One of the most moving parts for me in the Mass of Canonization was when the relics of the newly canonized saints were processed and placed in front of the altar. I have re-watched that part of the coverage numerous times. Carrying the relic of Saint André Bessette was Brother Tom Dzeikan, CSC, the Vicar General of the Congregation of Holy Cross. In an interesting connection, Brother Tom proclaimed the first reading at the Mass of Beatification for Brother André back in 1982.
Brother Tom was on the seminary staff at Notre Dame while I was a seminarian, so I wanted to ask him what that moment was like for him. Here is what he wrote back:
As the procession with the reliquaries, flowers and candles was being led to the altar, we stopped for a moment, at the bottom of the sagrato. I stood there, with the reliquary in my hands, and then I heard the Holy Father read the proclamation that Brother Andre was truly a saint. At that moment, in a flash, that first experience in 1982 came to mind and now this. I was overcome with emotion and a feeling of great grace. The experience was that I was privileged to hold this relic of my brother in my hands, the relic of someone who was truly of God and with God – a man who made the same vows that I did. I can't explain it better than that. Perhaps I can best describe it as a peek into what it means to be with God.
With God – yes, that is what the communion of saints reminds us above all – that we are all with God in our lives. The relics of the saints, being that “real physical representation of the presence of the saints among us” as Mary Rose Bacani put so beautifully in the canonization coverage, are ultimately a reminder for us of God’s abiding presence with us.
In preparing for the canonization last week, the seminarians at Old College, the Holy Cross undergraduate seminary at the University of Notre Dame, prayed a novena
. On Tuesday, October 12, they invited students from the university to join them in the novena, which that evening included the Votive Mass of St. Joseph and a candle-lit procession with a relic of Brother André. At the end of the procession, all were invited to venerate the relic. Around two hundred students participated in the prayer, and all remarked afterward that there was a palpable sense of being with God throughout the Mass, procession, and veneration. You literally could feel God’s presence! (I like to call it God-bumps … like goose bumps but better!) Everyone there truly felt they were with God, and it was precisely St. Joseph and Brother André who made God’s presence among us so real to us.
It reminds me of a homily one wise Holy Cross priest once gave. He proclaimed, “When we celebrate the saints, we are not really celebrating them but what God did through them … and then what God can do through us.” Yes, like St. André and all the saints, may God transform us into living, breathing reliquaries of His holy presence among us for the entire world to see and to believe: Yes, we are with God.