Heart of St John Vianney was venerated by thousands of faithful during its four-day visit to England

The heart of St John Vianney returns to France today after being venerated by thousands of people in the Midlands and north of England during its four-day visit.

On Friday Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool asked Catholics venerating the heart of the patron saint of parish priests at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King to pray for priests and priestly vocations.

The relic was taken to St Michael’s and All Angels, Woodchurch, Wirral, on Friday afternoon, then to St Wilfrid’s Church, Northwich, Cheshire, for morning prayer on Saturday, and on to Shrewsbury Cathedral for a Mass in the afternoon.

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From there it was taken to St Mary’s College, Oscott, for Invocation, a national discernment festival, for Saturday evening and Sunday morning. Later in the afternoon the relic was on display for public veneration.

Before it arrived at Oscott Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury told some 300 young adults that the relic symbolises “a heart given completely in love”. He said that the heart is a metaphor for the “decisive centre of our being”. Everyone is called by God to a vocation, he said, so that, in the words of the Blessed Pope John Paul II, they might give their lives away “to something noble, give them to something great”.

“The heart is that which God alone knows and searches. It is where the love of God is poured, and where humanity is made new by being given a ‘new heart’. Indeed, Pope Benedict has spoken of this relic of St John Vianney’s heart as symbolising a heart consumed by Divine Love,” the bishop said.

“Relics are a tangible, visible, human connection with the saints and they were brought by the first missionaries to the English people to awaken the hope of holiness. From Westminster Abbey to Durham Cathedral across the length and breath of this land the relics of the saints offered this same encouragement, invited prayer, were an invitation to continued conversion.”

In preparation for the arrival at Oscott of the relic of “a saint, of a priest, of a parish priest, who belongs to us all in the Church in what we call the communion of saints”, Bishop Davies said: “It is the saints who generation after generation continue to inspire us, their testimony never growing tired, never growing old.”

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