As the relic of St. Francis Xavier travels across Canada, it is accompanied by D'Arcy Murphy, a University of Ottawa student and a missionary with Catholic Christian Outreach, a university student movement dedicated to evangelization. Below, D'Arcy shares insights on what it's been like to be the official guardian for the 465-year-old right forearm of one the greatest missionaries of all time.
1. As the "arm guard" of the relic of St. Francis Xavier, what does your role involve and what does your daily schedule look like?
My primary responsibility is for the relic itself, including carrying the case it is kept in, packing and unpacking the relic, keeping the Plexiglas case clean and standing on guard during veneration. On the plane rides, the relic is always beside me. As for our daily schedule, it's always different. The only things we can expect other than events on university campuses and in churches are long days, lots of travel and the unexpected!
2. You've taken a semester off from school to accompany the relic. What motivated you to do this?
This really is once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. To travel to so many places in one month, [the tour includes 15 Canadian cities in 30 days] but also to see all of the graces that come of it will be amazing. Through prayer, it was very clear that saying yes to this was more than just saying yes to something cool – I really felt called to partake in this mission when I was asked. I am saying yes to God and trusting that it is part of His plan for my welfare and future with hope! (Jeremiah 29:11)
D'Arcy Murphy, right, is seated beside the relic of St. Francis Xavier. Behind him is André Regnier, founder of Catholic Christian Outreach. They are part of the team accompanying the saint's right forearm across the country.
3. What has your experience been flying with the relic – and what has been the reaction of your fellow passengers?
The tour team sits with the regular passengers, with the relic in the seat beside me. Even as I respond to these questions, I'm sitting beside the relic on our flight to St. John's. Many people have been quite curious. The airport staff and flight attendants have been most intrigued. While they do have the occasional package taking seat like the relic, they never see one treated with the same care and reverence and definitely not one that flies so frequently. Our flight attendant today sat beside André Regnier (CCO founder and a member of the tour team) for quite a while and asked so many questions – she said she wanted to come see the relic when it is in Montréal.
4. How do you describe travelling with the relic in layman's terms to those without an understanding of it?
The analogy that seems to be the most relevant for my friends is explaining that my role is like the keeper of the Stanley Cup. While this relic is way more important than the Stanley Cup, the practicality of how it is transported and cared for (white gloves and all) is pretty similar.
5. Can you tell us about the mission of the relic tour?
Bringing the relic of St Francis Xavier to Canada is actually about Christ and making Him known to our country, rather than just being about the saint. The relic provides a physical encounter with a man who lived a life of great virtue. He can be an example for all of us seeking to grow closer to the Lord. There are also three things we are anticipating for pilgrims venerating this relic: conversion to a Christ-centred life; healings; and increased zeal to evangelize.
6. Did you do any research on SFX and relics to prepare for the trip? If so, did anything you learned surprise you?
While I already knew the basic story of St Francis Xavier – he was a great missionary saint who travelled through Asia baptizing thousands and even witnessing God heal and raise people from the dead through his own intercession – it was how he got there that stuck out to me. I did not realize he had a conversion in university after being evangelized by another student (St. Ignatius of Loyola). This is really cool because university is where I encountered the Lord in a deeper way and where I seek to evangelize my peers who do not yet have the joy that comes from a Christ-centred life.
7. Before this experience, did you have any connection to relics – and had you ever seen any in the past? If so, which ones?
I've had a number of opportunities to venerate relics, most notably at the Mercy Centre in Krakow during World Youth Day 2016. Relics of St. John Paul II, St. Faustina, St. Maximilian Kolbe, as well as the body of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frasatti at another site in Krakow, were all on display for veneration. Venerating those relics was an inspiring and moving. Seeing saints makes me want to become one too!
8. What impact do you think this experience will have on you?
Aside from a lot of physical stamina, I have witnessed the moving experiences individuals have when venerating the relic. One moment from yesterday in particular was when a homeless man came forward to venerate the relic. It was a beautiful moment and a great reminder of Christ's love for all people, especially the poor, when his weathered hand reached out to touch the relic. Sainthood truly is for everyone - it's our universal call. That was a pretty cool moment.
The relic will be visiting the Archdiocese of Toronto from January 12 to 14. For a full list of tour dates, please visit www.cco.ca/relic.