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Newman’s Bones

This coming October marks the sixth anniversary of the exhumation of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman’s corpse. From an austere burial site in a small cemetery near Rednal, Newman’s remains were to be moved—translated, as the term of art has it—to a marble sarcophagus standing opposite All Soul’s Altar in the Birmingham Oratory, the fraternal congregation established by Newman (with Paul IX’s endorsement) shortly following his 1845 reception into the Catholic Church. That the Church should take a keen interest in his corpse was no surprise. No, that interest was and is threaded deeply within a rather ancient pattern of thought that entails, inter alia, the disinterment, dismemberment, and distribution of the traces of the canonized or beatified dead for veneration among the faithful. This is how the Church came by the designator Cultus sanctorum, by performing a curious form of sacramental necrophilism by which Christians give honor to their saints by clinging to their material vestiges: bone, hair, bits of cloth, scapulars, and their like. Or so it goes, ideally. Continue Reading »

The Feast of Saint Therese

I didn’t know it until I started googling around this morning, but right now the relics of Saint Therese of Lisieux are touring the United Kingdom. Today she’s at York Minster; more about the itinerary here.Swine flu fears aside, if you’re in the neighborhood, go and say a prayer . . . . Continue Reading »

You’re Asking Me?

You realize that while you were experiencing this lifetime of Catholic practice, I was on the Junior High Sunday School Retreat at Panacea Falls. My technical and canonical knowledge about relics would not fill a thimble. Still, there are two in my house. Both of them came to us on the day we were . . . . Continue Reading »


There it is in black and white: Canon 1190 §1—“It is absolutely forbidden to sell sacred relics.” But the Code of Canon Law doesn’t seem to say that that you can’t buy them. Nor does it say that you can’t sell the reliquary in which a relic happens to . . . . Continue Reading »

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