A hand relic of 16th century Jesuit missionary, St. Francis Xavier, was displayed at the Hornsby Cathedral Parish recently.
The hand of the saint is being displayed around Australia in a three-month spiritual expo that also included Perth, Adelaide, and Melbourne as part of the Pilgrimage of Grace.
St. Francis Xavier was a student of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the 16th century founder of the
Society of Jesus, the “Jesuits”. As one of the first seven Jesuits, St. Francis Xavier travelled extensively, mainly in the Portuguese Empire, converting many in India, Japan and the islands of Southeast Asia.
In 1614, the Superior General of the Jesuits arranged for the right to be detached so that the relic could be an object of devotion at the main Jesuit church in Rome.
“In honoring the relic, our focus is not meant to be on the relic as an isolated object in itself, as though it were a magical talisman, but rather it brings us to a physical closeness to the person now,” said parish priest Father Michael Ryan.
“It connects us with them so that we can more readily seek their intercession, know the companionship with us and be inspired to follow their example,” Father Ryan said.
The hand relic of St Francis Xavier that arrived in Australia was from his right arm believed to be the arm with which he baptised and blessed thousands of people.
“It was the hand with which he tended and held so many sick and dying people; with which he wrote letters back home to his companions to report on his adventures, trials and triumphs of ministry and inspiring many others to be engaged in the mission.”
Xavier was buried on Shangchuan Island after his death, but his body was moved to Malacca two months later at which time the body found to be still intact.
Miracles were associated with this relic. From the moment of its arrival in Malacca, the plague which had been raging there abruptly ceased, blind people were given their sight and sick people were healed.
“After nine months, it was moved to Goa, the scene of Xavier’s original and highly successful missionary work. Every ten years Xavier’s body is exposed for veneration, and in 2005, over 2 million people came to honor him,” Father Ryan added.
Bishop Peter Comensoli of Sydney organised to have the hand relic brought to Sydney.
It arrived in Australia in early September.
The hand relic will also be displayed in the Parishes of The Entrance (Central Coast), Gosford, and Frenches Forest among others. From there, it will be displayed in the Diocese of Parramatta before it is sent back to the Basilica of Born Jesus in Rome in early December.
Parish Filipino Deacon Roberto Corpuz said that local people has taken part in the pilgrimage with the hope of spiritual healing associated with the blessed hand relic.
Photos by Marilie Eftekharhashtroudi