Friday, March 14, 2014


Fun snippets from recent (and somewhat irreverent) talk by Maine poet and environmental activist Gary Lawless.  Topic: “Holy Relics."  

Maine poet Gary Lawless
The most powerful relics are those associated with Jesus  ... his hair, his breath, and, because he was Jewish, there is the relic foreskin....  There is a wonderful painting from the Renaissance of Jesus ascending bodily into heaven, and in a lower corner of the painting there is a foreskin with wings, flying up as well. (One early pope was quoted as saying that this miracle was necessary because they couldn't have Jesus in Heaven with a Jewish penis).”


Saints were connected individually with specific kinds of healing or miraculous powers. (For instance, if you had speech problems you could go to Padua, Italy, to the relic of St. Anthony's jaw and tongue).”


“Relics were relocated from neighboring towns when priests would have dreams of the saints telling the dreamer that they were not being treated with enough respect at their present locations...".


In 1204 the Crusaders sacked Constantinople and made off with a rich and diverse collection of relics, including blood of Jesus, pieces of the True Cross, thorns from the crown of thorns, milk of the Virgin Mary, hair and cloth from Mary, parts of the skull, teeth and fingers of John the Baptist, and Old Testament relics of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”


There was of course pushback to relic worship from other branches of Christianity. Here is John Calvin, from his ‘Treatise On Relics’:

‘The desire for relics is never without superstition, and what is worse, is usually the parent of idolatry.  If we were to collect all of these pieces of the True Cross exhibited in various parts, they would form a whole ship's cargo.  With regard to the milk (of Mary) there is not perhaps a town, a convent, or a nunnery where it is not shown in large or small quantities. Indeed, had the Virgin been a wet nurse her whole life, or a dairy, she could not have produced more than is shown as hers in various parts....’”

Read the whole presentation HERE. 

Gary ends by saying today’s Holy Relics include the blood, bone and skin of animal species going extinct, among other parts of Mother Earth that are slowly disappearing.    

IMHO Gary would make a fine member of the feminist spirituality community.  

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