Bishop of Salford greets saints’ relics with a renewed call to faith and mission

A rare opportunity to pray before the relics of three inspiring saints has triggered an invitation from Bishop John Arnold of Salford to follow their example of faith and mission.

This month, parishes across the diocese of Salford are welcoming the relics of Saints Columba, Andrew, and Margaret as part of a special tour organised by the Knights of Saint Columba.

The relics have already visited churches in Colne, Burnley, Accrington, Blackburn, and Darwen, inviting parishioners and schools to attend Mass in the presence of the relics or simply spend time in prayer.

On Monday, the relics made their way to St Mary’s Church in Horwich, where Year 6 pupils from St Mary’s RC Primary attended Mass and enjoyed the opportunity to see the relics up close.

Dominique Hayes, Headteacher at St Mary’s RC Primary School, said: “It was a wonderful occasion for our Year 6 children to attend Mass and visit the relics of the saints. The opportunity to be so close to an actual physical link to a best friend of Jesus was incredible. It will be a memory we will all keep forever.”

Later that day, parishioners from across the deanery and beyond gathered for a special Mass celebrated by Bishop John, in which he reflected on how these saints might inspire us in our faith today.

Drawing our attention to the example of St Columba in his homily, Bishop John said: “Celtic monasticism was rather different to the monasticism that we have today. Young men and women would enter monasteries and convents in order to learn about Christ, to grow in that sense of prayer and knowledge of the scriptures and to live in a community of holiness.

“The second stage was that some of the very best monks and nuns would then be sent out on mission to found other communities and to preach, and so it was that Columba – having excelled in his own monastic formation – was sent to reform and found the community of Iona.

“So there’s a great tradition in Celtic spirituality of establishing the Church, growing in that sense of faith and prayer and knowledge of God and the going on in mission.

“And I think that is a very good recipe for all of us as Christians that we need to start by trying to grow in that sense of faith and prayer for ourselves in order that we may be more effectively missionary disciples.”

An example of mission

Bishop John then went on to recall Pope Francis’ call to a life of mission, reminding us that our faith is not something to be kept private and away from the world; but is something to be taken out into the world as a light to others.

He said: “Pope Francis had only been pope for a few months when he addressed bishops in South America, saying: “It’s no good you lot sitting in your cathedrals – even with the doors open – waiting for people to come in. Do you have the courage to go out there and to walk with people even while they’re walking away from the Church?””

This is the question Bishop John put to each one of us as we reflected on the example of all of these saints: the missionary, the apostle, the queen. How do we walk in accompaniment with our friends and families who have perhaps drifted away from the Church? How does these actions bear witness to our faith?

Bishop John continued: “St Paul uses a little phrase, which is quite hauntingly beautiful. In his second letter to the Corinthians, he says: “So, we are ambassadors for Christ.”

“What’s an ambassador? An ambassador is someone who is delegated by somebody else to stand in their place, to carry on their work with their authority. And you and I are delegated by Jesus Christ to stand in His place, to carry on His work with His authority.

“What a challenge. What a privilege. And that’s something that we need to be renewing in our lives constantly, saying, “I want to be an ambassador for Christ. Therefore, every action, decision, and choice I make, I want to try and emulate what Christ was – and is – for all of us.

“That’s our vocation as missionary disciples.”

The relics will make a final call in the Diocese of Salford later this month with a visit to St Mary’s in Bamber Bridge between Friday 22nd September and Sunday 24th September.

Programme of events:
Friday 12 noon: arrival of the relics
Friday 12 – 5.30pm: Opportunity to visit for prayer and veneration of the relics.
Friday 6pm:  Holy Mass in thanksgiving for the saints
Saturday 9.30am: Holy Mass
Saturday 10-12 noon: Opportunity to visit for prayer and veneration of the relics.
Saturday 3.30 – 6.30pm: Opportunity to visit for prayer and veneration of the relics.
Saturday 7pm: Vigil Mass
Sunday 9.30am: Sunday Mass
Sunday 10.30-6pm: Opportunity to visit for prayer and veneration of the relics.
Sunday 6.30pm: Sunday Mass followed by the departure of the relics.