Stunning Jeweled Saints

Saint Deodatus in Rheinau, Switzerland, by Paul Koudounaris (Thames and Hudson)

Smithsonian has a long, heavily-illustrated piece on photographer Paul Koudounaris and his amazing work cataloging the heavily bejeweled skeletons and corpses of saints. He’s gathered them in a book called Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs (Thames and Hudson), and they are simply astonishing. Here’s a taste: You should read the entire [Read More...]

“It’s Not Complicated” (And a Note of Thanks)

Ending where we always end: at the foot of the cross with a promise of resurrection.

Just a brief note of gratitude to everyone who offered prayers or left comments here and on various social media outlets and other blogs. My friends and colleagues and total strangers all reached out with sympathy and kindness. The grind of the past few weeks wore us all down, but it all finished in glory [Read More...]

In the Midst of Life, We Are in Death

My father and his parent, 1942

After a long final illness, my father finally passed away early this morning at the age of 90. Although he lived well and died at home, it was an emotional and physical rollercoaster at the end, and I was left trying to figure out the point of it all. Does it mean something, or is [Read More...]

Packing for the Final Journey

An Irish wake

Last week my father asked me to plan his funeral. He’s dying, he knows he’s dying, and he just wants to get on with it already. He’s a practical man, and doesn’t want the burden to fall to my mother or anyone else at a time when everyone is already upset. I waved him off, [Read More...]

Tobit, And Tamerlan: The Dignity of Burial

tobit3

No one wants the body of marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. His uncle Ruslan, who seems to be the only sensible member of the family, finally stepped forward to claim it, saying “A dead person needs to be buried.” Meanwhile, a petty tyrant named Robert W. Healy, City Manager of Cambridge, intends to block any attempt to bury this killer [Read More...]

Burial in Ancient Israel Part 7: The Burial of Christ

burial

This post concludes a series about graves and tombs in the ancient Levant, from the Paleolithic Period until the time of Christ. The entire series can be found here. This 100,000 year history of human burial converges on a single point and a single day: a Friday in Jerusalem around the year 30 AD. Jesus of [Read More...]

Burial in Ancient Israel Part 6: Ossuaries

Jewish-Ossuaries

This is an ongoing series about graves and tombs in the ancient Levant, from the Paleolithic Period until the time of Christ. The entire series can be found here. Since rock-cut tombs were reused over many generations, an issue arose: what to do with the bones? Two approaches have been found. There is evidence that, for [Read More...]

Burial in Ancient Israel Part 5: Rock Cut Tombs

Rock cut tomb, Talpiot

This is an ongoing series about graves and tombs in the ancient Levant, from the Paleolithic Period until the time of Christ. The entire series can be found here. During the Late First Temple Period (8th to 6th century BC), we begin to see the creation of multichamber rock-cut tombs. Reached by rock-cut stairs leading to [Read More...]


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