Heart of a Catholic saint is on display in Denver this weekend

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DENVER -- The heart of St. John Vianney was on display in Denver on Sunday at the Catholic theological seminary named in his honor.

The faithful lined up to pray to the former priest who, in death, has remained a mentor to young men called to the priesthood.

St. John Vianney Theological Seminar is just east of Denver’s Washington Park.

There, the literal heart of Vianney was on display, according to Rev. Jonathan Kalisch of the Knights of Columbus.

“By coming here, it’s honoring -- or venerating -- the saint, not adoring him,” he said. “We only adore the Lord, God.”

Catholics call, what they believe is a miraculously preserved heart, a major relic of the deceased priest.

Vianney oversaw a parish in France in the mid-1800s. Vianney is considered to have been an ideal priest.

“He spent ... purgatory here on Earth,” said seminarian Austin Habash, who explained how Vianney always put his parishioners above himself.

In the wake of the sex abuse crisis and dwindling number of new seminarians, the heart is looked at as a symbol of inspiration and a call to action.

“I think it’s a great moment for renewal,” Kalisch explained.

Catholics call the 160-year-old heart incorrupt. That means, through a miracle, not science, it has not turned to dust.

“By a miracle of God, certain people who die don’t have their bodies disintegrate at all,” Kalisch said.

The hope, among other things, is that the spiritual connections through the heart will lead to a renewal in vocations to the priesthood.

“I think there’s a place in young men’s hearts where they want to give their lives for something or someone, either their bride, or for some great cause,” Habash said.

In the end, the relic will make it to all 50 states. Austin, Texas, is the next stop.

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