CCO Missionary D’Arcy Murphy shares his story on what it’s like to be the guardian of St. Francis’ arm.
By D’Arcy Murphy
Published with permission from Torchia Communications
At least once a day last January, I’ve carefully opened the case that holds the forearm of a holy man who died 465 years ago. I unlocked the small padlock, lifted the cover and slipped on my white gloves, often in the company of local church members and a media camera or two. This was a daily routine, but it was never ordinary. Each and every time, as I removed the foam blocks and pulled out the reliquary encased in plexiglass, I felt exhilarated. At these very moments, I introduced St. Francis Xavier to a greater number of fellow Canadians. In a very real — but surreal — way, I helped him continue his missionary work.
Much has been made of my title, Guardian of the Relic. Yes, I sat beside the relic on more than a dozen Air Canada flights and in too many rental minivans to count. I’ve polished the case so often that I’ve memorized the contours of the relic. But the visuals etched in my mind are not solely those of the relic; they’re the faces of tens of thousands of people who approached the relic in a precious moment of deep spirituality, faith, and hope.
Each person’s complete story remains veiled to me; they’re strangers with whom I never spoke a word. But I have no doubt that many of the pilgrims lived a profound encounter — with God, but also perhaps themselves or a memory or relationship that needs attention, resolution or healing.
Regardless of their particular situation, I’m confident pilgrims have been forever changed. At each veneration event, we invited people to ask St. Francis Xavier to pray for them for healing, a conversion of heart and an increased zeal to serve God. Hundreds of emails and phone calls have already come in from people who attended the events and had powerful, lasting experiences.
As we’ve wrapped up this incredible adventure, the moments I’ve witnessed — the hope of individuals across 15 cities — come together as a clearer portrait of our faith as Canadians.
On February 3, I opened (and closed) the relic’s case for the last time. Then, I flew to Rome and turned over the precious cargo to the clergy at the Gesu Church in Rome, where it’s been displayed for the past 404 years.
People have noted it’s going to be tough to find a fitting follow-up experience to this one. They’re right — everything about this has been extraordinary. I guess I’ll no longer be asked to explain what, exactly, the job of Guardian of the Relic entails. But that was just a temporary title. My identity remains the same: a missionary disciple of Jesus Christ. Now, I look forward to another adventure. After all, as another saintly friend, Pope Saint John Paul II said, “Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure.”