Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury is asking Catholics to make a pilgrimage to venerate the heart of Saint John Vianney when it arrives in England for the first time ever.
“I would regard this visit as a success if only a handful of people are invited to deeper prayer, to a more serious consideration of their vocation and are inspired by the example of one of the greatest saints in our history,” Bishop Davies said in a six-minute video invitation.
The bishop’s message was published almost one month before the arrival of the relic at the Manchester Airport on July 5 – the first time it has ever come to England. Over a period of four days the relic will be taken on a tour of dioceses in the northwestern part of the country.
In his video message Bishop Davies invites people to Liverpool’s Cathedral of Christ the King on July 6 for a National Day of Prayer, which will be dedicated to the renewal of parish life and supporting vocations. The cathedral can accommodate around 3,000 pilgrims.
“It will be an invitation to prayer and it will be an invitation also to reawaken that desire for holiness in many hearts,” said Bishop Davies, drawing a parallel with the hugely popular visit of the relics of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux to England in 2009.
The relic will be on show for veneration in the cathedral in Liverpool between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The day will also include Mass, the recitation of the Divine Office, confession, and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
St. John Mary Baptist Vianney served as priest for 40 years in the small, rural French town of Ars during the early 19th century. His work and dedication to the people of that infamously immoral town earned him a reputation as a saint while he was still alive. He was formally canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1925 and four years later was proclaimed the main patron saint of parish priests.
“He shows us: ‘don’t depend on yourself, depend on what the grace of God can make possible for you’ and then the Curé de Ars shows us you will see great thing,” Bishop Davies remarked.
With only a month to go until the relic’s arrival, Bishop Davies believes that “this is now the time that we hand our plans over to the plans which the Lord has in mind for these few days when we are invited to be especially close in prayer to St. John Mary Vianney.”
The relic will be accompanied throughout the visit to England by Bishop Guy Bagnard of Belley-Ars in France, along with two priests of the Ars diocese.