We visited St. Peter’s Basilica for the first time in the summer of 2016 when the doors of Mercy were opened. After walking the pilgrim walk through the doors and entering the sanctuary, we had no idea where to begin. Immediately to the right was the beautiful Pieta.
Soon into our exploration, we came to a body of a former Pope.
People were praying, some in deep contemplation as if they were speaking directly to him. We approached closer to see that it was St. John XXIII. His body resting peacefully, fully in tact. St. John XXIII is the namesake of our children’s parochial school. We were all a bit perplexed. Even though I felt a close personal connection to my Catholic faith, there was still so much I didn’t know, particularly about incorrupt bodies of saints.
My daughter was having none of it.
“Mom, I do not want to see dead people.”
I was intrigued. I stayed and I prayed, modeling the veiled women around me. “Dear, St. John XXIII please bless our school community.” Little did I know, St. John XXIII had wanted for me to know him. Our daughter’s birthday is his feast day. I think this day, not only did he want to bless our school community, he wanted to bless our family, too.
Returning home, I wanted to know more about this fascinating state of St. John XXIII. Through research, I found out that preservation measures were taken in order to have a public display when he died. Also, his entombment in the crypt at the Vatican preserved his body. So, his state may not be considered miraculous. Irregardless, the state of his body reflects his holiness and prompts pilgrims to have an encounter with him the same as we did.
A year later, traveling relics were displayed at our school gym, St. John XXIII being one of the relics.
The priest who brought the relics shared that people may have different encounters in the presence of the relics- scents, hearing interior messages or other encounters with the saints. When I was in the presence of St. John XXIII, I heard him speak interiorly to me, “ Teri, I know you were praying to me at the Vatican, do not worry, I heard your prayers.” I am incredibly blessed to have had this time with St. John XXIII and know that he continues to answer the prayers of people who pray in his presence.