Thursday, September 20, 2012

Relics, Bodies and Grace

I often wonder why Catholic saints  never seem to have RIP appended to their titles as we do to other mere mortals who have died. Perhaps it has something to do with the process of canonisation which usually involves the exhuming of the remains and then, if bits can be found, relocating them in  elaborate mausoleums or if fully intact, a glass case for viewing. Whatever, it seems that these heroes of the faith are never allowed to rest in peace.

The latest restless saint to grace the Land Downunder is Francis Xavier, of Jesuit fame. We don't get all his bits, just his right arm. Most of his bits were on public display in Goa in 2004-2005. The right arm has been dislocated from the rest of his body as a religious act of reverence for his ability to bless and baptise. One wonders if the same effect would be gained had the poor man been left handed?

The national tour is now underway and those who have more time than I do for such things have taken to discussion forums with weird and wonderful insights. Over at Catholica the discussion even explored  a relationship between the relic and  the poplar TV sitcom character, Thing. Perhaps the most unexpected support for this tour has come from the "ethical burr in the national saddle", Frank Brennan. His homily at the arrival of the relic in Canberra has been published in Eureka Street. It will be worth watching the comments on this one as he is certainly "out of left field" this time.

I am too busy working with the broken bodies of survivors of institutional abuse to look at a touring relic.

Many of the people I work with lost their childhood in Church run institutions where bodies and souls were beaten, isolated, assaulted and  dis-graced by those who represented  religion and faith.

Many of these Forgotten Australians would give their right arm to have  their childhood back. The damage has been done and many of them are relics of a dark and  evil history which haunts them.

When I look for images of amazing grace, I don't need religious corpses to inspire me. I get my inspiration from the  beauty and grace that shines through the lives of these people who have been betrayed by  the custodians of faith.

"Through the story of sexual abuse and the church's response, I came to the unshakable belief that within the Catholic Church there absolutely must be profound and enduring change on the two subjects of power and sex" 
Bishop Geoffrey Robinson

The travelling right arm of St Francis Xavier will be visiting my Archdiocese of Brisbane during November. On November 16 it will be "on display" at the Cathedral of St Stephen. This day also happens to be the International Day of Tolerance. Imagine if the Cathedral was surrounded by survivors of institutional abuse holding up their right arms pleading for tolerance and understanding from a Church which failed them in their childhood.
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