people shared with her.
“Most people I have encountered today especially have been just speechless and have a hard time expressing what they felt in words,” said Krump. “There’s been a lot of people in tears, unsure of what to say, but they know that something incredible has just occurred.”
Krump venerated the relic in December, when she was in Ottawa for CCO’s annual national conference, Rise Up. Like many who venerated the relic, Krump was awed by the arm.
“I talked to some children who just thought that it was so cool that this was (St. Francis Xavier’s) arm,” Krump said with a laugh. “It was incredible for me to see person after person come out after venerating the relic and being moved by this.”
From Vancouver, the relic moved on to Victoria before heading to Ottawa and Montreal and then returning to the Church of the Gesù in Rome, which is the mother church of the Jesuits and the home of the arm of St. Francis Xavier.
Rachel Wong is a writer and communications student at Simon Fraser University.