400-year-old heart of Catholic saint arrives in Louisiana

400-year-old heart of Catholic saint arrives in Louisiana

400-year-old heart of Catholic saint arrives in Louisiana

A reliquary containing the heart of 17th century St. John Berchmans. (Credit: Shreveport Times.)

Saint John Berchmans was a 17th century Jesuit scholastic in Belgium, and is considered the patron saint of altar servers.

SHREVEPORT — A 400-year-old human heart that belongs to a Catholic saint is making a temporary home at a Louisiana church.

The Shreveport Times reports that the heart of St. John Berchmans arrived Thursday at a Shreveport church that bares the saint’s name.

It is the first time the relic has left the church in Belgium that it calls home.

It will be on display at the Shreveport cathedral until December 18 and then it returns to Belgium.

The heart is enshrined in a silver and gold reliquary.

Father Peter Mangum from the cathedral says after the first service featuring the heart that the “faith and devotion” he’s seen has been “overwhelming.”

Berchmans was a 17th century Jesuit scholastic in Belgium, and is considered the patron saint of altar servers. He died in 1621 while working on his Jesuit studies in Rome, with a reputation for tremendous personal holiness.

At the time of his death, in keeping with a long-standing Catholic custom regarding the veneration of the remains of people regarded as saints, his heart was removed from his body and placed in a silver reliquary in his Leuven, Belgium. He was formally canonized in 1888.

The miracle that cleared the way for his sainthood occurred in the United States, in Louisiana in 1866, one year after the Civil War, where a young female novice reported that Berchmans appeared to her in a vision and cured her of an illness. A shrine named for the Jesuit saint was built there, the only shrine in the United States located at the exact spot of a miracle officially confirmed by the Church.

Crux Staff also contributed to this report.

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