Monday, 8 September 2008

Facsimile of the Shroud

Happy Feast Day of Our Lady's birth! This marks the 4th day of our return to seminary. On Saturday we went to see one of four life-size facsimiles of the Shroud of Turin, which is on display in an Anglican church in Little Aston. It was bought for the vicar's wife by a friend off Ebay, of all places! I went along, fairly indifferently I must admit, as I had already seen the Shroud in Turin some years ago and was never incredibly struck by subsequent pictures I had seen of it.

But the afternoon was a very wothwhile experience, largely because of the way the presentation was laid out. On first walking in we were confronted with the negative of the Shroud, which shows up much more clearly the scars and blood stains than the actual shroud does, and accompanied with this was scientific evidence of the shroud's credibility, as well as quotes from the Scriptures that set the scene and turned the display into a meditation on the Passion. All the seminarians that came were visibly awed by what they saw and read. At the end of the display was the facsimile itself. I thought particularly poignant a piece of artwork which depicted the Cross, composed of the words of Psalm 22 ('All who see me mock at me,/ They make mouths at me, they wag their heads').

This visit grounded my own visit to Baddesley Clinton the day before, a Catholic manor in Warwickshire where Jesuit priests hid during the Reformation. On at least one occassion they were forced to use its priest holes to escape the spontaneous search of Queen Elizabeth's priest hunters. I guess the priestly vocation, lived well, will always be open to public humiliation and even persecution. It is well for us to remember that while living relatively comfortably in seminary!