Monday, November 01, 2004

Relics of the Saints

The day after the most infamous pagan holiday, Halloween, is All Saints Day. The last exhaustive study done to determine the exact number of saints was done in 1956. At present the most complete compilation of all known saints is the 61st volume of the Acta Sanctorum of the Bollandists which identifies about 20,000 saints. The Martryologium Romanum, the list with the most ecclesiastical clout, mentions around 2,700 saints. Joan of Arc, John the Baptist, Francis of Asisi, and Mother Teresa are some of the most famous saints in history.

In order to receive official canonization as a saint one must have led a chaste or holy life, been martyred for your faith, and in general been virtuous to a heroic degree. The saints are venerated as being human embodiments of God’s power. Through the saints God’s power flowed thus producing the numerous miracles attributed to many of the saints and their relics.

Since the first century A.D. hundreds of cult type groups have been organized to worship the saints. In their efforts to be close to some of the holiest persons to ever walk the planet Christians have built temples and reliquaries to house the trappings and preserve the physical remains of many of the saints. In many cases bodies were exhumed and put under glass for display and worship. Saint John the Baptist’s skull is preserved in a golden platter reminiscent of modern day collection plates. Saint Catherine’s hand is kept in a box. There are enough splinters of the cross Christ was crucified on to build a decent sized ship.

I’m not denigrating Christian orthodoxy or dogma but the practice of putting saints, or the remains thereof, in a hermetically sealed vessel seems to be a bit morbid. Michael Jackson bought the remains of the Elephant Man where he now lies in stasis at Neverland Valley Ranch. Norman Bates kept his dead mother in a rocking chair in the attic. No one celebrates these two. Don’t forget to burp the lid as Saint Francis of Asisi is put on display. Some relics can even be found on Ebay, though hopefully not actual body parts. That would be just creepy.

I believe in God and Jesus Christ but c’mon people. Let the saints lie in peace.

Those kooky Christians.