I once saw a “vial of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s milk” in a museum in Italy – which was both disturbing and impressive. Somebody in the earliest years of the First Century was an anticipatory thinker par excellence. Throughout the world there are vaults claiming to possess relics from John the Baptist’s head to Muhammad’s beard to Buddha’s tooth.
I don’t care so much about those. But after hearing Dr. Yolanda Pierce speak last week about some of the religious relics in the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. I’ve been thinking about the stories around our stuff.
One difference between hoarded things and treasured things is that treasures trigger stories. (The story around hoarded things is less about the things and more about us and our personal pathologies.)
Some of our treasures have financial value but most do not. My grandmother’s bread board looks like a worthless slab of oiled cherry wood, but – when I see it on our kitchen counter – it takes me to her kitchen where she made double batches of Angel Biscuits on Christmas morning. I can almost smell them and believe me, it’s a religious experience.
So what religious relics do you treasure in your home, on kitchen counters or on book shelves, or in jewelry boxes? What makes them sacred to you? And how do their stories impact your life for good?
I can hardly wait to visit the NMAAHC if for no other reason, than to see the priceless chips of glass from the blown out windows of the Sixteen Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. We especially treasure our heartwrenching stories in the hope we will do better in the future.
Image of Nat Turner’s Bible which is also on display in the NMAAHC.