by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — According to the original schedule, the incorrupt heart of St. John Vianney — also known as the Curé of Ars — would not visit Kansas during its “Heart of a Priest” relic pilgrimage, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.
That changed when Dr. Paul Camarata, a member of the Church of the Nativity in Leawood, got involved.
He contacted Peter Sonski, one of the relic’s three tour custodians, at the Knights headquarters in New Haven, Connecticut, to ask if it would be possible to add the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas to the tour.
A lot of people were asking, but not all requests could be accommodated.
“I got an email from Mr. Sonski saying the relic would come to the Church of Nativity, but only if Archbishop Joseph Naumann approved,” said Camarata. “I just happened to be with the archbishop at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., when I looked at [Sonski’s] email on my phone. I read it to the archbishop and asked, ‘Can we?’ Of course, he said, ‘Yes.’”
The relic will visit the archdiocese March 17 and 18, and be at five locations.
The heart of St. John Vianney was entrusted to the Knights of Columbus for a pilgrimage throughout the United States from November 2018 to May 2019.
“Saint John Vianney is the patron of priests,” said Sonski, director of education and outreach at the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven.
“The church in the United States is wounded now, and we are praying for our priests, and looking to a saint who was a model of virtue and dedication to his ministry to help us through this period of injury and to renewal.”
It’s worth noting that the saint is the secondary patron of the archdiocese, and that the archdiocese has a parish and school named in his honor.
Although he’s a relatively “new” saint, John Vianney is one of those whose popularity and devotion keeps growing.
John Vianney was born in Dardilly, France, on May 8, 1786, the son of poor but devout peasants. He grew up in the turmoil and aftermath of the French Revolution, which produced a fierce persecution of the Catholic faith.
Eventually, the turmoil died down and he discerned a vocation to the priesthood. He had many difficulties in the seminary and was on the verge of being expelled, but the vicar general intervened because of the young man’s piety.
Father John Vianney was ordained on Aug. 13, 1815, and assigned to a hamlet named Ars where the faith had all but died out. He spent long hours in prayer before the tabernacle and lived a rigorous life of prayer, fasting and penance. He spent hours in the confessional and is reputed to have been able to read souls.
Gradually, he transformed Ars and soon people from all over France and Europe sought him out. He died on August 4, 1859. Pope Pius XI declared him a saint on May 31, 1925, and on April 23, 1928, he was declared patron of the world’s parish priests. His feast day is Aug. 4.
Today, St. John Vianney’s incorrupt body is in a glass reliquary of the Basilica of Ars. His heart, removed after his death, is enshrined in the nearby Shrine of the Curé’s Heart.
The heart receives special veneration because in Scripture it is considered to be a person’s hidden center of emotional, intellectual and moral activity. Saint John Vianney is said to have lived his life according to the heart of Christ and united his heart to Christ’s.
Relic pilgrimage schedule
A relic is an object associated with a saint that may be venerated, but not worshiped. It is meant to draw a person closer to God as he or she asks for the saint’s intercession.
These are the places the incorrupt heart of St. John Vianney will visit during the relic’s pilgrimage in northeast Kansas.
• Church of the Nativity, 3800 W. 119th, Leawood. It will be enshrined for the 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. Masses, the latter celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann. There will be no public veneration.
• Curé of Ars Parish, 9401 Mission Rd., Leawood. It will be enshrined for the noon Mass celebrated by Archbishop Naumann. There will be no public veneration.
• St. Michael the Archangel Parish, 14241 Nall Ave., Leawood. It will be enshrined for public veneration from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. It will remain enshrined during 5 p.m. Mass. At 7 p.m., there will be a period of veneration by the priests, deacons and seminarians of the archdiocese. At 8 p.m. it will be transferred to St. James Academy.
• St. James Academy, 24505 Prairie Star Pkwy., Lenexa. There will be a brief period of public veneration. The relic will be enshrined during an all-school Mass at 8:30 a.m., celebrated by Archbishop Naumann. There will be a brief period of public veneration after the Mass until the relic is transferred to Atchison.• Finally, the relic will be enshrined in the church at St. Benedict’s Abbey. 1020 N. 2nd St., Atchison, for a period of public veneration from 1 to 10 p.m. The sacrament of reconciliation will be offered during the entire time.