An Interesting Tidbit on Marian Relics for the Feast of the Assumption

A reader writes:

I have been doing research on relics.  I read your 2016 article on relics where you said there are no Marian relics

Permit me to interject the relevant passage to which he refers here:

Mary and Relics

Another sort of relic comes from the Church’s rich legacy of Marian apparitions. This is paradoxical of course, since Mary herself leaves behind no relics, due to her bodily assumption into Heaven. Indeed, one of the difficulties facing critics of the Assumption (who often also lightly dismiss veneration of relics as a combination of mere superstition and early Christian hucksterism) is that the fact that, if the Assumption of Mary is a fairy tale that entered into Christian belief from legends concocted centuries after her death then there would most certainly have been, before the legends arose, a thriving tradition of Marian relics just as there was a thriving tradition about the relics of every other New Testament figure. Not only were saints bones venerated everywhere the Church spread, but Church buildings themselves were typically sited on or near the graves of saints.

That’s why the Church was teeming with relics (some real, some phony) by 451 . Yet . . .

At the Council of Chalcedon in 451, when bishops from throughout the Mediterranean world gathered in Constantinople, Emperor Marcian asked the Patriarch of Jerusalem to bring the relics of Mary to Constantinople to be enshrined in the capitol. The patriarch explained to the emperor that there were no relics of Mary in Jerusalem, that “Mary had died in the presence of the Apostles; but her tomb, when opened later . . . was found empty and so the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up into heaven.” (Father Clifford Stevens, “The Assumption of Mary: A Belief since Apostolic Times,” Catholic Heritage (Heritage, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, July-August 1996)).

Think about this. As the Empire became Christian, relics sometimes took on the character of team mascots, establishing various cities with Most Valuable Player credentials in the court of public opinion. That’s one of the reasons that it really mattered that Peter was buried beneath the High Altar at St. Peter’s Basilica and it’s why King Marcian wanted Mary’s relics.

But here’s the thing: Both Jerusalem and Ephesus laid claim to being the final resting place of the Blessed Virgin. So if the Assumption never happened and only grew from legend centuries later, the Church in both these cities would have claimed her relics in the centuries long before the alleged fantasy of the Assumption was dreamed up.

But, in fact, nobody anywhere ever did that. Christians venerated relics (whether real or phony) of every other contemporary of Mary, from John the Baptist to the twelve apostles. But nobody ever claimed to have the bones of the Blessed Virgin. It’s as though she was assumed bodily into Heaven or something!

That said, many have, however, claimed (with remarkably good evidence at times) that the Blessed Virgin has appeared from Heaven with various messages for the Church militant here on earth. Of course, such claims are not part of the Church’s public revelation and there is no requirement that Catholics accept such private revelation as essential to the Faith. Similarly, the Church does not require us to believe in gravity, the existence of germs, or the inadvisability of playing in traffic. But she does suggest that if common sense points to the truth of a thing, we would be better off paying attention to common sense. In the case of the Church’s approved apparitions, such as at Lourdes, Fatima, or Betania, common sense suggests that we credit the claim that Mary appeared, because the evidence is very strong that she did. In the case of Lourdes, two major relics confront us: the incorrupt body of St. Bernadette and the waters of Lourdes itself. Millions have found inspiration to trust Jesus Christ from both and many thousands have encountered healing, both spiritual and physical, from the miraculous waters.”

My reader continues:

Well there are several places that claim to have a lock of hair from Mary, which would be a first class relic.  Also there are relics that are second class.  See below:

“Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) allegedly had hair of Mary and so did Pope Sergius II, which is now enshrined in Emmerich/Germany. There are still several other places where Mary’s hair is reportedly venerated: in 1148 in Saint Eucharius-Matthias and in 1209 in Saint Mary of the Martyrs in Trier as well as in 1170 in the Cistercian Abbey of Himmerode and in 1282 in the Benedictine Monastery of Prüfening; all of these sites are in Germany. In 1283 Mary’s hair has been deposited in a reliquary at the Augustinian Monastery in Ranshofen, Austria as well as in Linköping, Sweden. Among the secondary relics whose authenticity is naturally dubious a variety of items is known:

Mary’s garment and cincture/sash are considered among the most significant Marian relics. The Byzantine Church celebrates a feast in commemoration of the translation of the cincture to Constantinople (Calcopratreia Church and later to Blacherne Church) on August 31st the last day of the Byzantine Year. The feast of the deposition of Mary’s vestment/garment is celebrated in the Byzantine Rite on July 2nd.”

So if you are writing another article on relics, consider the above.

I should have been clearer. By relics, I meant pieces of her dead body, of course, since she was assumed into heaven and therefore left no corpse behind to venerate.  Things like locks of hair or articles of clothing also count as relics, of course. But I had in mind the bones and body parts of saints that early Christians immediately began to venerate upon their deaths. Claims are made for every saint except with one marked exception: Mary.

What is interesting is that veneration of relics began very early in the history of the Church, but the accounts of her Assumption are handed down by tradition and only get commemorated in the liturgy starting in the fourth century (with the Feast of the Dormition) in the Eastern Churches. If the Assumption was cooked up in the fourth century, there would have been a ton of claims to Marian relics in the centuries before that, since her relics would, above all others, have been prized. But there are none (in the sense of “parts of her dead body”). It’s like she was assumed bodily into heaven or something! It’s also like liturgical commemorations are invariably the tip of an iceberg and refer to traditions that are centuries older than the thing commemorated. The Church never just makes crap up on the spot, especially in the liturgy.

Happy Solemnity of the Assumption!

32 Responses

  1. Well, relics. Especially second and third class relics, though the standards of proof for first class Relics is apallingly low.

    Didn’t someone want to say something about not putting God to the test? And I have a nagging lectured so many times by people on these very pages sad face is all that is required. Proof, even proof of apallingly low standards, is the opposite of faith.

    When I was in Constantinople 11 years ago, I visited Topkapį palace. While I was there, I saw the arm of John the Baptist encased in armor, ifirecall. The arm! I also saw what was labeled “the saucepot of the patriarch Abraham“. What an odd thing to keep.

    When I was in Valencia two years ago, I saw A lot of relics. Here’s what i wrote at the tine: The cathedral has a reliquary containing the mummified arm of Saint Vincent, a local martyr circa 300 A.D. Reading the backstory, however, raises some significant doubts— not that it is a human forearm, but that it is his. Mummification is not usually the end result of things retrieved from the sea. I just find it interesting that they have his arm, and are sure of it, much like the masters of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul are sure they posses the arm of John the Baptist. Interesting things they collect, and far removed (tee-hee) from the message of Jesus, yet they are probably of more use to the religious than they are to either John or Vincent.

    the most venerated relic: the holy Grail, the cup that Jesus used at the last supper. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

    The best thing of all at the Cathedral was its greatest treasure, the thing that everyone comes to see: the one, the only, the Original Holy Grail, the cup that Jesus drank from on the night of the Last Supper, prior to his crucifixion. The actual cup is carved, polished agate, and much smaller than all of the gold and jewels on which it is mounted. It was a great idea in those days when unquestioning credulity was the rule, where visions and miracles were the real tinsel, before both communication and education became commonplace. But it doesn’t work now.

    The story goes that apparently, despite the relation of those events in the Gospels, despite the confusion, fear, danger, grief, and anguish of that night, Peter had enough presence of mind to snatch up the cup on his way out the door. Then something something something, and despite his later martyrdom in Rome, he managed to keep it, and to pass it on to the early popes who succeeded him, even though there was no Vatican Bank at the time, and they weren’t running Rome— yet.

    Then something something something, and it was entrusted to a Spanish soldier in Aragon, and after something something something was later guarded by the Templars, a fountain of mystery and speculation even today. They managed to keep it safe, despite their issues with Philip the Fair of France, the subsequent destruction of their entire order, and the confiscation of all of their properties, because that worthy needed money and they were unlucky enough to have it.

    (The Templars are a story all by themselves, and are credited with both satanism and starting the banking system in Europe, which entirely makes a lot of sense. I’m not going there. But the Templars enabled Dan Brown to make a fortune from The DaVinci Code, and have fueled speculation that the Holy Grail is actually in Roslyn Castle, Scotland. Or perhaps Rennes-le-Chateau In France. It’s a mystery!).

    Then, something something something else happened, and it was purloined by some king or other, transferred to Zaragoza and from thence to Barcelona, and finally claimed for Valencia by Alphonso V, the Alphonso who was not known as Alphonso the Wise, who was number 6. That is assuming that the Alphonso’s in question were not another bunch of Alphonso’s entirely. But I can only keep track of important royalty.

    So that’s the story of the One, the Only, the Original Holy Grail, a triple-o threat if there ever was one. Unless, of course, you don’t want to count the other One and Only that is in León, proved to be the One and Only by two researchers quarrying deeply into Mt. Supposition. Or the one in Genoa, made of a single emerald, long believed to be the One, until an actual one of Napoleon’s soldiers managed to break it, and it turned out to be made of green glass. Or the one believed to be deep beneath Glastonbury Tor in England, buried with a completely mythical version of the most likely unmythical King Arthur, sleeping forever, the Once and Future King who will return in England’s greatest hour of need. Except that he didn’t; saviors are rarely paragons of punctuality. Arthur obtained it from Perceval, known as Parsifal to Wagner, and a Germanic myth long before he became a post-Roman Christian and Celtic myth. (And thus we circle back, however briefly, to Wagner, his operas, and King Ludwig, who was obsessed with Parsifal). Or a host of others, including several positively mormonesque ones, somehow located in the New World.

    There are a number of problems with all of this, quite apart from the obvious ones. The Grail is supposed to have magical powers, including healing, but none of the contenders has so far magicked anything, except credulity, or raised so much as a loaf of bread, let alone the dead. Also, removing all of the gold and jewels surrounding the simple, brown agate cup, it still seems unlikely that it might have been owned by a simple carpenter in a Roman province, far away from anything.

    As Sherlock Holmes, surely no Presbyterian, observed, more or less: “I can believe the impossible. But I cannot believe the highly improbable.” To my mind, this story contains only improbabilities. A carpenter with a cup made of a single emerald, or carved from a single piece of agate? Not bloody likely. Why would anyone think so?

    ———————————-

    I know, I’m an atheist. Or a materialist. Or logical positivist. Or an unsaved and unsavable heathen. It doesn’t really matter. The psychological questions – why are relics so necessary When faith is really all that is required, and why do you standards that are applied in all kinds of every day matters not applied when it comes to relics – these are the interesting questions to me. If I told you I was sleeping with your wife – or given that it’s me, your husband – you would demand some proof far beyond my word for it. But let me tell you I have the veritable forearm of Saint Martin, or a lock of hair from the virgin Mary, or one of three Ginuwine holy grail‘s – and any standards of proof or rationality are simply tossed.

    Why is that?

    1. Sorry, i hit post accidentally, before i proofread it. Paragraph 2: quelle mess.

      Didn’t someone want to say something about not putting God to the test? And I have Been lectured so many times by people on these very pages that faith is all that is required. Proof, even proof of apallingly low standards, is the opposite of faith. Faith is the evidence of things not seen. So why are seen thongs on the scene?

    2. >>Why is that?<<

      I think it is a "love" thing more so than "faith."

      A beloved saint dies – you are right to concede the veracity of the 1st class relic. The body's the body. In the main level of the Vatican, for example, rest the Popes who were saints, including recent ones such as John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II. When a loved one passes away, the love for that person remains, and remains strong by visiting that person's grave site, where the body is interred.

      2nd class relics – what the saint wore, or used often. When loved ones pass away, memories are often triggered by their belongings, especially belongings they used often. So it is when the loved one happens to be a saint… officially recognized by the church or not… we remember them and their love simply by looking at or handling their belongings.

      3rd class relics – here is where I think we start to get mystical. Things that the saint touched, or if you touched something to a 1st or 2nd class relic. So one thinks about the love of God, the communion of saints, and the sanctification (transubstantiation even?) of the world.

      So yes, faith is involved in relics. But that faith is undergirded by love.

  2. Relics are not about putting God to the test. They are about honoring the saint and, above all, about the sancitity of the body that will be raised in glory as Christ’s body in the tomb was glorified in the Resurrection.

    There is something… obessive… about the need to shout down and pick apart every damn little thing about every teensy tiny aspect of somebody else’s religion. You might want to ask yourself why you have this compulsion.

    1. “I wonder if you can imagine living among people who believe in Santa Claus. Adults, who buy the literal story: North Pole toy factory, elves, flying reindeer, the whole package. Imagine that many of them express shock and anger when they discover that you don’t believe it, too, and that they craft laws around what Santa would want, that they expect you to follow. That they think you’re an evil person for not taking your child to the mall to visit Santa. Surely, they say, deep down in your heart you know he’s real. You’re probably still angry you didn’t get Malibu Barbie when you asked for her, that’s all.
      “Can you understand the urge to point out that this doesn’t make any freaking sense? Even if you know it’s not particularly likely to have any impact, even if many Clausists are decent people who find motivation for kindness and good cheer in their beliefs.”
      – posted by one of the other atheists back at the old site

      1. “I wonder if you can imagine” *being* someone who believed in Santa Claus for perhaps the first 6 years of her life in an areligious household, spent the following two decades as an areligious non-Santa-believer who was consciously atheist for the back half of that time, and then developed a belief in God and joined the Catholic Church as a mature adult? And can you imagine how condescending and on-the-face ridiculous it sounds to have someone compare the two experiences? lol

        This quote, which gets passed around and around and we’ve all seen before btw, is one of those that makes a lot of sense to and is very comforting for atheists, and is just nonsense to the rest of us. Even if you believe God, like Santa, doesn’t exist, it’s plain goofy AF to act like that means believing in one is just like believing in the other.

      2. The sheer terror of encountering other humans, coupled with the dawning realization that they may have different ideas, hopes and aspirations …

      3. @ neko

        Tact?

        Maybe I’m missing Something here. Ive been polite. A few weeks ago, mark was lambasting me for calling all people who believe in all of their gods fools for doing so. It was nothing i ever said, and Didn’t say it then, nor Would I. We all need our metaphors, and if your metaphor is real to you, who am I to judge? I asked him what he thought of all of the people who, despite the dominance of Christianity in the world over 1700 years, STILL couldn’t see the plain truth that Jesus is Lord, but instead, believed in all of those silly gods With all of those silly myths. The answer i got was crickets.

        I have a few of those metaphors myself, including the belief that someone has been watching over me for the past 60 years. Can i prove it? No. Would i give a name to the watcher? No. Would i tell everyone the good news? Well, I just did for probably the third time in my life. And it simply doesn’t matter to me whether anyone believes it or not; I’m not sure it even matters to me. Maybe im anthropomorphizing the universe. Could be. I have no idea. Someone wants to give their own name to the watcher? Be my guest.

        Or maybe i simply don’t understand why asking legitimate questions is also lacking tact. I didn’t call mark a fool for believing in Jesus. Nor do i have an issue with believing that object X is the holy grail. What i am asking is why he does not apply the same standards of critical thought that he applies to everything else To the existence of THREE holy grails simultaneously.

      4. @ bensnewlogin

        Yes, you’re polite. On the other hand, you posted FOURTEEN paragraphs (FIFTEEN counting the correction) that barely concealed your contempt for this whole business of relics. There’s nothing mysterious about why people revere relics (somebody paid $2.88 million back in 1988 for a Mickey Mantle baseball card, and it wasn’t even even a body part). People often long for a tangible connection with their heroes.

        And the combination with the old Santa Claus meme, which is frankly embarrassing and I wish my fellow atheists would cut it out, comes off as tactless. There are many, many highly intelligent Christians out there. It’s one of the reasons I started taking a heightened interest in the Catholic Church. I don’t believe hardly a word of the Credo, but what do I know? There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

        Then, too, I’m grateful to Mark for not banning me like several Catholic/Christian sites have done. Many Catholic bloggers have a low threshold for atheist interlopers. I try to be mindful that I’m a guest of somebody who’s been very tolerant of me for quite a while now though I’m generally pretty caustic and critical of the Catholic Church.

      5. @neko

        I can see why you would see it that way. For myself, I don’t experience it as contempt for the whole business of relics, but Quite possibly contempt for the credulity with which any claim relating to relics Is treated. One holy grail I can accept, even if I don’t necessarily believe that in fact it is the holy Grail. The three holy grail starts to look like carelessness.

        It wasn’t me that useD the Santa Claus analogy. Personally, I agree that this does no good except among people already inclined to take it that way. For myself, I try not to cross over certain lines. In my conversation with Mark a few weeks ago, I admitted that I think all religious belief is questionable. But that’s not the same thing as saying out right that anybody who believes in any religion is a fool, which is what Mark said I said. And he never answered my question whether he thought that people who believed all of the other religions were fools for not believing his.

        It’s a fine line I’m trying to walk, and maybe I’m not always successful at it. All I can say is what I always say: believe whatever you like, but don’t insist that I have to believe it too.

      6. @ bensnewlogin

        Ben, I know it wasn’t you who dragged in Santa Claus. I’m sorry I didn’t make that more clear. Maybe I should have used the word “juxtaposition.”

        Yes, clearly three Holy Grails presents a conundrum. But why are we talking about this? Neither Mark nor his reader brought up the Grail. Mark wasn’t concerned with authenticity. He was making an argument about relics, or lack of them, to support the Assumption of Mary, one I’d never heard before. (I just now remembered I once had a testy argument with Mark about relics but have forgotten what it was about.)

        As for credulity over relics, King Louis IX of France emptied the treasury to acquire relics and build Saint-Chapelle to house them. So what if they’re fakes? Sainte-Chapelle is real.

      7. Imagine you are a somewhat serious Catholic who has been practicing for most of his adult life. You’re not a theologian or anything, but you make some effort to know what your religion teaches and where to look for answers. You occasionally encounter people who think you are really really stupid and that your beliefs are equivalent to believing in Santa Claus* or the tooth fairy. Because of this they feel the need to point out to you that your beliefs “make no freaking sense,” by often asking questions and pointing out “problems” and “contradictions” that can usually be responded to with any old children’s Catechism from the last 100 years. The handful of genuinely deep or difficult questions, often asked as if they were literally the first person ever in 2000 years to wonder these things, can usually be responded to by pointing out any number of theologians who have been asking and answering the same questions for centuries. Unfortunately, no matter how much effort you make to grapple with and answer these questions, you often find the person is always unsatisfied because they really didn’t want any answer that doesn’t reinforce their belief that you are stupid or delusional.

        *I believe in Saint Nicholas, so in a sense I do believe in Santa Claus 😛

    2. @ mark

      I’m guessing you didn’t read my last paragraph, which is my entire point. I’m certainly not shouting down anything, Im writing on your blog. nor Am i picking apart anything, but merely pointing out what is clear. There are Not my beliefs. They’re yours. Do you believe there are three holy Grails, at least the ones we know about, Three different objects existing simultaneously in three different places? Do you know anything about the legend of madoc, A nephew of King Arthur who allegedly made it to the New World 1000 years before Columbus, bringing the grail with him? So it is actually not resting with Arthur beneath Glastonbury tor, after all.

      The psychology of this is what interests me. That’s what I said. And that’s what I meant. It’s no skin off my nose one way or the other. But as I commented to you before, You seem to want to Believe that your faith represents capital R reality, and simultaneously not have to conform to anything else in reality. I am quite willing to believe that there is such a thing as the holy Grail, and that the holy Grail exists in the present day. (I’m not even getting into the proof of that, but merely saying that I’m willing to accept it). What I’m not willing to accept is that there are three different holy grails, all existing in modern times, existing in three different places, and exhibiting remarkably different characteristics.

      When I was a little boy, we had a Catholic neighbor. Whenever I would ask her questions about the things that didn’t make sense to me as a six-year-old, her usual response was, “that’s the miracle of it all“. That would often satisfy me as a six-year-old. It doesn’t satisfy me now. You might want to look at what Saint Paul had to say – something about looking through a glass darkly.

      1. @Neko, @ben

        FWIW, the lack of claimed bodily relics of Jesus is also put forward as evidence of his resurrection.

      2. @Ben:

        I’m not being snarky, but why does anyone who has Real faith need evidence? Faith is the evidence of things not seen. In this case, literally.

        You have not understood the relationship between faith and reason. Quoting Hebrews as if it were in opposition to evidence is, at best, a certain type of Protestant understanding of the Bible. Catholics are led to faith by the “motives of credibility”. Faith itself is, indeed, a gift from God and ultimately does not depend on them – but is not independent of them.

        From the catechism:

        Faith and understanding

        156 What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe “because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived”.28 So “that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit.”29 Thus the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church’s growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability “are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all”; they are “motives of credibility” (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is “by no means a blind impulse of the mind”.30

        157 Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but “the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives.”31 “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.”32

        158 “Faith seeks understanding”:33 it is intrinsic to faith that a believer desires to know better the One in whom he has put his faith, and to understand better what He has revealed; a more penetrating knowledge will in turn call forth a greater faith, increasingly set afire by love. The grace of faith opens “the eyes of your hearts”34 to a lively understanding of the contents of Revelation: that is, of the totality of God’s plan and the mysteries of faith, of their connection with each other and with Christ, the center of the revealed mystery. “The same Holy Spirit constantly perfects faith by his gifts, so that Revelation may be more and more profoundly understood.”35 In the words of St. Augustine, “I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe.”36

        159 Faith and science: “Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth.”37 “Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.”38

        I, of course, was only putting forward the argument from the absence of claims to bodily relics of Jesus as being parallel to the absence of claims to bodily relics of Mary. I was not interested in whether you or anyone found that argument persuasive – only interested in the parallelism.

        jj

  3. This evening I watched a pod of dolphins playing in the ocean while the waves licked my feet. From time to time they would lep from the ocean. Much of the sky turned pink and red, and the water–an enigmatic color that both my husband and I grasped at trying to describe became tipped with the colors of that sunset, rippling with a minimalistic blue-silver and dark blue.

    Last night, the skylight above our bed was cranked fully open. It was warm, and almost hard to sleep, but there were stars that I could see above me, and I marvelled over how much I *cannot* see, but is surely there, beyond stupendous, and beyond *everything* that my poor human brain could ever, ever fathom. *That* became the springpoint of my prayer, and awe steeped in gratitude.

  4. If in your travels, you are planning to go to the Vatican, and have several months before to plan, sign up online for the Catacombs Tour. The tour focuses on the archaeology and early history of the Vatican including the burial site of St. Peter. They only do the tour on certain days, and groups are very small. This allows you to chat up the tour guide and get all your questions answered. You definitely learn a lot.

    Hard to follow that act, but if you are in Venice, stop by St. Mark’s church, which is the main one near the Doge’s Palace. They have a very impressive collection of relics.

    Travel tip: if you are wanting to do both on the same trip, then there is a high speed train called a Freciarossa between Rome and Venice. The trip is fast, smooth, and relaxing. There is a meal car that sells snacks and very basic meals (think microwaved noodles). You are allowed though to bring take out food (and alcohol) on the train, so it makes for a very mellow experience.

    1. I was very moved when seeing the (copy of) the statue of St.Cecilia. Find her in the Callixtus Catacomb, or see the original in the Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, also in Rome.

      1. When my wife and I were in Rome we threw some coins into the Trevi Fountain, so we will definitely be back! 🙂

  5. I was moved to see the veil of Mary in the Cathedral of Chartres. If memory serves me, the cathedral burned and it survived miraculously..

    I would love to see the only *photograph* of Mary, –arguably the coolest relic of all, which can be found in Mexico. Despite how annoying they can be about Mary favoring them, I simply LOVE Mexican devotion. It is so weird and awesome. Boy do they love her. It can get a bit over the top though.

    When my brother-in-law was restoring some old statuary for the presidio chapel in Santa Barbara, he found a hidden relic of the saint inside the statue that had been forgotten about. I can’t remember who it was but I really, really wanted to swipe it. I resisted. My BIL just left it there.

    I won’t deny that l love how weird Catholics are–Catholic saints are super-freaks. The bi-locating ones are some of my favorites. Protestants and atheists lack so much imagination.

    As I type this, I am sitting in a blessed, presidio-style chapel, complete with altar and cupola, icons and statuary that was a love-project of my father’s –and now the entry-way to my little casita on the property. For a while it served as my bedroom. It opens out onto an old Spanish style courtyard, complete with a big blue fountain. Weird!

    Once, about ten or so years ago, we were allowed to keep Junipero Serra’s chalice for a few days. It was the chalice that he carried with him to say mass as he trudged up and down California. It was such a cool feeling to hold it in my hands. I feel really bad that the zealots are tearing down his statues, he was a good guy.

    Last, but not least, we have an ancient gold-leaf bust of Saint Barbara in my parents’ dining room. It came from some cathedral in Germany.I apologize for repeating the story here, but I am ashamed to report that my sister and I picked out the jewels that adorned the base of it with bobby pins. I have zero recollection what we did with the stones, and doubt I ever confessed the crime. I wonder what the priest would say.

    1. Heh. I don’t know how strong the Mexican Mary-chauvinism is, but they’re by no means the only ones to claim they have a special place in Mary’s heart.

      In Northern Belgium she is often referred to as Our Lady of Flanders, and the lyrics of the accompanying song states that the name we have given her far surpasses all other names.

      All things Mary in Flanders have an almost uncanny Spanish-Mediterranean vibe. Very much a counter-reformation thing.

      1. By the way, your stories often make me chuckle. You’d feel right at home in Spain, Portugal or Italy. I can only imagine how often you roll your eyes at your temperamentally more Puritan fellow citizens.

      2. “the name we have given her far surpasses all other names.”

        Love it. Yes, indeedy, the Mexicans here have a song to O.L. of Guadalupe that repeats something like: “and she came to the Mexicans, the Mexicans, the Mexicans”. This chaps my husband’s Colombian hide. He will hiss under his breath, something like: “she’s Our Lady of the Americas you idiots.” I dunno–it doesn’t bother me too much. For heaven’s sake it hadn’t been so long since they were getting their (still beating) hearts cut out of their chests at the top of ziggerauts. Of course their file was fast tracked! In Colombia they have this unbelievable cathedral perched in an impossible place in the middle of nowhere because some kid saw Our Lady there. I think he was cured of his blindness too. I’d say she’s due for another visit in both places.

        Santa Barbara celebrates “Old Spanish Days” every year. This year was a bummer, but we thankfully didn’t have the hoards of drunken partiers from from far and wide that enjoy smashing confetti eggs on each others’ heads and doing a bit of street-corner stabbing.They nominated my sister to be St. Barbara. She didn’t get to lord it over everybody from the usual float, but came out on the front page of the SB News Press smiling widely, holding her gold cup and martyr’s palm. For a solid week she would bat her eyes at me saying “virgin and martyr!”

        Funny that you should bring up the Puritan culture. My family is riddled with it, but it’s more like a kind of schizophrenia. My sister, who was classically trained in NY as a prima ballerina is famous in our town for leading a burlesque dance company. They are hired at various venues throughout the year, and then reign over the Summer Solstice parade and revelry. (Also a bummer this year). This town can’t get enough of them. My sister has become something of a local celebrity, but the great irony is that my mother, who would admonish my Latin daughter not to move suggestively when she would dance to pop music or gasp at her bathing suits regardless of cut or style, has very little problem with the fanfare my sister has earned by leading hundreds of dancers dressed like Brazilians during carnival and kicking their legs up next to their ears. I realized years and years ago that ballet is the 17th century version of pole dancing –so really it was a natural progression for my sister, and I’m glad she was able to leverage/capitalize on all those years of training six days a week, with a bunch of hollow-cheeked primadonnas. BUT–I would bet my bottom dollar that if administered a polygraph test, my mother would register a far greater level of puritan outrage if the girls shaking their booties are brown and black, instead of her Swedish looking daughter who can morph into virgin and martyr, replete with angelic smile and palm branch.

      3. @ taco

        Someday we’ll have to sit down and swap stories about family cray cray. I’ll see your brown dancers and raise you “straight-A student Will be poor but honest ditchdigger.”

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