Praise the Lord and pass the wine-bottle. The Precious Shrine of St Manchan is safe and secure in police custody, after Gardaí arrested two men on suspicion of stealing it. The shrine, made of yew and gilded bronze, was constructed nine hundred years ago to hold the bones of the eponymous saint who built a monastery nearby, and will return to its home after forensic testing at the Garda Religious Laboratory.
Turn off the light there, PJ till we see does it glow in the dark.
Jesus Christ, TJ, what the fuck is that? Is it a holygram?
‘Tis like a three-dimensional image of Saint Manchan wavin his hand at a school bus.
That’s not his hand, TJ.
Right. Turn it off. I’ve seen enough. We’ll have to arrest this fucker.
But he’s dead, TJ. Since the twelfth century.
How convenient, PJ. How very convenient.
Of course, the Precious Shrine of St Manchan isn’t the only relic to be recovered in recent times. Back in January, thieves broke into Holycross Abbey and made off with fragments of timber claimed to be part of the cross on which Jesus was crucified. The Gardaí later recovered some pieces of wood in a field, and the parish priest confirmed that they were the stolen relics which attract thousands of pilgrims every year
We found these Father. Are they your relics?
Oh yeah. Yeah, definitely.
Were your relics made of teak and shaped like an old window frame?
Yes. That’s them. The Romans did all their crucifixions with recycled tropical hardwood window frames.
Right then Father. We’ll be off.
Will ye not have a little drop before ye go, lads?
Fair enough, Father, but just the one.
This is becoming a bit of a habit. Barely three months ago, I told you about Saint Lawrence O’Toole, whose preserved 800-year-old heart was taken from Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral.
Why? Who knows? It’s becoming an epidemic. I’d be worried about the Holy Knuckle of St Therese, the Multiple Gloves of Padre Pio and the Venerable Oil-Tanker of Mother Teresa, especially if the thieves are using the Blessed Angle-Grinder of Ephesus, as rumours suggest. If that turns out to be true, not even the Rathkeale Tree-Stump Virgin will be safe. When the Eucharistic Congress goes ahead as planned, and the Vatican decides to upgrade the Holy Stone of Clanrickard to a Class 1 relic, Craggy Island will be overrun with black-clad special-forces bishops in Ray-Bans talking into their sleeves, but despite the immense military and intelligence power of the Vatican State, it’s impossible to guard against one determined fanatic.
Imagine if some deranged religious lunatic turns up, a man who believes utterly absurd things, as opposed to the perfectly reasonable things believed by those attending the Eucharistic Congress. And imagine if that man is carrying the Holy Hand-grenade of Antioch.
It doesn’t bear thinking about, and yet even that atrocity might just be a diversion. Who’s to say the whole thing isn’t being run by an evil mega-genius orbiting the Earth in a gigantic underground cavern full of henchmen, minions and extras in white suits, ready at a moment’s notice to steal our most precious asset — the Knock Shrine. Would he even stop at that? Who’s to say he wouldn’t steal every religious place of pilgrimage in the world? Fatima. Lourdes. Medjugorje. Mecca. The Holy Thistle of Ballyloundash!
Then where would we be? With nothing to focus our religious zeal on, and nothing to set us apart from each other, we’d be lost. No more religious bigotry. No more sectarian war.
It would be nothing short of a tragedy for all mankind.