Sunday, August 24, 2008

body of evidence

The church we normally attend in St. Louis is right across the street from the home of my wife's late Aunt Dee. Almost every time we go, our friend Fr. Ragan Schriver urges us to seek out a priest mentor of his and go to Mass at his parish instead.

In order to be ordained, Fr. Ragan needed someone to testify to his worthiness to be a priest. He asked Fr. Gary Braun to be that person. At the ordination, Fr. Gary addressed the Bishop of Knoxville by saying, "Is Ragan Schriver worthy to be a priest? I'm sure I won't be the last to ask that question." His unintentional joke received roars of laughter from the congregation.

Fr. Gary is the director of Catholic campus ministries for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. When we met him, we introduced ourselves as friends of his friend Ragan. With that credential, we got to talking quickly about dozens of subjects. We told him about the time Fr. Ragan spilled hot wax on his own head during an Easter Vigil. Fr. Gary said that Ragan did the same thing during an Easter Vigil in St. Louis when he was still a deacon.

As it turned out, Fr. Gary also knew my wife's late uncle, who was a priest in Missouri. That led us to the topic of my wife's late aunt (the priest's sister) and how we stay in her condo whenever we're in town. Fr. Gary asked if I was freaked out by staying in a dead woman's home. My wife and I laughed before I explained that I wasn't very squeamish about death, mostly due to my interest in the Body Farm. He started asking questions, so I started telling Fr. Gary about Dr. Bill Bass and the research they do at UT.

During our conversation about decomposition, Fr. Gary challenged me to learn more about the Incorruptibles (not the Incredibles) and to report back with my opinion. He mentioned Clare of Assisi and a few other Saints that I could research. Their bodies have not decomposed the way one would expect. I mentioned that my friend Bean had seen the remains of Pope John XXIII, which were still in remarkably good shape and on display in Rome. But I also read that the pontiff was at least partially embalmed, which would keep him off the list. Now that I'm back home in Knoxville, I'll make time to read more about the Incorruptibles. Maybe we all can have a group discussion.

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Blogger bean said...

great post, frank. i am intrigued to find out more myself now....

welcome home!!


Blogger Tony W said...

He sure challenged the right one for that subject i'm sure that he will be amazed with what you come back with.

Blogger Frank Murphy said...

From what I've read so far, it looks like Clare of Assisi did eventually decompose and skeletonize. However, there are many more examples of Incorruptibles. One possible scientific description of the phenomenon is "saponification." The flesh that normally decomposes turns into adipocere, also known as "grave wax."


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