clip_image001_thumb[1]TIME, I just learned, named Pope Francis ‘Person of the Year’ as I was getting ready to post the following new email from Fr. Duncan:

"I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty,” Pope Francis had said, “because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security."

We now have a pope who has no use for ermine trim and fancy red shoes. And I’m guessing we have a pope who gets it when it comes to the Holy Shroud.

Whether the Holy Shroud is a relic, an unusual icon or a brilliant forgery makes no difference to me. It is lavishly blessed by our devotion to it and our study of it, more so than it could ever be blessed by endless clouds of smoke from sweet incense burning before it. It is a sacred “relic” but not so much because of the  the blood and the image on it but because of the story it tells.

It is by our hearts that we can know the Holy Shroud is truly our Lord’s “bruised, hurting and dirty” burial cloth, his blood and his “bruised, hurting and dirty” likeness.

The glorious days of waving the Holy Shroud aloft at royal weddings and coronations in the Kingdom of Sardinia, as though it was a captured battle flag, should be over forever. But even as late as as 1978, the Archdiocese of Turin was celebrating 400 years of the Holy Shroud’s abidance in that see and in that city. Such self-celebratorious behavior should also be a thing of the past. 

Today, because we know better, the cloth is kept in an environmentally protected case. Electric motors take the place of bishops. Curtains and bunting give it an aura not unlike the curtained stage of the Wizard of Oz. In 2000, someone thought to use the Holy Shroud to commemorate Christ. There is much that is not yet right however.

image_thumb[2]The 2010 picture of Benedict XVI playing with what looks like a white chocolate 3D Jesus is telling and trivializing.  Perhaps by 2015 we’ll see those novelty postcards that swell into 3D busts when soaked in water. Or maybe there will be cute Shroud of Turin Chia Pets, green beards and all.  Will the powers that be in Turin be involved with such novelties just as they were selling iPhone apps recently? 

Jesus, you say. There’s an app for that!

The Holy Shroud is not a gimmick. The Holy Shroud is not a banner. The Holy Shroud is not a tourist attraction. The Holy Shroud is not the pride of Turin. It cheapens everything when the powers that be put up a website featuring political leaders of Turin and their gospels of tourism. Francis owns the Holy Shroud and he should put a stop to this behavior.

Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those engaged in selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And he said to them, “It is written: ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a den of thieves.” – NAB Matthew 21:12

Francis must come wearing his worn out shoes. He must bring with him all the “bruised, hurting and dirty” people of the world to see our “bruised, hurting and dirty” Lord. Tell the politicos we are coming. That is all they need to know. And remove their posturing and pictures from the website. We are coming from all over the world to see the Holy Shroud of the World, to pray before the Holy Shroud of the World. We are coming without iPhones. We are not planning to stay in first class hotels and dine in Turin’s posh eateries. We are the “bruised, hurting and dirty” people who need to see the Holy Shroud. It would be nice if the city could provide some places to rest our heads that we could afford and some places to sit and have some fish and bread with our Lord.

+Duncan, S.J.