I appreciated you publishing the article about the veneration of St. John Vianney’s heart relic (Religion, Saturday). Hopefully, it will prompt others to find out more about this beloved saint of heroic virtue, especially that of humility. I wanted to point out two significant errors in the article.
The first is that Catholic veneration of saints’ relics predates St. Catherine of Siena by at least 1,200 years. Obviously, we Catholics have been venerating Christ’s burial shroud for 2,000 years. But the earliest recorded veneration of a saint’s relics were those of St. Polycarp (Catholic Bishop of Smyrna, and taught by St. John the Apostle) around 156 A.D.
I choke up every time I read about his martyrdom and the veneration of his relics in the writings of the early church fathers. “We took up his bones, which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place, where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy and to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom.”
We love saints’ relics because they are those of beloved family members and intimate friends of God. Because we love God we love His friends, and we know because God loves us His friends love us too ... even to death.
The other mistake is that St. John Vianney didn’t just have an instinct for a penitent’s sins, but had the God-given charism of being able to “read hearts,” and able to know every specific sin a penitent had committed. While adoring Jesus in the Eucharist, he said, “If we could see Jesus in the Eucharist with the eyes of an angel, oh how He loves us.”
Kevin McQuaid, Longview