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"Holy Objects of Awe" by Keith Hoerner

I. The Incredulity of Thomas

An index finger points the way from beneath the altar at Santa Croce Church in Gerusalemme, Roma. Postmortem examinations record the appearance to be blackened at the tip to the first knuckle; ashen grey for the remainder; absent of nail; and an irregular, saw cut along the webbing. Like a fat cigarette that’s been snuffed out and soaked... I ponder this relic and imagine it in a clear, Petri-like dish, resting as a dial in a compass: coming to life with a shudder, spinning wildly, and settling its accusatory point on all passersby, incredulous with doubt—of its existence.

II. The Virtue of Catherine

The patron Saint of not only Rome but Italy and, eventually, all of Europe—Saint Catherine of Siena lost her head, literally, having been beheaded upon apprehension while doing papal espionage… rare for a woman in the Middle Ages. Her virtue had witnesses speak of levitation during prayer, stigmata, even the Eucharist flying out of a priest’s hand directly into her mouth. Her head rests on a pillow in Saint Maria Sopra Minerva Basilica in Rome. They say her body ghost walks through the maze of pews along the transept, nave, and apse, in search of her holiest of crowns.

III. The Incorruptibility of Anthony

Within a reliquary on the altar of The Basilica of Saint Anthony in Padua, there sits the wet and incorruptible tongue of the very man. This patron of lost things—and noted orator—might be at a loss for words as to what he, himself, is missing. Dying from Edema in the year 1,231 AD, he was exhumed 32 years later in reinterment in his current resting place. While the Christian world makes pilgrimages and prays for his intercession in finding things or people lost, he—too—calls out for the return of what he needs to answer them.

Keith Hoerner lives, teaches, and pushes words around in the Bible Belt of Southern Illinois.

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