19 September 2009

Bones of contention

This week saw the beginning of a tour of the bones of St Therese of Liseux, coming to a cathedral, church or prison near you. There hasn't been this much excitement about a tour of old relics in this country since the last Rolling Stones concerts, and the Catholic Church has promised us "a time of grace" for the 30-day duration of the visit. Given that St Therese's disintegrating DNA has also visited Russia, Kazakhstan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Lebanon and Iraq in the recent past, I'm not sure she has much of a track record in that department.

I find it fascinating that, far from being slightly sheepish about this barely-disguised idolatry, the Catholic Church is loudly trumpeting the visit. If there is anything less likely to convince non-believers of your credibility as an intellectual force, I would have thought relic visits would be akin to an Iranian World Tour of Stoning, or Libya parading a terrorist through the streets. Oh, hang on...

But this is not being done for the likes of me, of course - according to the Catholic Church's website "many people have been praying and asking for this to happen, and now their prayers have been answered", which shows a remarkably skewed sense of 'prayer priorities' if you ask me. According to one attendee to today's first stop in Taunton, "although she lived over hundred years ago, St Thérèse is a saint for our times." Quite literally, it would seem, as she has her own 2009 calendar that you can download from her own website. I don't think she has a Twitter account, but I've no doubt she'd get a lot of followers if she did.

Maybe the promoters of the secular world's own poster boy for 2009, Charles Darwin, are missing a trick? Instead of boring things such as exhibitions, movies, documentaries and eponymous extensions to the Natural History Museum, they should have exhumed old Chuck's remains and paraded them to the Science Museum. I think it's important to fight anti-intellectualism on its own terms, just to show that, in these times, it's not about the arguments but who has the best PR. I'm half inclined to switch on "X Factor" to see if St Therese's sarcophagus turns up performing an attempted healing.

No comments: