Catholics filled Westminster Cathedral on Saturday to venerate the relics of St Anthony of Padua.
The arrival of the saint’s relics, which comprised a small piece of petrified flesh and a layer of skin from the saint’s cheek, was part of a UK tour marking the 750th anniversary of the discovery of St Anthony’s incorrupt tongue.
Following an afternoon of veneration, where pilgrims queued for hours outside the cathedral in order to visit the relics, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster celebrated Mass in honour of the great saint.
During his homily, Archbishop Nichols said that St Anthony was a guide to those who have lost their way. He said: “On this most fundamental of all journeys we often get lost, taking a wrong path, ending up in a cul-de-sac, distracted by bright lights or misjudgement. St Anthony is well known for helping us to find lost things. And he can help us in this way too. He can help us to find again our true path whenever we have lost our way.”
Archbishop Nichols also emphasised the importance of praying continually. He said: “The third lesson we learn today for our pilgrimage through life is that we are to pray continually. St Anthony teaches us this, too. His finest gifts were those of preaching and teaching. But he had to wait until the time came for him to exercise these gifts to the full. Patient prayer carries us along this pilgrimage of life.”
Following their visit to Westminster Cathedral, the relics’ tour concluded at St Peter’s Italian Church in Clerkenwell. It is estimated that the relics have attracted 250,000 people across the UK during their tour.
Prior to their arrival at Westminster Cathedral, St Anthony’s relics had visited Belfast, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool and Chester.
During their veneration at the Franciscan Church in Chester, the Church of St Francis, Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury reminded pilgrims that they were too called to be saints.
Addressing a packed church last Thursday, Bishop Davies said: “In Rome yesterday Pope Francis reminded us of the startling fact that the term ‘saint’ refers to you and to me, to everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus and are incorporated in Him and in the Church through Baptism. We are to be all saints!”
He added: “The saints reveal the true face of the Church at a moment in history when the Church’s public image has too often been distorted by scandals. The saints recall us to what the Church is for and that her ultimate goal is to bring us to Heaven. Blessed John Paul II, who will very soon be recognised amongst the canonised saints himself, observed how it is the saints who have always been the source of renewal amidst the most difficult moments in the Church’s story.”
Fr Michael Conaty, parish priest of St Anthony of Padua Church in Newcastle upon Tyne, said that the visit of the relics to his parish was an “extraordinary success” with approximately 5,500 travelling to venerate the relics.
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