'It's kind of like the Stanley Cup': Severed arm of St. Francis Xavier in Montreal today

Montrealers will have a chance to see the forearm of St. Francis Xavier in the flesh for three days. The arm is on its last leg of a tour across Canada.

Montreal will be a pit stop for the 465-year-old relic before it goes back home to Rome

Several Montreal-area churches will be pit stops for St. Francis Xavier's arm as it wraps up a cross-country tour. (Catholic Christian Outreach)

A 465-year-old severed forearm is on its way to Montreal.

It belongs to St. Francis Xavier, a Roman Catholic missionary who is said to have baptized more than 100,000 converts with that very hand.

The relic is on a first-class flight and will make appearances at the Mary Queen of the World Cathedral Sunday and Monday, the first two events during its three-day stay in our city.

On Jan. 30, it will be moved to St. Ignatius of Loyola Church, then Church of the Gesù, before wrapping up its month-long cross-country tour in Ottawa.

This weekend's pit stop will be amongst its last before it heads back to its permanent resting place — inside the opulent Church of the Gesù in Rome.

Montrealers rejoice

Catholic faithful in Montreal may have been counting down the days to the its arrival, but for one Montrealer, this visit will feel quite familiar.

"I consider him one of my friends," said Brian Cordeiro, the associate finance director of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Montreal.
Montrealer Brian Cordeiro has already seen St. Francis Xavier's body twice, and says he considers him one of his friends. (Submitted)

Cordeiro is of Goan descent and remembers his first two encounters with the Saint.

"I've seen the incorrupt body of St. Francis Xavier, which lies in the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa, twice in my lifetime —in 1964 and 1974."

When Xavier died in China in 1552, his well-preserved body was moved back to India and his arm was removed by the Catholic church 60 years later. The rest of the body remains in Goa — its elevated once every 10 years for public viewing.

"Jesus came down in the form of the flesh — he became one of us," said Cordeiro. "Therefore, we also believe the flesh of Saints — even after they are dead, namely the relics, provide opportunities for us to receive graces from God."

'Closeness to God'

The tour was arranged to coincide with Canada's 150th birthday by the Catholic Christian Outreach and the Jesuits of Canada.

Dennis Barry described the experience of seeing the arm as "very powerful," and feeling an "overwhelming sensation of the closeness of God." (Annie Deir/CBC)

"It's kind of like the Stanley Cup," Dennis Barry told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

Barry is the team leader at Concordia University for Catholic Christian Outreach. He spent some time with the forearm during the first leg of its tour earlier this month in Ottawa.

"It was incredible. Just seeing it, it was very, very powerful," he said.

"I really felt a closeness to God in that I felt a lot of peace — an overwhelming sensation of the closeness of God."

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak