No line­ups here, just relics from my past

The Beacon (Gander) - - Editorial - Bob Wake­ham Bob Wake­ham has spent more than 40 years as a jour­nal­ist in New­found­land and Labrador. He can be reached by email at bwake­ham@nl.rogers.com

Although I can’t pos­si­bly match the ven­er­a­ble grav­i­tas of the sev­ered, with­ered fore­arm of St. Francis Xavier, I have given some de­vout thought, nev­er­the­less, to relics in my pos­ses­sion that con­nect me in a di­rect — even a pro­found way, in some cases — to my spir­i­tual past.

Now, need­less to say, there will be no cer­e­mo­nial pro­ces­sion to see or touch any of these relics, as there was at the Basil­ica in St. John’s when true be­liev­ers ig­nored what I’m sure they thought of as blas­phe­mous ridicule in some so­cial me­dia cir­cles of their con­vic­tion that merely a glance at, a mo­ment with, what ap­peared to re­sem­ble a left­over prop from an episode of “The Walk­ing Dead,” would en­hance the stature of their souls.

A piece I read on the CBC web­site, writ­ten by Wanita Bates, re­vealed (at least for an ag­nos­tic like my­self) that St. John’s res­i­dents are, after all, far from the first staunch Catholics to achieve a Godly be­lief buzz after be­ing ex­posed to a relic of St. Francis. Dur­ing the cen­turies, parts of his body have been ex­posed to pi­ous crowds around the world. My good God — a Por­tuguese woman even bit off one of poor old St. Francis’ toes, ac­tu­ally draw­ing blood from the corpse! (Un­for­tu­nately for her, the can­ni­bal­is­tic act — per­formed, I am sure, for the most righ­teous of rea­sons, un­doubt­edly to pro­vide a vis­ceral link to a saint — left a bloody trail for of­fi­cials to track down this thief of toes).

But I di­gress, nec­es­sar­ily though, to make the point that my lit­tle batch of relics pales in com­par­i­son to the sig­nif­i­cance of that 465-year old ap­pendage that drew the kind of ador­ing crowd you might only see lo­cally if Great Big Sea were to stage a re­union per­for­mance at Mile One.

But I do have relics that can prompt an im­me­di­ate bond to the past, even to my spir­i­tual past, as I’ve noted — if you are will­ing, for ex­am­ple, to ac­cept my word that fly fish­ing alone on a small, iso­lated New­found­land pond at dusk is as close to heaven as one can get, at least as close as I can get.

There are seven or eight of those relics, in fact, fly poles — or “rods,” as a snob­bish purist cor­rected me, once upon a time — nes­tled in the cor­ner of my shed. They weren’t ac­tu­ally sev­ered, in the man­ner of St. Francis’ arm, but have been bro­ken and made use­less dur­ing var­i­ous trout­ing trips over the decades by be­ing care­lessly po­si­tioned in the truck’s tail­gate as it was be­ing closed or stomped on by an over-zeal­ous fish­ing buddy rush­ing to be the first to cast a line or be­ing un­able to with­stand the down­ward plunge of a three-pound trout (OK, a slight fib there).

As I say, those busted-up poles will never cause a lineup of fish­er­men, heads bowed, mum­bling prayers, into my shed/chapel. And I know I should bring them along dur­ing my next trip to the Robin Hood Bay dump with the rest of the for­merly use­ful items now ren­dered as junk.

But they re­mind me of the past: each pole — oops, rod — helps paint a pic­ture of a fish­ing ex­cur­sion, from Ra­dio Range Brook out­side Gan­der to the gul­lies of But­lerville. Won­der­ful trips with an eclec­tic as­sort­ment of rel­a­tives and friends.

Now, let’s see. What other relics did I think about as I watched on tele­vi­sion that steady stream of arm ob­servers last week?

Well, I have an old blackand-white pic­ture, taken by my fa­ther, of a relic; two relics, in fact: our 1955 Me­teor on board the old wooden barge that would take us across the Ex­ploits River dur­ing our reg­u­lar trips from Gan­der to Grand Falls. The wooden con­trap­tion looks as de­crepit as I re­mem­ber, a sin­gle life-pre­server hung on a nail out­side the hut to the left of our car. And there I am, beam­ing, a smile from ear to ear, look­ing out the front windshield, let­ting my imag­i­na­tion con­jure up an episode of “Davy Crock­ett,” a band of In­di­ans on the shore­line, try­ing to pick us off with their lethal bows and ar­rows.

It’s clear from my glee­ful puss that I’m obliv­i­ous to the fact that strin­gent safety pre­cau­tions were not up­per­most in the minds of the op­er­a­tor or the users back then. Those 15-minute rides could have been dis­as­trous, dump­ing me in the rag­ing Ex­ploits, placing me on a fast trip to Heaven (St. Peter’s Pearly Gates would surely have been the up­ward des­ti­na­tion at the time, the many and var­ied Mor­tal Sins paving my way to Hell hav­ing been com­mit­ted long after that pic­ture was taken; even an up close and per­sonal mo­ment with the arm of St. Francis could not wipe out my dev­il­ish and of­ten plea­sur­able past).

There’s more. How about those seven or eight frozen rab­bits who’ve taken up res­i­dence in our freezer? A cou­ple of the bun­nies from this fall are at rest there, the re­main­der from last sea­son, relics of glo­ri­ous hunt­ing trips, try­ing to send Bugs and his cousins to an­i­mal heaven (after all, an­other Catholic Francis, Pope Francis him­self, has told us that all an­i­mals, all God’s crea­tures, will join us in the here­after).

So, there you have it: I may not have made it down to the Basil­ica to take in the

arm-view­ing cer­e­monies, but I have my own relics to con­tem­plate and to give me a spir­i­tual lift.

Praise be.

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