WASHINGTON, D.C., OCT. 11, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Church recognizes that relics have a unique role: showing the enduring spiritual presence of the saint, says Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C..
The archbishop made that observation at a Mass for the Closing Day of Pilgrimage with the relics of St. John Bosco at the capital’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
The relics began a 130-nation pilgrimage on Jan. 31, 2009, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Salesians of Don Bosco. They were in the United States and Canada from Sept. 11 through Oct. 10.
Archbishop Wuerl celebrated Mass with the relics on Sept. 28. He said: “The Church has long recognized the unique role of a relic. It is a visible sign of the enduring spiritual presence of the saint, a presence that invites and inspires, and a presence recognized in the continuation of the saint’s ministry.”
The prelate reflected on the saint and the congregation he founded: “The founder of the Salesian Society was born of poor parents in a small cabin in a tiny village in Piedmont, Italy, Aug. 16, 1815. His father died when he was little more than 2 years old, leaving the support of three boys to his mother, Margaret Bosco. The future saint faced many hardships.”
“The story of the Salesian Society shows the same hand of God’s providence as does the life of its founder,” he continued. “The narrative of this religious family of educators, touching now the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people, began, according to some, when, in 1841 on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Don Bosco, while vesting for Mass, heard the noise of the church sacristan expressing his displeasure at a ragged, disheveled youngster who displayed very little devotion while seeking a place in church. … Don Bosco intervened, invited the youngster to join him in church. Over the years there sprang up a friendship that was replicated in the lives of so many other young people who found in Don Bosco a kindness that they had never known, an outreach that drew them to him and, through him, to Christ.”
The relics are now headed to Asia, where they will tour 17 nations.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Benedict XVI’s secretary of state and himself a Salesian, participated in the first stages of the tour. As part of the celebrations, he gave a homily in June of 2009 in the Catacombs of St. Callixtus, which are cared for by the Salesians, and which John Bosco visited various times during his life.