WINCHESTER — More than 100 area parishioners attended Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church to pay honor to a relic of Saint John Paul II on Wednesday evening.
The special Mass served as the end of a nine-state tour of the relic, a vial of John Paul II’s blood. Just four relics exist, one in Rome, which came to Winchester, one in Poland, one in Madrid and one in the Washington, D.C. area. Earlier in the day, the relic visited Christendom College in Front Royal.
In the Roman Catholic faith, relics are typically divided into three categories, the highest being a piece of the physical body of a saint, followed by a piece of clothing the saint may have worn and the lowest an object that has touched a relic. While a relic is a holy object, it is not worshiped, but venerated, meaning believers pay their respects to the saint by visiting his or her relic.
This relic was entrusted to the Servants of the Purest Hearts of Jesus and Mary to travel the Americas, which began in November. Mother Adela Galindo, the founder of the order, said transporting the relic across the Western Hemisphere is an honor and privilege.
“This is a gift, a relic of a man who was a gift, a great gift of the Holy Spirit to the church, a man that as the Gospel of yesterday told us, followed the example of the Lord,” Galindo said. “What he did on Earth, he continues to do so in Heaven.”
Galindo said having her order entrusted with the relic by the church was a “miracle.” She said in April 2013 that she was having dinner with the former secretary of John Paul II when he casually mentioned picking up the relic.
“I said ‘Monsignor, I did not know there was an international relic, what could you do to bring it to America?’ And he said it was scheduled for Europe first,” Galindo said. “At the moment he took out his iPad to show me his agenda, he got a message from a bishop in Germany that he canceled the month of November.”
John Paul II was canonized as the patron saint of families by Pope Francis in April 2014, following a lengthy process began by Pope Benedict XVI in May 2005. The Rev. Brendan Bartlett, of Sacred Heart, said the process requires cardinals and bishops to look at the life the saint led as well as miracles attributed to him or her.
“When they look at miracles, they have to look at it very carefully to establish if the event was not natural, but supernatural,” Bartlett said. “As part of the investigation, called the cause, the primary aspect is if the saint led a life of ‘heroic virtue.'”
Bartlett said John Paul II’s life is a prime example of “heroic virtue.”
“He had a double yoke because he grew up in Poland during the time of the Nazis. Then it was liberated by the Communists, which was just as oppressive,” Bartlett said. “He went to seminary underground, he was ordained underground.”
Bartlett added, “When he was elected pope in 1978, he had a unique perspective about the oppression people all over the world endured, which made him influential in supporting the fall of Communism in Poland and Eastern Europe, as well as military dictatorships in Latin America.”
John Paul II was also a proponent of human rights, particularly religious freedom, as well as interfaith dialogue, Bartlett said.
Bartlett said this was in part due to the pope’s life experience and his involvement in the Second Vatican Counsel during the 1960s.
“To this day we are still seeing the results of the Second Vatican playing out before us,” Bartlett said. “One of the major parts that John Paul II set into motion was the idea that we need to start finding what we have in common with other faiths and that we need to defend everybody’s right to believe what they want, whether we agree with them or not.”
The relic will return to Rome over the weekend and will return to the continent in June for a Latin American tour, stretching from Mexico to Argentina.
Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org