UP to 2,000 people from across Limerick and the Mid-West have already queued this morning to see the relics of St Anthony at St John’s Cathedral.
People queued from 8am to have a front row seat in the 10am mass, and be among the first to kiss the holy relics, which are now on display for the fifth day in their eight day tour of Ireland.
There was standing room only during the first mass of the day in the 1000 seater cathedral.
The tour is taking place to mark the 750th anniversary of the discovery of St Anthony’s uncorrupted remains. A part of his cheek and a rib are on display in Limerick, while his tongue has also been preserved.
Fr Austin McNamara said “it’s wonderful” to have the relics in Limerick and “a great privilege” that they have come to St John’s Cathedral.
“It has been tremendous so far. St Anthony is a big attraction all over the world, so it is a marvellous day for us, not just for St John’s but for the diocese,” he said.
Speaking in Limerick today, Padua-based Franciscan Conventual friar, Fr Mario Conte, told the Limerick Leader that the great crowds that have gathered have surpassed his expectations.
“We didn’t expect so many people, but St Francis is loved all over the world and I know the Irish are very, very devoted people, and he is a dear friend of them. It is a very nice to be here, and it is lovely to watch people having this physical meeting with St Anthony.”
While only a small part of the relic is on display, he said that does not diminish its importance in the eyes of the people.
“It’s not important how big it is, what’s important is the connection. We all have something precious we love that belongs to someone else that are not with us any longer. I have my mother’s wedding ring and she died some years ago, but when I hold it I feel a connection. People when they come and see the relic of St Anthony and can touch it, they feel a connection with him. It’s like giving your hand to St Anthony and thanking him for something you have received,” said Fr Conte.
While typically prayers are said to St Anthony if a material possession is lost, he said prayers are also said to him for far greater things that people feel they may have lost.
Fr Comte said prayers for those “who have lost their peace of mind, a job, a house, financial standing, a loved one, our dreams, our talent, our initial zeal, our sobriety, our faith, our perspective, our innocence”.
Some 25,000 people visited the relics in Cork yesterday, and thousands more are expected to visit the relics in Limerick throughout the day.
The Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy will preside over mass at 7pm this evening. The cathedral will be open until 10pm this Monday.