Monday, April 7


It's Disturbing Relics Week at the Shrine!

(Edward Herrman voice on) Previously on the Shrine... (/Herrmann off). Following up on last week's appeal for the use of more narcoleptic wax virgin-martyrs in American church interior-decoration schemes, our crack team of researchers have swarmed all over the world tracking down strange, wonderful, beautiful and sometimes, okay, let's be honest here, just plain icky examples of Catholic relics and reliquaries. Mother Church expects us to have a strong stomach, and she wasn't kidding about that Resurrection of the Body business.

Actually, we didn't really swarm over the world but mostly noodled around on on our lunch break (HWTN budget cuts from the nice folks at our corporate sponsor, the Sheinhardt Zuchetto Company), but a few Alert Readers sent us some fun and edifying examples from their neck of the woods.

Seriously, though, why are Catholics such packrats when it comes to the bones of the blessed? It's not just a stereotypical sense of the medievally morbid, but because we believe God can work His wonders through things physical--whether it be the sacramental grace of Holy Oil or a sick pilgrim immersed in the waters of Lourdes, or the mud Christ spat in when He cured the blind man, or the shadow of an apostle moving over the sick, or the hem of Jesus's cloak--because we believe the human body is more than just an inconvenient envelope for the soul, but a temple of the Holy Spirit, an integral part of our being that we will get back come the General Resurrection. Relics help us remember that heavenly reality.

Our separated brethren, who usually run away screaming from this sort of thing (okay, yes, I admit, St. Catherine of Bologna does look a bit like a haunted house exhibit after five-and-a-half centuries, but that's the occupational hazard of being a two-thousand year old church), might recall the great honor paid by the Jews to the bones of Moses, in spite of all their elaborate ritual-purity laws against touching corpses, not to mention the posthumous miracle wrought by Elisha's bones, which brought a corpse to life. Even the persecuted Christians of the catacomb era took great pains to preserve the relics of the martyrs, in the days when hanging on to such sacred souvenirs was something close to a death-sentence if discovered.

But, okay, maybe you could ask us to be a bit more discrete, the spangled skeletons and the dessicated vocal chords and inexplicably bubbling blood are a bit tacky for all their spiritual potency. To which I said, the Church may be true, but I never said anything about good taste or respectability. "Be like little children": surely you were five years old once? "Oooh! Cool! Gross!"

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