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.