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Knights Offer the Silence of Sanctity to Young Catholics

(Image courtesy Rosemary Sullivan)

By Rosemary Sullivan

The greatest gift the Knights of Columbus may have brought to a national gathering of 17,000 young Catholics in January was an opportunity to experience a deeper silence.

The Fellowship of Catholic University Students’ biennial SEEK Conference is usually marked by uncontainable joy for Christ as well as periods of silent reflection, especially at Mass and other times of prayer.

Held in Indianapolis Jan. 3-7, this year’s gathering included something special, the incorrupt heart of St. Jean Marie Vianney. The major relic had a profound effect on the participating students, especially during adoration. It also touched the 350 seminarians and more than 400 priests on hand as Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, is revered by Catholic clergy as the model of priestly holiness.

The Fellowship of Catholic University Students, or FOCUS, is a Catholic collegiate outreach whose mission is to share the hope and joy of the Gospel with college and university students. FOCUS holds the SEEK conference in order to, as its mission states, know Christ and fulfill his great commission.

In addition to daily Mass, confession, top-notch workshops and speakers, the organizers arranged for daily Eucharistic adoration overseen this year by DiocesanPriest.com. It offered a quiet place for prayer and conversation with God. Each day the chapel was packed and some of those sacred conversations could be seen etched on the faces of those in prayer.

The silence was first felt on Friday evening when the relic arrived at SEEK 2019 as part of a national pilgrimage that will stretch into the spring.

Catholic journalists and reporters have written about the tremendous response of the young people in wanting to venerate the relic. At one point on Friday evening, the chapel had over 3,000 people and could not fit another soul, all in prayer, all in absolute silence.

For me, another moment stands out even more. On Saturday morning, the relic was to be carried in procession and placed in front of the main altar during Mass. But before the priests lined up for the procession, I asked that the relic be placed in the sacristy in order for the concelebrating priests to have time to pray with St. Jean Vianney. What happened was extraordinarily powerful.

The Knight who had been traveling with the relic on behalf of the K of C brought the relic in and placed it on a simple table towards the back of the room. At first, most of the priests were not aware of the arrival of the relic but quickly a wave of silence swept over the room and they approached, asking if they could venerate the relic.

The emotion in the room was incalculable and time seemed to stand still. I was witnessing the priests, praying through the intercession of St. Jean Marie, seeking to strengthen their priesthood. One priest later shared with me that he has been struggling with all that has been in the news about the Church lately and that having the relic here reminded him of the words of St. Jean Vianney: “Do not try to please everybody. Try to please God, the angels and the saints — they are your public.”

St. Jean Marie Vianney, known as the holy Curé of Ars, is well recognized as the great apostle of the confessional. On Saturday evening, while over 6,500 confessions were being heard over a two-hour period,

St. John Vianney’s incorrupt heart was placed where the priests could see it. “Hearing confessions while knowing St. Jean was there praying for me, and for all those seeking God’s forgiveness, was incredibly powerful and something that will stay with me long into my priesthood,” one chaplain shared with me.

Another said he was reminded of the “rigorous life of prayer and fasting of St. Jean and how he would spend endless hours in the confessional saving souls for Jesus; something that I, as a newly ordained priest, pray I will always remember.”

On March 29, 2007, at a Founder’s Day banquet hosted by the Supreme Council, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson stated, “It is at the parish level and in support of parish priests that the Knights of Columbus will continue to make its mark on the Church.” As the mother of a priest and as the executive director of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation directors (who oversee DiocesanPriest.com), I would add it would be in the silence as well.

Thank you, members of the Knights, for all that you do to support our priests. Please continue to pray for our bishops, priests, seminarians and all those seeking to hear God’s call.

As the executive director of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors (NCDVD), Rosemary Sullivan oversees NCDVD’s year-round efforts to support and educate vocation directors in 171 U.S. dioceses and major eparchies, as well as in Australia, Canada, England, Italy, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Scotland and other areas throughout the world. She is the mother of four children, one of whom is a priest in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y.

For more details on the K of C-sponsored tour of the incorrupt heart of

St. Jean Vianney, visit kofc.org/vianney.